I posted on my Facebook page about avoiding holiday stress about money and gifts.
1. Tell people you don’t want anything.
2. Don’t buy presents for others, unless they are your children and you’ve created an expectation. In that case, don’t go overboard.
3. Spend the time you would have spent rushing around to buy things with the people you’d have been buying for.
4. Repeat annually until either your people are trained or you start to miss giving. In the latter case, give on your terms, within your means, and from the heart.
I’d like to add:
5. Choose from invitations wisely and do what is best for you and your immediate family.
I know I sound glib, but I want to make the point that you largely create your own reality and you have a right to spend the month of december in a way that sustains and feeds you rather than drains you. Anticipated guilt and pushback from others is way too often given as a reason why people cannot do their own holiday the way they choose instead of spending with family when the family gatherings cause marked distress.
Why is that worth it? Who decides? Who is to say you cannot withstand a little guilt tripping and pushback, or that the stress caused by guilt trips and pushback is greater than the stress derived from enduring the event?
For those of you who WANT to be with family and consider them “loved ones,” or get annoyed at certain things but find family gatherings positive in the overall, I’m not talking to you. Except, I sort of am, because everyone needs a break sometimes. Maybe you want to go away for Christmas just because you have never done it before, and you have nothing against any of your relatives, you just don’t make the holidays revolve around them? One year diverging from your normal routine does not make you selfish. You are not selfish for wanting to do things your own way and create new traditions.
So go on a trip somewhere new for Christmas. Skip buying the tree. Only do things because they are fun. When they cease being fun, don’t do them. If you are guilty about not giving your child a tree, just stop. I remember a miserable Christmas where my mom insisted on chopping a tree down and it rained and she, my brother and I got lost in the woods in the rain for a few hours. We finally got home, and then she ended up putting the lights up herself because my dad was working late and my brother went off with his friends. I was kind of spooked by the whole thing and ended up being bratty about helping her put on ornaments. She ended up drinking a glass of wine, putting on a Pavarotti special, and cried into the tangle of lights. You know what would have been more fun? If my mom had said, screw the tree thing and taken my brother and I to get ice cream, or just played with me for a bit.
It’s all relative. You get to be in charge of this. Do what is best for you and your partner and immediate family. That might be going to the big gathering. But the big gathering might be bad for your child who gets overwhelmed by noise and crowds. Only you know, and you can only hope people understand.
Nothing ruins a good winter season, which can be about renewal and hope and the wonder of life itself, than a bunch of guilt and obligations. If you are more selective about what you choose to attend, you are able to show up with more of yourself than the tattered, distracted bits.
Create what brings you joy and others beauty this holiday season. I believe in you.