Start Where You Are This Holiday Season

I’ve never been a fan of the holidays, thanks largely to the need to split holidays between my parents’ houses when they divorced. Growing up without annual traditions or feeling connected to a faith tradition, I never felt the joy the season seemed to demand–and other people expected of me.

For a long time, I tried to act as if–but swallowing my true feelings and putting on a happy face wasn’t fooling anyone and it wasn’t allowing me to connect to my friends and family and start something new. I stopped faking the Christmas spirit and decide instead to start where I was, setting up boundaries that protected my needs and honoring my feelings.

On P.S. I Love You, I share how I found balance in a season that often seems all-or-nothing, and how I’m hoping it’ll heal old wounds. Here’s a snippet:

I tried to change, with the the fake-it-till-you-make-it approach, baking trays of Christmas cookies as holiday tunes played in the background, decorating the tree, even going to church services. I thought if I played along it might make others happy, and the clouds I felt throughout the holiday season might lift–or at least part enough for me to grasp a vision of a Christmas That Could Be, Scrooge-style, and have my own seasonal epiphany that joy was indeed upon us.

Only it never worked. I felt resentful that I was still being asked to perform holiday joy. I beat myself up for not being able to move past bad holidays of the past. I still just wanted it to be December 26 or January 2, no matter how much I tried to pretend.

I started to wonder if, instead of changing my attitude to fit the emotional response others wanted, a more sane response might be to change the outsize expectations heaped upon the holiday. What if my stress and sadness could just be, without expectation of false cheer?