Monday, December 26, 2011

Not coping during the holidays

Once and a while the upbeat American attitudes get on my nerves. I’m naturally a very upbeat person; a yoga addict I’ve also learned to view my world with more balance. Thus I realize that all qualities are both good and bad (being upbeat can earn you “insensitive” as well).

Reading Joan Didion’s new book Blue Nights I was awed by her ability to write with such raw pain. I waver on whether or not to write about myself and her fearlessness in doing so was admirable. She’s brutal on herself in the book and, in my opinion, really hasn’t coped with her daughter’s death. Why must we always put on a happy face or spin positive? Why must we always “cope”?

My family is pretty dysfunctional (anyone else?). As a child I lied about it; I now usually accept it. But holidays can be trying.

So in defense of all of those who sometimes don’t cope, and don’t even want to cope until ready, I have a few new holiday rules. When I’m perfect perhaps I’ll apologize for them but until then:

1. Some gifts are unlikable, insensitive and a waste of money. Smile anyway but feel free to toss them to a local charity ASAP.
2. You don’t have to want to see everyone you’ll see during the holidays. Smile for your own benefit not out of obligation (sometimes the best way to be in a good mood is to force it).
3. Be in a bad mood sometimes. Don’t fight it (just don’t cling to it).
4. If you eat or drink too much forget about it and start afresh the next day (a Weight Watchers rule).
5. It’s okay to buy yourself a Christmas/holiday present.
6. Get mad as appropriate but try to keep your mouth shut. You may be right but saying it to someone who isn’t listening does no good (and makes the day worse for those around you). If you do say it, apologize for saying (not believing) it and move on.
7. Get tired. Take a break.
8. Throw the food you don’t want to eat away.
9. Accept that people will be mad, depressed, unreasonable or even crazy. That’s their problem.
10. This too shall pass.
11. Appreciate being alive and healthy (or whatever it is you have to appreciate) instead of brooding over what you can’t control.
12. Or just brood.
13. The New Year is an immediate “start over”; make it your new favorite holiday.
14. Some food is icky.
15. Some people really don’t behave; try not to be one of them but if you do apologize and forgive yourself.
16. Spend time with some children during the holidays.
17. Donate…to get out of yourself.
18. Make your own list of holiday survival rules.
19. We all ultimately have a relationship with ourselves first. Respect yourself regardless and aim higher next time.
20. Spend time outside, reading a novel or on a stupid web site (email me for suggestions).
21. Forgive.

This post will never be my favorite one because it’s a bit silly. But it made me feel better (write a dumb blog posting?!). I recommend that you read Didion’s book if you want to see the raw emotion of someone who dares not to cope, and write about it. Let’s all aim to do a little bit better next year.

Picture of Maine from Steve K.

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