’Tis the Season… for Holiday Overwhelm and Hallmark Hell
We are several feet into the avalanche of the festive frenzy.
Commercialism and expectation blend together like a bad cocktail, and still we're forced to keep sipping it, smiling as we reassure everyone that yes, we're totally fine, and absolutely, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
Which is great for those who are actually having that experience. And incredibly lonely and challenging for those who aren't.
Maybe the days are laced with more than a little overwhelm as you navigate the missing of what once was, or the ache for who is no longer here.
Maybe it feels even more isolating to have others nod their heads as they assure you that they know what you're going through, even as they gloss over or side-step the complexities of your individual experience.
Maybe you are holding your breath and asking the silent sky for answers as to how on earth you might get through the coming days or weeks.
And everywhere you go there's the music, or the memories, or the empty space, or the rising anxiety. And all of it threatens to consume you, or crack you painfully open as you find yourself making comparisons about how happy everyone looks in the movie, or the commercial, or the Instagram post.
What I know is this:
Sanctuary is essential, and boundaries are beautiful. You are allowed to insist on both.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Eid, or a barbeque in July. There is no celebration that is dependent on your suffering. You are allowed to show up (or not) as you need to, regardless of the family pressure or the guilt trip from friends.
Be clear about what you need to get through the hours. Communicate your needs, but do not get stuck on a repetitive loop that asks you to justify your choices. Say it clearly, and say it once.
There are a lot of humans living with a lot of trauma. Some of us are living with the threat of further trauma. Some of us will be asked to sit around a cozy table with abusers or enablers. There will be pressure to overlook, or conveniently forget, or obediently keep the peace because who wants to be the one to ruin the day or the dinner.
Remember: being asked to accept a set of circumstances that threatens your sanity or existence at the expense of another’s comfort is not love. Nor is it spiritually superior. Nor is it being the better person. It is violence. And there is no month in which that is necessary.
Chronic pain doesn’t conveniently stop for Christmas. Neither does grief, or disability, or financial stress, or any of the day to day struggles that so many of us live with. Lighten the load when and where you can, but don’t feel forced to pretend that everything is merry and bright if you’re really just screaming inside.
Have a human (or two) that you can call or message or turn to for the moments that are too hard to be in on your own.
Not every hour has to be crowded. Gift yourself space and silence if you need it. Even if it’s a few deep breaths in the privacy of the bathroom.
You might be tempted to tell yourself a familiar story, one that your body knows so well, because you’ve kept its chapters stored inside you for years. A story about how you’re a failure and a fuck up and why can’t you just get yourself together.
I can promise you this:
You are not alone.
You are not alone.
You are not alone.
I think we forget this when we are in the depths of our own difficulties. We tell ourselves that everyone else is swimming just fine, that we're the only ones sinking. It's never true.
Some days I define success as an inhale that doesn’t hurt me. And I’m always looking for bridges to the next breath. Art and hope are everywhere. Seek them out.
Notice the way the light shifts, the way the breeze feels, the way the lyrics sound.
Notice the rise and fall of the breath in your body, a reminder of how fleeting and fluid everything is, including the painful hours, because they, too, will come to pass.
Not everything has to be survived, or powered through, or pushed all the way down in a show of pretense. Sometimes we just need to be able to say “This is really hard right now” and have our struggle witnessed.
So, this is me, saying that I see you. I do. I see you. And sometimes that’s better than the magic wand, or the wishlist, or the deep desire to turn back the clock and erase or relive the moment. This reverent witnessing of our complex humanness and all the layers of our living.