This is an edited post from 2017. When I read it again before Christmas this year, it was a great reminder to me that so much of what we do is optional, not required. The expectations we have of ourselves and others is often a produce of societal pressure, particularly for women.
I am a little embarrassed to admit that on Christmas Eve (2017) I indulged in an “adult tantrum” about all that I had committed to do to prep for the holidays.
It wasn’t pretty. My hubby and I had been sick with colds during the week, so we were behind our usual holiday preparations, and I was struggling to get some things done at the last minute.
Upon reflection, I realized that the reason I was upset was not that I *HAD* to do anything for the holidays. Nobody was forcing me. I choose to celebrate the holidays in this way with my family, exchanging gifts and creating traditions especially for the children in the family.
When I reminded myself that I was doing the best I could under the circumstances, and that it is not my obligation to create a “perfect” holiday for anyone, I could finally relax and enjoy the time. When I was able to take a breath and realize that the purpose of the holiday is to pause, to reflect, and to enjoy time with loved ones, I came back to reality.
I realized that my inner dialogue was responsible for creating this idealized version of a holiday, in which I was falling far short. Also I know that I suffer from decision fatigue at times. It is part of coping with an a.d.d. brain, and it is part of my reality. During the holidays, with all of the gift giving choices to make, this fatigue tends to be magnified.
Our expectations during the holidays are what typically get in the way of our joy. In recent years, I have tried “toning down” my expectations, so that I can focus on what is really important. I still wish my family would refrain from gift-giving and do something charitable instead. But I also realize that giving gifts brings people a lot of joy. Some people really do enjoy selecting gifts for loved ones, and do not find it as stressful as I do.
I have explored the concept of emotional adulthood, and I realize it applies in these situations as well. We are responsible for our own feelings, and not the feelings of others. I cannot control whether others have a happy holiday. Since it is our thoughts that drive our feelings, having thoughts about “I have to…” or “I must…” tend to leave us feeling trapped, resentful, and Scroogey.
If we have thoughts instead of gratitude, for the opportunity to see family on the holiday, or for all the abundance we have enjoyed in the past year, we feel joyful. If others in my family rely on me to provide their happiness, either by my getting them a perfect gift, or following family traditions to the letter, that is their business. I am not responsible for their thoughts and expectations of the holiday. I certainly hope and wish they enjoy it, but that is their own responsibility.
Holidays can be stressful for many reasons. But when we understand emotional adulthood and take responsibility for our own feelings, we can minimize our stress. That is certainly something to celebrate!