A Holiday is Just Another Day - it's our Thoughts about that Day that Make it a Big DealDec 16, 2019
I made my first Thanksgiving turkey yesterday - on December 15th. I’ve never hosted Thanksgiving, but the 12 place settings of china and silver I registered for at my wedding 25 years ago have been whispering from the closet, “When will it be our turn?” At middle age, I’ve learned that those special occasion days are likely not going to all go my way. I’m no longer married and my kids go with their dad to his family’s Thanksgiving celebration. So the 4th Thursday in November is not my favorite day of the year. I’ve reacted in several different ways to that reality. One year I curled up in a ball and cried. Another year, on a long, lone drive to my parent’s mountain home, I cried, then coached myself for hours so that I could show up as a loving aunt, daughter, sister. This year, I thoroughly enjoyed a quiet day alone, working on a creative project - not at all sad about missing a classic American holiday.
It’s easy to slip into despair when our stories don’t match the Norman Rockwell version of life. Sometimes I do but the challenge of finding joy in an imperfect life has taught me a few tricks. Lean in and I’lll tell you my secret… These traditions are only moments and you can recreate them whenever you want.
Here are a few ways I’ve learned to do that. On Thanksgiving, I sat in my quiet house and worked on a creative project that I never have time for and there were no interruptions. It was glorious! Yesterday, I celebrated Thanksgiving with my kids. I didn’t have to announce that it was our official Thanksgiving together but I could have I suppose. Here’s how it happened: My college kids came home Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, we went to church, stopped at a tree lot and picked out a tree, watched football, put up the lights and ornaments while sipping egg nog. I made a turkey, mashed potatoes, kale salad, delicious gravy (and it all turned out okay!) We ate, decorated the tree together, made apple pie, and watched a movie. It was a great day - a very cool Thanksgiving and possibly a new tradition.
Sometimes we can’t control the real holiday. Other people are involved. There are obligations, expectations, and emotions. But, if you let that holiday go a bit; let it just be what it is - another day. If you mind your mind, it doesn’t have to disappoint. And you can create another special moment - the one YOU want - any time.
Why am I telling you this today? Because we are 9 days out from Christmas. Someone in your family has that desperate tone in their voice and they are putting pressure on everyone around them to show up for their agenda. You are likely having to set a few boundaries but someone is going to get their panties in a wad - it’s inevitable. So, yes, set those boundaries, make the real day what you want, but hold it lightly, my friend. And be careful of the story you make up about it all. My kids will be with their father on Christmas Eve and I know that I could easily end up curled in the fetal position on the couch sobbing (it has happened and if you need to cry, it’s okay). However, YOU can create all the holiday magic you want ANY. TIME.
If going through a divorce (aka - the worst imaginable nightmare for this idealistic Christian woman) has taught me anything, it’s this: You can make life special and lovely in the midst of the ugly and messy. Your JOY in the midst of whatever is happening in life is powerful. GRATITUDE can move mountains of grief.
If life is going well for you - if your holidays feel just as you want them to, by all means enjoy it!! I’m truly happy for you. But if something is not right - someone has died, your children are suffering in some way, there is financial stress, illness, family drama, or any other reality of life, please know, you are not alone. And no matter how hard it feels right now, there is ALWAYS a glimmer of hope and an opportunity to find joy. I promise.
Here’s what I learned from Brooke Castillo of The Life Coach School: Your feelings are determined by the thoughts you are thinking. You can change those thoughts at any time. If you don’t like how you feel, ask yourself what you are thinking about. What is that voice in your head saying to you? Now, ponder this: if you felt amazing, what thoughts would be going through your mind? Think those. Easier said than done, I know.
If you need someone to talk to, please reach out to me. I get it. And at mid-life, dude, nothing surprises me.
Remember, you are not alone and you really can make your own “holy day” ANY time.