The holidays can be lovely and stressful (feel free to reverse the order or omit an adjective!). For me, the holidays are bittersweet. I miss family I rarely see. I miss times when my children were small enough to sit in my lap. I miss the anticipation and buzz of a full house, the scents from a busy kitchen, lingering at the table, and the great team my husband and I made—me cooking, him loading the dishwasher! It was fun and exhausting.
I admit to regularly weeping while I wrapped presents, alone in the living room late at night, a commercial for Maxwell House coffee would cue up, a young soldier coming home at dawn and making a pot of coffee for his family, the drip and smell woke his mom, whom he surprised. Got me every time. And now, it feels so false considering all the soldiers who come home and suffer, all the people who drink their coffee alone.
In addition to expectations pummeling us from advertising, there’s also social media’s constant portrayals of JOY!!! Black Friday and Cyber Monday and the drive for more more more exhaust and disgust. These dark days (literally) beg for light, whether that means Chanukah candles, Christmas tree lights, the Kwanzaa Kinara, or celebrating Solstice with a cozy fire. I am so ready to embrace light (literal and metaphorical), to reinvent, to create and new rituals.
As I do, I turn to friends to find out what works. I asked people what they do for selfcare during this freighted time of year. And, no surprise, I got a wonderful list.
- Dive into a book and/or a bath.
- Be a pillow for a dog or cat.
- Give yourself permission to say No.
- Take lots of walks.
- Cook something healthy…lentil soup, sourdough bread?
- Travel, if you can, preferably to a place where the holidays aren’t such a giant deal.
- Lower expectations.
- Be as generous as you can, with your time, with your money.
- Make something: a potholder, a scarf, a pie, a short story.
Yes, this list can feel a little holier-than-thou. I recognize that sometimes a date with a trusted friend, a Manhattan, and a smack-talking session also does wonders for the soul. Just don’t overindulge in this one. Another thing that ALWAYS lifts my spirits…singing! Alone in the car is best, at full volume, particularly Alanis Morissette, this one.
Whatever you’re feeling about the impending holidays, I wish you a bright and light season which includes lots tenderness toward your heart. Here’s a little suggestion from Grace Paley’s story, “My Father Addresses Me on the Facts of Old Age:”
“…when you get up in the morning, you must take your heart in your two hands…put your hands like a cup, over and under your heart…stroke a little, don’t be ashamed…then you must talk to your heart. Say anything, but be respectful. Say—maybe say, Heart little heart, beat softly but never forget your job, the blood. You can whisper also, Remember, remember.”