3 Not-So-Scary Ways to Take Charge of Your Celebrations This Year
Fall brings change to many parts of the country. Leaves go from green to orange and begin to cover the ground. Cool mornings tempt many to reach for a light sweater for the commute to school or work. At least that’s what I’m told.
Not so in my home state of Florida where it’s still 80 degrees and we’re all in shorts and flip flops at the time of this writing. But the Fall season in Florida does bring a change around leaving summer beach trips behind, a new school year, and the onset of the holiday season. Homepages on internet sites and boutique windows start displaying Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations long before Halloween has made its spooky appearance in front porch skeletons and scary goblins roaming neighborhoods. For some, the holidays hold cherished traditions and the promise of reuniting with loved ones far and near. But not everyone feels the excitement at the sound of rustling leaves and pumpkin spice lattes. Some dread the holiday season like the plague. Like my Mom.
When I was about 30 years old my Mom advocated regularly to just skip the holidays altogether. Jack-o-lanterns weren’t her thing. She wasn’t a big turkey and dressing fan (that’s what we call stuffing in the South), didn’t do sweets, and didn’t have air conditioning which made pumpkin pie baking an early morning event in a hot Florida kitchen. Shopping started weeks before, so money she saved for a new outfit or purse went for things she didn’t really enjoy anymore. She did her best by making her Deviled Eggs each year, but her heart just wasn’t in it and we all knew it. She’d agree for her Mom, my Granny, to bring out the 2-foot tall ceramic Christmas tree with built-in lights, but that was about all the Christmas spirit she could muster. I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, but as I get older I kind of understand how she felt. It all seems like a lot for a few hours of togetherness. So this year why not try a new approach. Instead of the same old holiday recipe, why not brew up a magic potion with a few new ingredients. Who knows, maybe you’ll look less like the Grinch and more like Cindy Lou Who this season. Here’s how.
Start with Realistic Expectations of Others
Remember all the stuff you’ve figured out recently about the holidays being meaningless exercises that nobody really likes anymore and wanting to create something new is all a conversation you are having in your head, so don’t expect everyone to be on board. Nobody else knows what’s going on. Expect that others won’t have a clue what you’re talking about, then you won’t be upset when they react with apathy and ignorance, or even get frustrated or hurt. Just breathe and take a step back emotionally. Have realistic expectations about how the first season will go, then you won’t be disappointed either.
Speak Gently and Gratefully
Calm, gentle words are powerful and are more likely to be heard. Be considerate of other’s feelings, careful not to criticize or complain. You want to show appreciation for the meaningful ways they created amazing memories for you over the years. Spend a lot of time here expressing appreciation. When you do, others could feel less threatened and actually let their guard down to reveal they are over the turkey and dressing, too, and would love a big bowl of seafood gumbo instead! Gentle words encourage meaningful dialogue and help others feel safe to be vulnerable and open.
Small Steps are Better
Don’t try to change everything all at once. Start with one small tradition you’d like to “add” instead of trying to take away anything quite yet. Even though nobody ever eats Grandpa’s favorite pumpkin pie since he passed away 5 years ago, don’t try to convince Grandma to stop making it quite yet. There may be a part of that tradition that she’s not quite ready to let go of for his sake. Don’t force it. As you influence others to think beyond old traditions, it gives everyone permission to add to and take away from the way it’s always been done. When you start small you keep change at a safer pace for all involved. And you get to learn so much more about others and how they feel about the holidays.
Sit Mindfully Present as Changes Unfold
Our brains are fascinating organs. We’ll generally find what we are looking for, gathering evidence for what we believe is true. When you are mindfully present and looking for ways that people are enjoying the moment and the small changes you have made, you will find proof to support your hypothesis. So be careful you aren’t looking at the situation with a Scrooge attitude to prove people are resistant or frustrated. Just because someone is on their phone while you are playing Monopoly or Jenga doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoying it. Take note of the meaningful engagements you do see as you go so you can reflect on it later. And take a new look at the traditions you thought were so corny. Maybe you’ll see them differently when you look through a lens of gratitude and appreciation.
So, here’s to a less scary holiday season full of new experiences and joyful celebrations. And here’s to you. Maybe the biggest change you’ll experience is the freedom to relax and enjoy your world wherever you sit yourself this season, keeping it all as simple as you can with the special people that matter the most to you.
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Dianne Presley, LCSW / BC-TMH
Owner / Founder Believe, Hope, Inspire Wellness Services LLC
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