The Holiday Season
It’s almost a clichéd topic…but still it is vital and relevant. The “holiday” season brings many people to peaks of happiness and others to the depths of depressed mood and hurried anxiety.
When we consider that “change” (both desired and undesired) increases stress, it makes sense that the holidays would induce many hopes and expectations as well as challenges to the status quo.
For many people, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year involve doing more with the same amount of time that we always have; while also balancing all of one’s ordinary responsibilities.
Increasingly, I also experience families whose stress begins at Halloween due to that becoming an increasingly elaborate affair…costumes, parties, setting up and/or visiting haunted houses etc…
The Ads, Movies, and TV Tell Us What to Want Emotionally, not Just Materially
Our consumer driven culture shows us images of what our relationships should look like at the holidays. We are shown this via movies, television and most importantly advertising. These images typically include big family gatherings with lots of food, laughter, and love…if it is a 30 second ad it may end with a luxury vehicle in the driveway with a big red bow wrapped around it. If it is a movie or TV show there will be some conflict thrown in to keep things interesting.
In ads…everyone can afford the new car; the gaming console; the latest smart phone and the hundreds of dollars it costs to create the full spread we see in the very vivid grocery story ads.
In ads…children and parents are loving and appreciative of one another. The kids help the parents cook dinner and the parents give the kids beautifully wrapped gifts and an opportunity to open one before Christmas Day.
In ads…people are in loving romantic relationships where they give and receive expensive jewelry and watches. Sometimes they are cuddled by the fireplace while they gaze lovingly at one another.
In movies and TV…we will see a few images of the “displaced” loner; or the person who is estranged from their family; or the single person who desperately wants to be romantically partnered…almost every holiday movie on a particular cable network has that theme.
In movies…the lonely or estranged person is either reunited with their family; they find and make new family among friends; or they find romantic love.
Imagery and Narratives Convey Powerful Stories/Thoughts/Ideas
Our storytellers are not only using “the dream” to sell their products…they are inventing “the dream” so that we know what we should want!
Imagery and narrative convey powerful stories. They deliver so much impact that we experience them on a conscious and unconscious level.
As a result of these stories, some of us believe that we can not be happy during the holidays because we do not perceive ourselves as having the “makings” of that happiness. We see this in a variety of ways:
- The person who used to love to put up and have a Christmas tree but does not do it anymore because there are no small children to enjoy it.
- The person who is mourning the loss of loved ones and believes that their holiday can only be complete if that loved one can be there.
- The person who is single and believes that they can only be happy at the holidays if they are in a relationship.
- The couple who reconciles briefly over the holidays to avoid the concerns and questions that would come from family members.
- The child that thinks that that one special toy is the difference between a wonderful holiday and hating their life.
- The parent who thinks they must provide everything on their child’s wish list or their child will be deprived.
What if we changed the stories…at least the stories that we tell ourselves. What if we decided that the holidays are not imbued with more magic than any other day…?
- Would we be better equipped to live with the truth of all of our days?
What if — because the holidays have more pressure since more is being expected of us to “do” or “be” — we decided to prioritize simplicity…?
- Would we feel less overwhelmed and hurried?
What if we allowed ourselves to be in the “truth” of our lives and allowed that to be enough?
- Would we be able to accept ourselves and others as we are?
What if we didn’t try to perfectly recreate every favorite dish of our departed loved ones?
- Would we be able to be in the present and release the elements of grief and loss that lead us to replacing our loved ones with the pain of their memory rather than the love of their memory?
What if we didn’t try to get everything on the list?
- Would our children and loved ones learn the truth about life…that love is not manifested in gifts but rather in efforts, intent, presence and showing up?
Simplify the Holidays…Simplify Your Story
I think we should individually and collectively simplify the holidays. We can start by looking at our stories…those that are told to us…the ones we create…the ones we have believed for years without examining their cost.
You don’t have to do a lot.
You don’t have to be impeccably dressed at New Year’s Eve with a date to kiss at midnight.
You can just be whatever is true…your story can be – “I embrace the truth of my life and I know that any circumstance that I want to change can only be achieved by embracing the truth.”
We do not get to a healthier weight by saying “I hate my fat body.” We get to a healthier weight by saying “I accept myself as I am without judgment…I am carrying excess weight and this does not make me good or bad…it is what is true.” From that place you can determine what, if anything, to do about it. But what you do has to stem from a place of “being”…be a person who accepts the truth of your life without judgment. Now go out everyday and live that life…everyday that you are alive with a chance to begin anew…every ordinary day is your own personal holiday…your own personal New Year!
It doesn’t have to be magical…most days there will be very little magic. But every day is an opportunity to embrace who you are right now. Our modern story tellers (advertising, TV, movies) skip that part — the day in, day out work at a thing whether it is health, business, family, or love relationships. It is all built a little at a time like Annie Lennox says in the song Step by Step…. “I’m taking it….step by step, bit by bit, stone by stone…brick by brick.”
Simplify your holidays…simplify your story…simplify your life.
Copyright © 2016 Ruby Blow. All rights reserved.