Are you wishing you could find that feeling of joy that you “should” be feeling during this time of year?

Do you look forward to the holidays but feel too exhausted to enjoy them?  Does this time of year make you feel stressed, anxious and unsettled?

If you’re anything like me you’ve been caught up in society’s expectations of how the holidays “should” look and feel. You’ve had more than one holiday (not limited to Christmas) or dream that hasn’t gone exactly as you planned or hoped.

Six years ago, I spent my first Christmas Eve, alone. That was the year my husband and I separated. We had always hosted Christmas Eve in our home, with his family.  I tried in vain to continue the family tradition.  That year, I was uninvited. At the time, I was heart broken. I was trying to hang on to a family tradition and I was telling myself I was doing it for my kids. When I realized, it was my own disappointment and heartache, I let it all go. When I did, I found my own source of lasting joy in the holidays, and throughout the year.

That first year was tough.  Each holiday throughout the first year brought its own challenge as I learned to adapt and create new traditions for myself and my daughters.

Each year since then, I’ve found my own unique ways to find lasting joy in the holidays throughout the year.  One of my favorite days now is December 24th. I still spend the day alone, but it has a much different feel than it used to.

Here’s what I like to do. I get up in the morning and go to the gym. I come home and put my winter gear on (even when it’s -25C) and I go for a nice long walk on my favorite path by the river. I stop at a local café to get a coffee to warm me as I walk. I finish my outing with a massage at a beautiful spa. I’m super grateful that my massage therapist works that day.

After a lovely day, I go home and enjoy dinner by myself. I enjoy a glass of red wine and some decadent dark chocolate for desert, by the fire. Last year we had a milder winter so I stood outside on my deck and admired the moon. I listen to Christmas music and I allow my heart to be filled with joy for all that I have. I reflect on how heart broken I was six years ago, and how grateful I am now that I’ve found my own source of lasting joy in the holidays and through out the year.

 “Maybe Christmas he thought doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.”  ~The Grinch

As a society, we’ve made the holiday season stressful for ourselves.

There are 3 things we carry in our holiday baggage that prevent us from finding lasting joy in the holidays:

  1. Unmet Expectations
  2. Unspoken Requests
  3. Unresolved Grievances

If you think back to when you were a kid things were easier, weren’t they?  You probably had fewer expectations of how the holidays “should” go.  As a kid, you weren’t shy about making requests and asking for what you wanted. However, if you ever had an expectation that wasn’t met or a request that was denied by anyone in your life you probably still carry one or two unresolved grievances in your holiday baggage.

Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not a holiday unless someone cries?”

Here’s what unmet expectations, unspoken requests and unresolved grievances might look like when you unpack your holiday baggage:

  • You start out by anticipating (or dreading) the family coming home for the holidays.
  • You have an idea, or certain beliefs around the way things “should” go, but you don’t tell anyone.
  • You expect the people around you to know what you are thinking or what you desire.
  • You don’t tell your kids, who are home for the holidays, that you want to enjoy their company while they’re home and you’re disappointed when they fill their time visiting friends.
  • Old feelings of disappointment, rejection, sadness and frustration well up.
  • You become upset and withdrawn.
  • You end up alienating yourself from the rest of the family while they go about having fun and finding joy.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Maybe you don’t withdraw.  Instead, you might do something like this:

  • You go head to head with your child (or other family member).
  • You try to get them to see it your way and appreciate you for all that you’ve done.
  • In your anger, you fail to hear what they’re saying.
  • When you calm down you realize they have their own unmet expectations, unspoken requests and unresolved grievances and they’ve brought them home in their holiday baggage.

So, what do you do?  

You have a choice.  You can either:

  1. Let go of your expectations (and feel resentful) or
  2. Make a clear request (and feel fulfilled).

The clear request is asking for what you want. Tell your family that you would like to spend time with them and how you want to spend it.  Then tell them what it would mean to you. If you don’t want to spend time with them because they irritate the hell out of you, that’s a different blog.

This year, my daughters and I had a great conversation about expectations and desires and we’ve decided to stay home for Christmas. I’ll still enjoy my Christmas Eve tradition while my daughters enjoy their tradition with their Dad and his family. Then, on Christmas Day, we’ll stay home, which we’ve never done.  Although my daughters still live at home, they’re both in university this year. I don’t get to spend as much time with them as I would like to. We’ll have our day together and they’ll have time with their friends.

If you like what you’ve read here, head over to my website to claim a special gift of lasting joy, from me to you!

Wishing you a holiday season filled with happiness, peace and joy.

Finding Lasting Joy in the Holidays