Recently, I wrote about how the holidays were always a little difficult for me when I was single. My “aloneness” always felt a little more real at Christmastime. And then, being at home with my family — while warm and wonderful at times — pulled me out of my normal routine and could leave me feeling out of sorts and grumpy. Whether you’re going “home for Christmas” or weathering the holidays on your own, here are a few tools to keep in mind:
Tool No. 1: Be proactive.
If you’re spending Christmas with family, boredom can be a big factor as you’re yanked out of your normal routine and may have more downtime than you’re accustomed to. In “Making it a Merry Christmas,” I offered this solution:
“Planning ahead can combat boredom. My friend Sarah often plans to do ‘projects’ for her parents when she’s home. One year she put old photos into albums for her mom. Another year, she cleaned and decorated the guest room. In anticipation of potentially monotonous hours, I am planning to revive some lagging family traditions and organize at least one memorable family event.”
If you’re feeling apprehensive about holidays spent out of your normal environment, plan one or two things you know will bring you some Christmas joy, such as a family outing or an afternoon baking cookies and wrapping presents.
Tool No. 2: Let go of expectations.
The first few years I traveled home for Christmas following college I met with some disappointed expectations. From how we spent our time to what delights awaited beneath the tree, I envisioned my time with family to be a certain way, but often it turned out differently. Flexibility isn’t my strong point, so I would feel frustrated that we didn’t get to go see the blockbuster movie I had been looking forward to because Christmas dinner was running late.
I learned that if I relaxed and just went with the flow, my visits were a lot more enjoyable. Plus, letting go of my own agenda opened up unexpected opportunities, such as Christmas caroling to the neighbors or going on an impromptu Starbucks run with my dad.
Tool No. 3: Remember it’s not all about you.
Regardless of the reason for my holiday doldrums, I realized that most of the time when I began feeling sorry for myself, I was focusing on me — not the Savior I was supposed to be celebrating. By focusing on Him and cultivating a deep thankfulness for all He had provided me, I was able to rid myself of toxic self-centeredness.
“Many of my holiday disappointments have stemmed from selfishness. Things don’t go the way I had hoped, and I start feeling sorry for myself. Instead of thinking about how to secure the perfect gift that would make Mom’s life easier, I grumble about the ugly pajamas I receive.”
As an antidote, I came up with my own “holiday project” to serve others:
“Each day I will look for little ways I can bless and serve my parents, brother and sisters — waking up early for coffee with my dad, helping Mom around the house, writing notes of love to my sisters. I suspect that as I look for ways to make their holidays special, I will discover some joy of my own.”
These “tools” greatly improved my holiday experiences during my single years. (You can read more in “Making it a Merry Christmas.”) And though things are a little different now, I still keep these strategies in mind as I spend time with family during the holidays. What are some tools in your Christmas toolkit? What strategies have made your Christmas brighter?
Copyright 2013 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All Rights Reserved.