permission from a random stranger: it’s okay.
We’ve all been indoctrinated. The holidays are for family. Have a joy-filled Christmas. Gather with your loved ones. Christmas is about being surrounded by all your relatives, the ones you live near, and the ones that live far away but flock together during this season because that is what you’re supposed to do.
Interestingly, during the holidays, depression and self-harming behavior spike. What if that’s because, for some people, “family” and “joy-filled” are contradictions?
I’m here to tell you: it’s okay. It’s okay if you sit out the big family dinner. It’s okay if you don’t show up to the Ugly Sweater party wearing the most garish thing you could find at Wal*Mart with a phony smile plastered on your face. It’s okay if you don’t arrive for New Year’s Eve festivities twinkling like a disco ball brimming with optimism at the new year’s possibilities. It’s okay.
For years, I pretended things were alright in my family. During the holidays I would make my house festive and inviting and allow into my life people that only ever hurt me. I would give gifts and serve dessert, and watch Christmas movies and pretend that Christmas generosity is a real magic that could keep me safe. Christmas generosity is magic, but like the genie in the lamp, it has limitations.
What if, instead of trying to use my home, thoughtful gift-giving, and entertaining skills to prove that I hadn’t been damaged by these family members, I had used that time, that energy, to do something that helped someone who needed it? Or done something to feed my soul? Or anything really, instead of a show of defiance with a Christmas filter?
Even if you’re lucky enough to not have crappy family members, it’s still okay to not exhaust yourself meeting every obligation, matching every offer. It’s okay to be quiet, introspective, to gather strength if you’re feeling low, or to amass more for the coming challenges of 2017. We don’t need an awe-inspiring mountain of unwrapped gifts before we can be grateful for what we have.
One of the things I’m grateful for this year is learning how to say “no,” even if it’s not confidently yet. I’m taking care of myself this year. I’m not going to “do the expected thing” and put myself in situations where I feel less secure, less loved, and less valued.
Above all, Christmas is a time for love. That love doesn’t necessarily have to come from people you’re related to. It can come from friends, or more radically, yourself, by taking the time to do what is best for you.
Happy Holidays. ❤