We’re such hypocrites at this time of year.
‘Tis the season to be jolly, but it’s absurd: How many people are genuinely jolly, unless they’re intoxicated?
I commented to a florist friend that Valentine’s Day must be the busiest time of year for them. “Oh no, it’s after Christmas, when people have been horrible and they’re trying to apologize.”
Shouldn’t the festive season be bringing joy? It seems not.
“…Christmas appears to be a trigger to engage in excessive self-reflection and rumination about the inadequacies of life…” Psychology Today, What To Do If You Are Unhappy Or Depressed At Christmas
We hit our breaking points in the lead up to Holy Days and Christmas. It’s hell out there—have you been to a shopping mall lately? Expectations and obligations stretch us to our limit. Come The Day of Joy, the pressure can explode and all the unhappiness from our everyday life comes gushing out for all to see. Next, we make off-target New Year resolutions—as if they are going to fix our underlying discontent.
Most of the year, we act like we’ve got our shit together—at least in public. Open our first world doors and out tumble stress, unhappiness, fear, tension and heartache. How much longer can we bottle it up, hide it away, and deny it exists?
The core of unhappiness is in our home lives—supposedly our refuges from the storm, our places of love and protection. Those places for which we—and no one else— are responsible.
The sorry fact is we don’t do anything about what causes these outbursts in the first place.
A bunch of flowers is a band-aid, not a solution.
It’s time to quit the bitching and fix our heartaches.
Four underlying causes of heartache
Individually, some of us are content with what we have. I’m here to address the collective.
We’re supposed to be happy. We’re not. The amount of fear and resentment in the first world is testament to this.
What the hell is wrong with us? Have we not read the plethora of clichés and platitudes? Have we not asked the question, why am I miserable and what can I do about it?
Our top triggers for discontent:
1. Having it all
It seems we either have it all, or we’re trying to ‘get there’. Have we never wondered if this is part of the problem? At this time of celebratory spending and credit card overload, observe your mood. Observe how long the joy lasts. Observe if this explosion of Meeting Excessive Expectations is truly worth it. Observe how long that thing you gave (or received) brings happiness and joy. How does your heartache feel? Has it gone?
Consuming less is not a new concept. You already know this. If you’re unhappy, it’s time for a reckoning.
Face it. You haven’t joined the dots. You don’t want to join them because it might mean changing your modus operandi and facing the cacophony of the hyper-consumerist orchestra. You might even lose some friends, friends who support the lie. Unless you join the dots, things will continue to bring short-lived happiness. It’s your choice to give ‘stuff’. Try a new tack and give experiences, not things. See how it compares. What about a no-gifts policy? How far will you go to mend your heartache?
The emergence of the minimalist movement over the past few years indicates many are seeking a new way to ‘do’ first world life. Anyone who’s been to a third world country—especially in rural or remote areas—can’t help but be surprised at the smiles and genuine warmth given by those who have less than we do. They spontaneously sing, they laugh out loud, tease, play and delight in the company of friends and family. We’ve lost this joy.
It’s a paradox. How could they be happy with so little?
Holiday homework for miserable Have-It-Alls:
Quote: If you’re not happy with what you’ve got, what makes you think you’ll be happy with more? – Joshua Becker
Book: Essentialism, Greg McKeown
2. Unhappy wives
If I hear one more woman complain about their comfortable lives; their adoring husbands; their extraordinary kids; their busy, busy lives… aaargh!
You wanted it all: you got it all …and now you’re unhappy?
Before you get all defensive, I am a woman. And I was once a bitching, miserable one who blamed her husband and her busy-ness for all her unhappiness.
If this sounds like you, only you can change it. Change your attitude, your perspective, what you’re accountable for (no, you don’t have to do it all). Turn your misery into appreciation and respect. My greatest regret is I changed too late. Sometimes you have to lose what’s most important to you before you realise your part in it. It’s a heavy price to pay.
It will take some work. Whatever it takes. Life’s too short. Do it.
The clichés are true: Happiness (or Unhappiness) is within you. Hard to accept—really hard—but acknowledging your part in your own unhappiness is the best gift you will ever give yourself. Do yourself a favour and discover what your real needs are—not those society, your mother or your girlfriends expect them to be. You might be surprised that having it all, or proving yourself (to who, anyway?), is unnecessary. Men know you’re awesome. You know you’re awesome. You don’t have to prove it. Just be gorgeous, wonderful you again. A radiant woman is still in you; your family and loved ones deserve to have her back.
Holiday homework for miserable women
Quote: You either get bitter or you get better – Josh Shipp
Book: The Queen’s Code by Alison Armstrong
3. Miserable husbands
It’s time good men stood up for themselves. Enough of being emasculated, when you’re giving them the world. Enough of the knot in the stomach when you walk in the door.
Will she be in a rage? What have I forgotten now? Where is the woman I fell in love with? When is this going to get better? How can I leave when the kids need me? How did I become such a bastard by doing my best? Why doesn’t she understand me? Why won’t she even try?
Don’t let anyone or anything disempower you. Not at home, not at work. It’s ok to be vulnerable, but not at the expense of your strength and integrity. Know yourself. Be yourself. Be the rock from which others find strength. Learn what their needs are as well as yours. Find out what makes them feel safe, secure and protected. Only then will they—and you—shine.
There’s nothing sadder to see than a man who’s been crushed—by his wife, the women in his life, his work, his colleagues or unattainable expectations of himself. If you don’t know what stage of life you’re in, find out. Rethink your goals if they don’t fit. Get real about debt if it’s a concern. Start the business you’ve dreamed of. There’s wisdom in changing direction if your current one is doomed. Turn your life upside down if that’s what it takes. You deserve better, happier times. Make them happen.
Holiday homework for miserable men
Quote: Love didn’t hurt you. Someone who doesn’t know how to love hurt you. It’s okay to be hurt. It’s not okay to stay hurt – Dale Partridge
Book: The Amazing Development of Men (audio) – Alison Armstrong
4. The house is too small
Let me say one thing: No it’s not.
No house is too small. Witness the Tiny House movement, the minimalists. Houses are only ‘too small’ if you have too much stuff, or a lot of children, or both. How much space do children actually need if their rooms are empty of useless consumerist crap? I’m not suggesting you bundle them into a Tiny House, but seriously, enough is enough and more than enough won’t improve the happiness of your children—or you. If you don’t believe it, inform yourself and try it. The greatest gift you can give your kids is your time. It’s more precious and memorable to them than any thing.
How to get a bigger house, (almost) free of charge
Quote: The peace and safety for which you yearn is not a matter of food, clothing, and shelter. It is a matter of love. Love and be loved, and all else will be added unto you – Neale Donald Walsch
Book: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo.
It’s not going to happen overnight
It might be too late to change things this week, but by next holiday season the only thing gushing out of your home will be joy.
Identify what’s wrong. Fix it.
Inform yourself. Read, read, read. Listen to life-changers. Stop bitching and do something. Take action. Be prepared for questions, stares and resistance from others.
You’re changing your life, but you’re threatening theirs. They’ll get used to it. Or not. Stick with those who support your decision. Lead by example, not force.
Your New Year resolution: ‘Do whatever it takes to be happy’
Photo: Getty Images