The holidays really stress me out. For a while I thought it was just me. I thought I was this strange anomaly of a daughter / niece / cousin / friend who couldn't find the joy in running from obligation to obligation, in lousy weather, while I bleed money, during the busiest time of my work year.
Back in December, I went to talk with my counselor (yep, still have one of those) who assured me I was not alone. In fact, I had trouble making a January appointment because he was over-booked... due to the holidays.
We talked about traditions and how difficult it can be when they change. Whether it's decorating, or gifts, or meals, or whatever... even if it's stressful, most people have trouble letting go. In fact, he told me that for many people, changing a tradition can be even more stressful than the tradition itself.
My traditions have changed so much over the last 10 years, I'm at the point where I've stoppedcounting on them. I feel like my only constant at the holidays is not knowing what will happen, where I'll be, or who will show up.
You know what I have found? That's OK with me.
I used to think traditions made me feel better. That I found joy in being sure about what, where, and who. Then, things shifted and it was out of my control, and I realized... that wasn't making me happy at all.
What keeps me happy is knowing that everyone else is happy. Meeting everyone else's expectations, keeping them satisfied and comfortable - that's what matters to me.
I started to accept that I can't make others happy, I can only let them be happy. So - even though it's a little frustrating on the fourth Tuesday in November that I have no idea where I'm eating in two days... it's what makes everyone else happy, and that is OK.
I remind myself of a couple of things:
- I know where I won't be - at my apartment. I just have to show up somewhere.
- If I don't get an invite, I can always get sushi.
It isn't easy letting go of traditions that have been around since childhood. I still struggle with it sometimes. But I have found it can be a relief to not worry about making others happy and let them do that for themselves. It was also a little empowering to realize that letting traditions change means you can start to carve out your own, new traditions that really honor what you want to celebrate in your life. What's more, allowing letting things go leaves me free to change things up for myself, because my life is definitely not done changing.
Once you open yourself up to the idea that change is OK - suddenly, traditions (or lack thereof) don't seem so bad.