This isn’t a blog about which holiday you celebrate. For me, it’s Christmas. For you, could be something else.
But the bottom line is that there are a few reasons why many of us experience a bit of the “blues” at this time of year. And most of us flip flop up and down, depending on the day or the location. Why does it happen?
- We have memories. When we look back, we remember times with people who may no longer be in our lives. We may have had family members who have passed or moved far away. Things just aren’t the “way they used to be” and we can have a hard time with it.
- We compare. Whether a close friend or a semi-stranger you know on Facebook says they’re doing something exciting, traveling somewhere exotic, or receiving a gift of great delight…we compare it to our own lives. Inevitably we come up short. We forget to count our own blessings, we somehow feel we’re not measuring up.
- We focus on the wrong things. We can get so caught up in the routines and duties of the season, that we forget what really matters. By baking cookies, shopping at the malls til midnight, decorating as though our living room is Times Square, and just becoming addicted to the busy nature of the season, we get overwhelmed. Emotionally, we feel wiped. We can’t keep up and we get really tired. What comes after tired? Cranky. We lose our patience and snap at those we love. Again, the stuff that doesn’t really matter somehow weighs heavier than the stuff that really does.
So what can we do?
- Use those memories. Share them with others. Ask them to share theirs with you. I met an elderly woman at a craft fair recently. We were sitting at a long table enjoying some lunch. She was “put” there by her daughter, to guard the bags and purses, while the daughter continued to shop. For the first few minutes, she didn’t move. She didn’t talk, she didn’t even look up. She seemed frozen in time. Grasping onto her walker, staring at her lap, she didn’t seem like she would interact. But I tried anyway. I saw her wedding rings and I complimented them and asked if she was married. She whispered that she had been, but she was widowed now. I offered condolences and pressed on, asking his name and inquiring about the length of their union. She told me his name and said “55 years.” With that, she became animated. Her posture changed, her voice became strong and audible. She shifted her chair a bit to be able to face me. She told me where the two of them worked, for how long, and that they’d had two children. She told me they met at The Ritz Barbeque and became engaged in less than six months. She told me “When you know, you know right away! I knew with my first look at him that he was the one. He was VERY good looking, you know!” She smiled and giggled as she told me some of the specifics. It was a joy to listen. I bet the stories she shared had not been told in a very long time. Moral of the story? Ask. Ask some more. Share in the joy of the memories that others may have Don’t worry about bringing up a story about someone who is gone. The person knows they’re gone. They miss them and probably treasure the opportunity to reminisce.
- Count your blessings. The right ones. Remember that there’s always going to be someone out there who has more of something than you do. Whether it’s a bigger house, more cars, or jewelry that sparkles brighter…yes, there’s always someone who will exceed what you have. But do you have what should be the “real goal” for any of us? Do you have…”ENOUGH”? Enough food to keep your belly from rumbling? Enough money to pay your bills? Enough friends to listen to you when you whine? Enough love to make your heart feel warm? Enough love to give to others? “Enough” doesn’t come in a box. It doesn’t get delivered by UPS. But it’s something most of us have, we just have a hard time recognizing it.
- We need to breathe. We need to look at what we have and not at what we don’t. We need to simplify and do what we want to do. We need to know when to say “NO” to some invitations and requests. No one is giving out an award for the number of holiday events we attend. When it boils down to it, there are probably only a few that really matter. It’s not the lights, the confections, the pretty bows…it’s the people in your life who make a difference 365 days a year. Spend the time with them, enjoying one another and relaxing without looking at the time to see if you’ll make it to the next event.
One of my best memories is always Christmas Eve at my parents’ house. From the time I was a wee child until the last year’s of my mom’s life, this is what we did…the tradition was the same. We’d end up at her place after church candelight services. We’d have ring baloney, cheese cubes, onion dip and chips, cookies…and a “highball” drink. (That’s a whiskey and 7 Up for those who never heard of it) We’d talk about past years, laugh about some of the highs and lows of those times, and just cherish the fact that we’d had one more year together, with good health and happiness.
My mom died in August 2008. So 2008 was the last Christmas Eve we had the “get together” I describe. Her apartment was almost empty. We hadn’t cleaned everything out yet. But after candelight service, my husband and I went there and sat for a bit. I ripped through the cabinets and found the Seagrams and 7-Up soda and made highballs in the only two mismatched juice glasses that had not yet been packed away into boxes. We toasted to Mom. No baloney. No cookies. But it was the last year we had anything remotely like “the old days”. So, my advice is to resurrect those traditions if you can. Don’t avoid the memories, embrace them. They were good times, things cannot be the same, but they can be “okay”…maybe they can even be better! Reach out to others because there’s a chance that they’re having as hard of a time as you are. Don’t be a hermit. Be a sharer. There’s much to give and much to get by giving it a whirl.