How is it that Christmas comes at exactly the same time every year, yet somehow it seems to sneak up on me? Why does the holiday season seem fraught with conflicting emotions: Anticipation, family traditions, family feuds, excitement, pleasure, stress, anxiety…? Many people I know experience the same thing every year, looking forward to the holidays while also dreading certain parts of the process.
It occurred to me years ago that the only thing that makes Christmas different from any other day of the year is the expectations we tend to have of each other. Some (possibly most) of these expectations come from within ourselves, as we tell ourselves we think we know what is expected, or what someone else is hoping for. The problem is, so often there is vague or nonexistent communication around holidays and gift-giving, and it’s easy to fall into a mode of being stressed and unhappy simply because we’re not sure what is really expected of us.
What’s the solution? I think there’s not one easy answer to that one. My thought is that it helps to look within and ask yourself honestly, what do YOU expect, or want, or hope for, from others during the holidays? I often feel frustration, myself, when I sense that someone else is assuming he or she knows what I want, or am looking forward to, without ever asking me directly. I admit, I am probably not sensitive enough to this myself, even though I’m aware of how I feel when my needs aren’t considered.
So, my suggestion is to be honest with yourself, first, and then do your best to communicate with those close to you, the ones you plan to spend the holidays with. You might be very surprised to find that most people don’t really expect a whole lot from you, other than to spend some time with them, and share whatever holiday traditions mean the most to you. Sharing, that’s what it is really all about, you know: Sharing food, decorating, music, all those things that make the holiday season something to look forward to. And in the short, dark, cold days of November and December, it’s lovely to have these things to anticipate.
Every year the holidays seem to bring something different for me. With a large family that’s busy and spread out, I never know for sure what will happen ahead of time. Weather, travel, family things all influence the experience to some degree. This year I’m thinking more about the big picture, what’s really important to me in terms of family, and doing my best to listen. So far I feel pretty relaxed.