Well, it’s finally here—the long, slow slog of holidays between the end of October and New Year’s Eve.
While many people embrace this holiday season as a celebration of food and family, others like myself, face it with dread. Dread of hours wasted around people with whom we share DNA, but not lives. Dread of watching those we love struggle with loneliness and grief. Dread of obligatory social interactions that feel like nails on a chalkboard to the introverts among us. Dread of being held hostage to commitments that are more habit than tradition. Exchanging holiday greetings with strangers like an unpleasant tic.
Maybe it was an early stint working in retail that put me off. Or maybe it’s the inevitable, annual hand-wringing over how much is “enough” cranberry sauce. For me, the holiday season feels like someone took a beautiful sunset and infused it with pumpkin spice Axe spray. The sunset was enough all by its magical self.
Can’t we just breathe in and acknowledge the moment as it actually exists?
Disliking the holiday season doesn’t mean you are antisocial or devoid of joy. Decorating the house and inviting friends over to celebrate a new season of “Game of Thrones”? Yes, count me in. A front row seat to some distant relative’s diatribe about the ideal serving temperature of marshmallow yams? No. Just no.
But there is good news—you’re not the only one. Better still, you don’t have to fake it through another evening of sitting in an overly-warm living room wearing an itchy sweater, when you’d rather be outside playing. This year, much like Maxine Waters—reclaim your time.
Tired of being dispatched to the only open convenience store for another six cans of green beans? Not anymore. Unappologetically reclaim your time. Drive to the beach. Or hike in the woods. Or spend a week in Las Vegas. Or binge watch “Breaking Bad” with subversive friends.
Go to the places and people that rebuild your soul.
Winter holidays focus on two diametrically opposed forces: joy and perfection. You can’t have both. An Olympic gymnast who sticks the landing and receives a perfect score did not get to that point by countless hours of joyful training. Training is painful and challenging; interspersed with bouts of tears, frustration, and self-doubt.
Preparing a formal holiday gathering can also come with less-than-joyful moments. If you enjoy the process, great. If you are being subjected to it against your will, not so much.
Not being a fan of winter holidays can also be a temporary thing. Maybe this year is the first following a death or divorce. Maybe this year your kids are celebrating with their other parent. Navigating grief is especially difficult when even basic errands like grocery shopping reinforce the absence of another person.
Remind yourself that it’s ok to opt out of the holiday spirit.
So, how to reclaim your time and balance a healthy love of holidays? Here are some tips to get you started.
- Embrace your lack of interest in the holidays. It’s surprisingly liberating to openly admit it.
- When the central point of an evening get-together shifts from sharing stories to obsessive concern about green beans, leaving becomes a perfectly acceptable option.
- Be grateful for your joy, but don’t expect that everyone shares your experience. If your holiday success depends on the compliance of others, it might be time to reevaluate why.
- Stop assuming that people who dislike winter holidays are somehow broken. Trust me; I’m just as suspicious when you don’t celebrate “The Big Game” in February or “Star Wars” day (May 4th) with the same zeal that I do.
- Create your own traditions and experiences. Your time here is limited; spend it with those who enhance you.
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