First, a little housekeeping is in order:
Each year, I send out a Google Forms survey to y’all. I use it to build my holiday card list, as well as to help me funnel this thing into something you want to read. I LOVE IT when you guys give me ideas to riff on, so don’t feel weird about requesting stuff… EVEN IF I’ve covered it before. There’s always more history to dive into!
Second, if you haven’t subscribed to this Thing and want it in your inbox…
Thirdly, I love you. Thank you.
I think we can all agree that the best and worst part of the holiday season is our loved ones, right?
It’s incredibly wonderful to be with the ones you want to be with. It’s incredibly awful to be with the ones you don’t want to be with, or to be unable to be with the ones you want to be with, or to not have ones you want to be with at all, or to be no contact with someone, or to have lost someone, or to be lost yourself.
Norman Rockwell made it look beautiful, but in reality, it’s complicated.
Even in the best of situations, the holidays can be exhausting. It’s easy to feel guilty for not enjoying every single moment, or to feel too overwhelmed to participate in the fun. Those of us with tiny social batteries know that holiday parties, dinners and guests don’t move because we’re “not feeling up to it” or “kind of ready to move into a cabin in the woods so that I never have to speak to another human person ever again.”
And when someone puts you in charge of the whole circus? Ugh!
I am by no means an expert at navigating the holiday hubbub, but I have a few tactics to share to help you keep it together.
Invent little ways to split up your group. This can make socialization feel more manageable, as well as provide opportunities for deeper connection. Take a trip to the liquor store with one guest, take a walk with another. Take some leftovers to a neighbor or someone you know is alone or in need. Go look at lights with the kids.
Need time to yourself? Some ideas: Insist that you need to get a little work done solo, or help a friend with a project. Take a bath. Drive to Target and sit in the parking lot to listen to your favorite playlist (and maybe cry). Talk to a dog about your feelings. (Is this getting too specific? Maaaayyyybeeeee…)
If all else fails, here’s a very vibey autumn playlist for your ass:
Lists & Timelines
Even if you’re not a list person, making them can be a lifesaver this time of year. Make a list of events you/your household committed to. Make a timeline of dishes you need to prep and cook. Make a list of gifts you’ve already purchased, and where you squirreled them away. Make a list of gifts you still need to purchase. Groceries you have, groceries you need. Chores. Reasons why you’re awesome.
After 2020, I think we’re all retooling and refocusing our lives, including holiday celebrations. What unnecessary stress can you eliminate and still have your celebration feel meaningful? I think you’ll find that many of your guests will be relieved to have things feel looser and more pared-down. Many families are cutting down on the number of dishes they’re making, or turning once-fancy meals into more casual affairs. Others are cutting out almost all gift-giving and putting the focus back on togetherness. Awwww.
I know it can feel counterintuitive to get more social contact when you’re overwhelmed with what you’ve already got, but reaching out to someone who knows your heart can be like a sigh of relief. Especially if they know what you’re struggling with and can offer a different perspective, or a little ray of sunshine. If you want my number, just let me know. I send memes.
And if you’re really struggling, you know what I’m going to say next: talk to a mental health professional, whether it’s a crisis helpline, your sponsor or your usual therapist. This time of year can be triggering.
Know your limits
When the going gets truly tough, I’m an advocate of throwing the whole thing in the “fuck it” bucket. If it’s really just awful, compounding your stress and the stress of your “loved ones” (even if they’re your “don’t really like ‘em right now” ones), STOP. Don’t feel beholden to tradition if tradition is breaking you down.
If you’re working this holiday season, you probably already know that people have been SHITTY this year. Give yourself so much grace when it comes to the other aspects of your life.