Oh how we love the holidays…
I mean, there really isn’t anything more magical than those moments spent putting up the tree, remembering where each and every ornament came from. Maybe you take on this task alone, like me, and spread out the ornaments dancing around to an old Elvis record, enjoying the simple bliss of watching it all come together.
Perhaps, it’s an entire family event. Someone is stringing popcorn. Someone has the honor of putting on the tree topper. There’s laughter and holiday music and cookies all around… or at least that’s how they do it in all the Hallmark movies.
We kick off this lovely holiday season with our friends and family and celebrate Thanksgiving. And then for over a month we continue in the holiday spirit with various gatherings, gift giving, and over indulging.
But, I can’t help but notice that through all the joy this season is supposed to bring, there’s an awful lot of melancholy to go around.
I think when we’re little our parents do a really good job at making this season as magical as possible. But then one day, that magic is gone. The smiles and the exchanges among family occurs through a lens where we’re trying are hardest to be happy, but we all can’t wait to be home and away from all the noise.
Yet, for some reason, year after year we force ourselves to quite literally be a bunch of really miserable people all in the name of “family” and “holiday spirit”…
I’m here to tell you point blank that it’s okay to skip that holiday get together.
It’s okay to not put a single penny towards gifts. We are all struggling and if this year just isn’t a year you have extra money for gifts, no one should make you feel bad about it. EVER.
And this is coming from the kid who didn’t have the “magic” ripped away because Santa had the same handwriting as my mom… but from the kid who was reminded every holiday that I was the least favorite guest in attendance. That it didn’t matter what I was passionate about, because the fancy gifts were designated for someone else. I was there to clean and to serve people, because I certainly couldn’t be there as a part of the family. And even if those implication may have somewhat been in my head, it doesn’t excuse every holiday spent crying alone in my room because I wasn’t “enough”.
Thank god we moved around a lot and family gatherings were much less of a thing.
And, I’m not going to apologize because I’m not over it and I don’t have to be.
If family is good at one thing and one thing only, it’s reminding us of all of our shortcomings.
So it’s okay.
It’s okay if you’ve had a bad year, maybe you’re depression has gotten worse, maybe your anxiety just can’t handle another family member asking you 8 million questions. Maybe you’re like me and your head is throbbing and the last thing you want to do is be surrounded by people.
It’s okay to recognize that your family isn’t good for your mental or physical health.
And family members, if someone has taken it upon themselves to just stop showing up to these events, don’t bug them about it. Don’t make them feel guilty for putting themselves first. You haven’t the slightest idea what may be going on, wish them a happy holiday and carry on.
So, I’ve pulled together a couple of my favorite holiday escapes that may help you get through these next few weeks a bit easier.
1. The Literal Escape
Sometimes we have zero control over where we end up for the holidays. Maybe we’ve got a big family and end up traveling. Maybe we’re staying with the in-laws. Maybe you spend the holidays at some ski resort or a hotel someplace warm… whatever it may be, my advice to you is to bring a little distraction.
A coloring book, that novel you’ve been pushing away, that little bit of work you’ve been avoiding… no one wants to work on the holidays, but sometimes it can be our way out. Set aside a time, maybe it’s first thing when you get up and you’ve got that fresh cup of coffee, or mid afternoon, or right before bed where you can sneak off to your room, or a den, or maybe a quiet patio space and just be away from all the noise.
It’s okay to tell people you need a little me time.
If it’s a shorter visit, even a few hours, the noise and commotion that is bound to take over every room, makes us want to escape even more. This is the perfect time to take your smoke break… hell I’ve been taking smoke breaks since I was 8, and never in my life have I picked up a cigarette.
I always find that this “smoke break” can be the best part of the whole event, because chances are it isn’t just you that’s in need of a break so you may have some quiet company while you’re out taking in the fresh cool air.
2. Make Your Own Talking Points
You’re going to be BOMBARDED with questions. How’s school? Do you have a special someone in your life? What are you doing with your life?… and the even less pleasant ones that revolve around our weight and politics and general things none of us have any interest in addressing.
I wish I had a dollar for every time someone had some sort of idea for getting a little more meat on my bones… Or commented at how I’d pick apart my meals… Like, I get it, but do you really want that in depth explanation as to why I’m so sick that although your fancy food looks delicious, it’s making me even more nauseous and I’d seriously just prefer a slice of toast? No. You don’t.
So, taking the time to mentally prepare for what you want to talk about can be incredibly helpful. Even if it’s just steering questions back around and getting people to talk about their lives, rather than yours is good enough.
My advice, don’t pick something that you don’t want someone else tearing apart or upstaging. If we pick something we’re passionate about that we want other people to be happy about, we’re bound to be disappointed. If you don’t ever mention something you’re looking forward to, your family won’t have the opportunity to make you feel bad about it.
My second piece of advice, find someone you can confide in that will be your ally for the day. Someone who knows your talking points and knows what you want to steer clear of so they can aid in guiding the conversation.
3. If You’re Going To Events With The Same People, Just Pick One
It isn’t uncommon to have this month and half long span where everyone wants to do Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years and have a few little celebrations.
It’s okay to pick just one. Maybe do family for Christmas. Get together with your friends for New Years. See the in-laws on Thanksgiving. Now prey that there isn’t a birthday thrown in the mess that requires another get together…
You aren’t obligated to attend every potluck, every family party… EVER.
Seeing people once in the year can be enough, and hey, my family doesn’t get that with me and they seem to be doing just fine.
4. It’s Your Day Off, You Can Use It For You
This is my biggest one personally.
Last Christmas, I worked Christmas Eve and had to be back at work covering someone else’s shift on the 26th…
I called out sick of the family Christmas Eve party, for two reasons… 1) I was no better this time last year than I am now and a loud family in a small space sounds like a nightmare and I’m not required to put my sick self in that sort of situation… and 2) I’d already worked all morning, I was tired and just needed to breathe.
Christmas was really just my day off.
It was probably my favorite Christmas I’ve ever had. It was my first Christmas not being at home, which was odd, but there was snow on the ground and I got to be with my big sister, who was also having her first Christmas without her daughter.
We did a small gift exchange that was all planned out: new pajamas, a Christmas movie, and some holiday snacks.
We got to spend the day in our new pajamas, watching the movies we’d picked out, and enjoying the simple bliss of not having any real responsibilities.
The point was that it was my day off, and I wanted to spend it in way that made me happy.
Sure, we end up having more days off in December, but so many of those days end up being spoken for… whether it’s buying gifts, wrapping gifts, making cookies, doing seasonal activities like ice skating and driving around seeing the lights… there’s always this endless list of things that need to get done… and it isn’t like regular chores and errands can be pushed aside.
So, even if you have to use the actual holiday to just lay on your bed all day and catch up on the show you’ve been binging, please, I beg of you, do it.
5. Get Yourself A Gift, Or Two
You know who is the best gift shopper that knows exactly what you want year after year? It’s you.
I’ll be the first person to say you’re never obligated to get anyone else a gift, ever. I don’t care if you’re made of money and could spend hundreds on every individual, if you don’t want to, be honest and make it known that hey I’d love to get together this year, but let’s not do a gift exchange this year… you’d be surprised as to how much of a relief this can be on people who don’t have as much who feel like they need to match the value of your gift…
When it comes to gifts, they’re always impersonal if you ask me. I’ve lucked out and my family knows me well enough to just ask exactly what I want, because chances are it isn’t some froo froo item, it’s something I’ve had my eye on, or an essential oil I haven’t been able to justify buying. As we turn into adults, we don’t want things we don’t actually need.
Let me repeat that. We don’t want things we don’t actually need.
Obviously, we all want someone to just hand us some cash so we have a little extra to put towards rent or our loans. But, cash becomes so impersonal, and then the “thought” that’s meant to go with a gift isn’t really there.
So, when you’re budgeting – if you’re budgeting – for Christmas gifts, throw in some spare change to spend on yourself.
Even if you treat yourself every week to something you don’t need, you can fit in this category too. We all deserve that one thing that we know no one else will get us.
My suggestion, go to a spa… let me tell you they have some SERIOUS holiday deals. You might even be able to get two gift cards for the price of one… and to be frank, you don’t have to share either gift card.
There isn’t a better time to go get that massage or treat yourself to a mani/pedi than after the holidays are winding down.
Actually, there is no wrong time to get a massage.
The holidays are already in full swing, and we’re all worn out.
We’re already dreading making our New Year’s Resolutions… We’re starting to get antsy because W2 season is really close.
The kids are home.
Everyone is home right now. We’re all pretending to want to reconnect with this person and that person, when in reality, we’ve been doing just fine growing and developing our own lives.
It’s okay to not respond to a single coffee date request, or even just turn off your phone… Just because you had a great connection in high school doesn’t mean it’s worth sitting for two hours running out of small talk and feeling incredibly awkward.
It’s okay to put yourself first this holiday season, and every holiday season.
It’s okay to push yourself away from your family if they make you feel like you aren’t worthy.
It’s okay to not even call.
Stop letting some historical obligation tell you how you need to properly spend your holiday season.
Take care of yourself, and the rest will fall into place.