Ah, chestnuts roasting on an open fire…roast turkey, holiday sales, Christmas decorations, Hanukkah candles, Kwanzaa celebrations, shopping, shopping, shopping…..
In case you haven’t heard, the holidays are approaching. I don’t know about you, but for me this time of year can be a bit daunting. December rushes forward. There is an expectation of family, warmth, good cheer, excitement, and then there’s reality…. Long lines, shopping, pressure, anxiety, sometimes even some depression…. And that’s for those of us who are doing “OK”.
For people going through a divorce or even contemplating one, every negative emotion seems to become magnified. Everything hurts a bit more, cuts a bit deeper, seems a bit more fleeting. I don’t have all the answers, but I thought I might use this post to offer some suggestions on weathering the storm. If you’re feeling great and are brimming with the holiday spirit, maybe forward this to someone less fortunate. Get out there and enjoy! However, for those of us a quart or more down on the holiday cheer, here are some ideas on how to handle the holidays:
Fight for some “alone time”. What’s that you say? Try to be alone? I thought the holidays were all about family and loved ones? Why would anyone want to be alone? Well, contrary to popular belief, being alone represents an opportunity to relax. To think, to plan, to take stock.
Take a blank sheet of paper and divide it into four quadrants and write “Holidays 2012″ on top. One for “the positives”, one for “things to do”, one for “bad stuff” and one for “resolutions”. Carry it with you between now and New Year’s. When you think of something, write it down. I find this helps put things in perspective, but most important save this to look back at this time next year. Things that may seem vitally important now may seem like big nothings a year from now. I find this really gives perspective to life.
If you are in a bad marriage and are thinking of getting out, the holidays will usually make everything seem worse. That’s OK as long as you know what to expect. The decision to leave a marriage should not be made based solely on the holidays, but sometimes the holidays do make things clearer. We are all entitled to some degree of happiness and if you aren’t getting yours, perhaps the holidays will be just that kick in pants that will spur you to do something about it. That’s a positive, even if the prospect of a divorce brings to bear so many troubling issues. If your holidays make things clearer, take action. Get educated and think things through. Consult an attorney. Move things forward if that’s what feels right.
Don’t buy the hype. No one feels quite as good as Madison Avenue makes us feel we should. Try and reflect on past holiday seasons and ask yourself what do you remember that made you feel good? Try and work in that direction. Don’t feel like a failure just because everyone on TV seems to oozing good cheer and happiness and you’re not.
Learn to say “No.” Enjoying the holidays is in no small part about time and obligation management. Figure out what you want to do and what you have to do. Don’t agree to attend functions you don’t think you will enjoy unless they are absolutely obligatory. Try to avoid last minute rushing around. Avoid the “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality and keep asking yourself if doing something will allow you to enjoy the holidays more, either because it is something you enjoy or because you will take pleasure in making someone else feel better.
If you can, volunteer. If you are brave enough, make your kids volunteer. They may do it kicking and screaming, but volunteering to help others helps us enjoy our own good fortune more. You won’t be sorry.
Cut yourself some slack. These may not be the best of times and you may not be your best self right now. Think back on the past year and focus on things you accomplished, problems you overcame and new friends you made. If you didn’t hit all you marks, didn’t cross off everything from your to-do list or didn’t reach every goal, now is a good time to ask why and to decide whether you want to try again. Life’s tough enough. Don’t beat yourself up.
If you’re going through a divorce, or in a marriage that may be on the rocks, the holidays are going to be different than a Norman Rockwell painting. Accept it. This isn’t an Olympic event and there’s no need to hold up a scorecard as you go along. Savor the good, don’t dwell on the bad and work towards the future. If you lower the bar of your expectations for the holidays to something more realistic than a scene from White Christmas, you may be surprised how enjoyable the holidays turn out.
If you have some thoughts/tips/experiences you want to share on how to enjoy the holidays, please post a reply below. Wishing you all the best!
Donald R. Wall
10 Park Avenue – Suite 2A
New York, N.Y. 10016