This article does not focus on the religious meaning behind the holidays. My focus in this article is to share my thoughts as to WHY some people feel blue, sad, depressed, and lonely on or around the holidays. ~rln
I’ll never forget the day my only son, who was 16 at the time, said, “Mom, holidays are overrated!” My son’s comment is really an important one. Why? Because to him holidays felt overrated. At the time, I didn’t understand or even agree with his comment, but now I can say that I get it.
What I’m about to share with you is from my own experience and perspective. I do not pretend to have the answers as to why some people feel depressed, lonely, or sad during the holidays. What I can do is share how I changed the way I celebrate the holidays.
How can the season of merriness, joyfulness, festiveness, happiness, and warmth create so much depression, sadness, and loneliness? In my opinion, one of the main reasons is having enormous expectations. Expecting the day to unfold without a glitch. Expecting to be surrounded by loved ones that behave perfectly. Expecting the day to unfold on a timely schedule. Expecting to give and receive the perfect gift. Expecting magic. Expecting an illusion.
I was brought up in a home where the holidays like Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, New Years Day, Fourth of July, along with my own birthday, were celebrated on a large “Super Bowl” day scale. Yes, my birthdays and holidays were more than just another day. Those “anointed” days became events with growing expectations. So, not only did I have huge expectations for the day, I spent an inordinate amount of time preparing for the day.
Prior to each birthday and holiday I’d purchase new clothes, new shoes, and even new undies. My hair and make-up had to be picture-perfect too. And the gifts; oh, the gifts. I spent a lot of time shopping for gifts with anticipation and high expectations of pleasing someone else! And, if the person I gave the gift to didn’t respond in a manner that I thought was honestly happy and grateful, my day was literally ruined.
As I grew older, my expectations of the anointed days also grew. Houston, we have a problem. Preparing for any holiday actually taught me how to maintain extensive expectations. Preparing for any holidays also taught me how to NOT live in the present moment. When I look back and think about all of the expectations I had prior to the actual day, no wonder I stopped enjoying the holidays, like I did as a child. For me, holidays became an obligation, instead of a celebration. There was too much pressure – too much pressure to enjoy the day.
In 2006, my son left for college in New York City. It was only then that my perception of what a holiday should feel like to me changed. For me, the change came when I discovered that all expectations lead to unhappiness. If you don’t already know, being happy is a major priority for me. When I began eliminating expectations, I literally became happier. Along with eliminating expectations, I began to feel better about spending time alone. I would have never felt good about spending a holiday alone until I felt good about being alone.
Shortly after I began feeling good about being alone, I also began to shift my perception of “special” occasions, including holidays. Let’s think about it. There are 7.2 billion people living on this planet. Are you telling me that on a particular day I’m supposed to celebrate the way other people are celebrating? Who wrote these holiday rules for me to follow? What if I don’t want to celebrate the holidays the way the “masses” celebrate the holidays? Why do I have to talk to or hang out with family on a specific day? Does that mean I don’t love them? No, it does not. It means that I am living and doing on that day what I’m inspired to do – not what I’m obligated to do. It means that I’m living in the moment, and living in the moment means that I don’t know how I’m going to feel on any particular day, including the holiday, until that day is here.
The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been. ~Albert Einstein
What if I want to spend the holiday meditating? Or, what if I want to spend the holiday to hike, or exercise – by myself? Or, what if I want to spend the holiday reading, watching a movie or writing an article about what a fabulous day I’m having? What about that? If I don’t want to hang out with family or friends, am I supposed to feel bad about it? Not any more. You might argue that my loved ones will be disappointed if I chose to exclude them on such an important day. Honestly, if you claim to love me, then you will love what makes me feel connected to the Universe!
What are you doing for the holidays?
I don’t know about you, but the majority of people I know spend a lot of time asking each other, “What are you going to do for the holidays?” Before my new found freedom, I used to make stuff up because I wasn’t convicted in my convictions.
Now, when anyone asks me what I’m doing on Christmas, New Years Eve, Thanksgiving, etc., I state with renewed conviction … “absolutely nothing”. I usually hear (out of concern), “Would you like to come to my house?” “No thank you,” I respond lovingly. “I’m spending the day alone”…again. People always look confused because I have a huge smile on my face, and I then I add, “I’m looking forward to the day.” The idea that I should be with family or friends and/or attend a ritual function is a man-made concept anyway.
Finally, after all these decades, I’ve eliminated the pressure and expectations that the holidays used to mean. Yes, holidays are special; however, they’re no more special than any other day in my life. That’s why I celebrate each day, every 24 hours.