All that Holiday Commotion

“Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.”

– W. Somerset Maugham
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration and thankful feelings. Joy and laughter, decorations, bright packages with bows and ribbons… You know, the whole festive picture. So what is to be done when your world is not right, things are not settled, and you just don’t feel any holiday cheer? Trying to fit into the old norms can be disastrous for your mental well being.

It can be very difficult to sort through this inner turmoil. Making matters worse, you may feel like the whole world has its eye on you…. trying to see if you are “alright,” which may seem supportive, but in reality it is a LOT of extra pressure. This may be, for example, your first holiday as a single parent… or your first holiday out on your own… or your first holiday after a divorce… whatever your situation, it is different and it is stressful. If you try to make it just like every other, it will feel very much like a fraud to you and those you love. It is time for a change. Just like you reinvented your environment for a fresh start, you can reinvent this holiday. You can take this moment in time to refresh and refocus your holiday norms, making them more bearable after a change, and also showing that ever-watchful outside world that you are taking the reins in your new situation and molding your new world to your expectations.

Choose one or to “traditions” from your “old holidays” to keep up, as that will be very grounding as you move forward in your life. Try to make these the very oldest ones that you can remember, like from your own childhood or from stories you remember being told of your parents childhood. Those are good for you to remember and continue. (Maybe, holiday baking with the family, or getting a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, like you always did when you were a kid.) Take every other thing that you have done more recently around the holidays and just forget about it. You are going to make some changes this year.. You are going to re-establish the traditions. I know, I know… you are saying “but isn’t a tradition supposed to be TRADITIONAL???” If you have kids and they ask you “why aren’t we doing blahblahblah tradition this year?”, you will simply say, “that is what we used to do, but now we do THIS instead!”

Here are some ideas that might trigger something inside you for a new holiday tradition… They lean towards the free stuff, but there are plenty of things things to spend money on too.

  • Take I night out to drive around a nicely decorated neighborhood and oh- and ah- at the light shows.
  • Make a night of inviting friends over to have some mint-flavored hot chocolate made the “old fashioned way” on the stove with coco and milk
  • Find a group of friends to carol (or if your have instrumentally talented friends, have them play their instruments!) near a religious establishment that is collecting people for the holiday. (Some churches have live nativities with hot chocolate that already draw an appreciative crowd.)
  • Take holiday-themed books out from the library and read them aloud with your family a few nights in a row
  • Search the local papers (also available at most libraries) to see when there will be festive things going on in your area
  • Ask the local high school when their Winter Concert will be (almost always free) and take your young family along to see the “big kids” playing holiday songs.
  • In some areas, the county or local “symphony orchestra” will play a free or low cost concert aimed towards encouraging young children to pick up an instrument.
  • Look for local reenactments that are done in your area each year around the holidays.
  • Start a “cookie day” or “cookie exchange” with your new neighbors, or old neighbors that you have never really met.
  • Find a local plant nursery and see what seasonal selections they offer, many have ornaments or supplies for building your own wreaths and whatnot
  • Create a chain out of construction paper to hang around the house
  • Please list other ideas in the comments!!

The idea here is to do something DIFFERENT this holiday, and make it a new tradition for your family. Your world is a different place now, and holding on to wanting everything to be “just like it was” is a recipe for disaster. It won’t be the same, even if you want it to be. That can cause some serious depression if you are not on the front lines trying to sort out a way to overcome. Put the decorations in new areas, or if you can afford it, but some new ones. Reach out to people and share joy with them. Make some crafts or food together, which can generate good feelings and bonding, which can help heal your heart. It is difficult to do these things when you are sad, but twice as important.

If you are having money troubles, which happens when thing fall apart…. most schools have a charity system set up for families that fall on hard times… don’t reject this help! This is the community you live in coming together knowing that hard times happen to all of us, and likely have happened to them in the past, and they want to make sure that families can enjoy the holidays despite what they may be going through… Take the charity, and once you get yourself better positioned, give back to that same charity for others.

Get Going and Get Prepared!

The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own.  No apologies or excuses.  No one to lean on, rely on, or blame.  The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it.  This is the day your life really begins. 

Photo by Tomas Jasovsky on Unsplash

There are moments in life when you can truly feel the weight of the world on your shoulders… Moments when it feels so unfair that you and your loved ones wake up to find a new mountain plopped down right in front of you.  The moments when you realize that everyone who is important in your life has to turn to you now.  Is it scary or intriguing? Are you nervous or excited?  New situations allow for open-ended possibilities! You realize you are responsible for everything that happens from here on out, at least for now, and the pressure is on!

OK. Just breathe. We don’t have time for anxiety attacks…. Instead,we have to make a plan to squelch that anxiety.  You WILL lead your family through.

Priority one!  A wide-eyed and honest assessment of your situation must be done.  Since everyone’s starting point will be different, this section wil be a work in generalities. Nevertheless, there are a few certainties everyone will need to check off the list:

  • Do you have a safe place to live? If not, priority number one must be to find that place.  There are places that will help you find safety for you and your family. (Try the Red Cross near you to start…… I will try to post more options on the Links page of this site. )  A friend who can spare a room… family that will let you stay until you can get your feet under you.  If you already have a safe place to stay, think about how incredibly fortunate you are to have this basic need already fulfilled!
  • Do you know where your next meal is coming from?  There are countless websites that will list low budget meal plan ideas.  It always amazes me how far a bag of rice and a few canned goods can really get you when you are hungry.  Getting a good set of basic recipes under your wing will ensure that you can make due.
  • Do you have a steady and reliable income? If not, there are plenty of helpful community resources, also meant to get you back on your feet when you are down on your luck. If you already have a steady job, you can now consider yourself THREE steps better off than many others!

If you have the three basics above already checked off, count your blessings! Let’s not stop there. One more thing….

  • Do you have a bank account?  You need a checking account and a savings account.  Both are necessary and non-negotiable.  People who lack a checking account can easily be prayed upon by dubious schemers (think, check-cashing fees, payday loans, etc.) that want to nickel and dime you as much as possible. Nothing irks me more than knowing that there are companies that wait to pray on those who are down on their luck.  A savings account is also required.  The best way to prepare yourself for the unknowns that are guaranteed to come up in life is by setting a bit aside EVERY time you get money (on pay day or otherwise) so that you never have to panic about money.  Think about the peace of mind you will give yourself if you know that you are OK if there is car trouble, layoffs, accidental fire, health emergency, unplanned emergency travel, etc…  Buy yourself this peace of mind one deposit at a time into your emergency fund.

These are the practicalities… There are also emotional needs that you need to tend to so you can do what needs to be done.  Often times, in cases where you find yourself with new responsibilities quickly, there is a period of a form of mourning involved.  Mourning the death of your previous life where you knew what to expect next.  Don’t short change this feeling or dismiss it. You are allowed to feel this way.  Take some time each day, maybe a half an hour or so, where you can sit alone and really think about how the changes are effecting you and about your loss.  You are alone, so, by all means, cry if you need to!  You may need a brave and strong front for your family so they feel secure, but you need to give yourself time to vent your feelings so they don’t come out when you don’t want them to.

Check off each of these points and reflect on how much you already have. Then start to build up from there! One brick at a time, your life will come together.