Unhappy Holidays? Focus on the “Stuff” that Matters

‘Tis the season for Martha Stewart-esque images of perfectly decorated homes, elaborate craft ideas shared on Pinterest, and a pervasive pressure to create the ideal holiday memory for your family.  Has the holiday to-do list already grown three heads and taken over your life as we countdown to Christmas over the next 30 days?  Have you asked yourself why you are doing each task and who really cares about it?  Not knocking it, as I certainly enjoy hauling down my bins of holiday decor, putting on the Christmas tunes, bringing in the fresh Christmas tree that fills the house with a wonderful aroma of pine, and fa-la-la’ing for an evening as the house is transformed into holiday central.  But, if I don’t watch myself, I certainly can turn into the monster with at least two heads at various points of the season, as “mom the martyr” emerges when the other members of the family (coincidentally, all other members of my household being of the testosterone variety) fail to get as giddy about some of the traditions as I do.

Christmas in Revere Park with Old North Church ~ Boston
From a Christmas we enjoyed away from the traditions of home ~ a serene evening scene in Boston’s Revere Park with Old North Church in the background.

Over time, I have tried to let go of that disappointment and modify expectations, which provides for a much happier household all season long.  Some things I do for myself and the pleasure I get from them, and that is enough.  By letting go of expectations and “must do” traditions occasionally, though, sometimes the most delightful doors open to new traditions and experiences.  As John Lennon said, Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.  Don’t let those plans and to-do lists overshadow the potential happiness of the holiday season — it can be such a special time, and there is a certain magic in the air if we open ourselves to it.

Christmas Tree ~  A Special Present
A special present remained under the tree . . . notice the lack of ornaments on the lower part of the tree (life with two cats).

Speaking of holiday happiness, though, not everyone meets the season with glee.  For some, the season reminds them of family members gone or fractured relationships; for others, the increasing expectations of the season coincide with the shorter, darker days, culminating into the perfect “SAD” (Seasonal Affective Disorder) storm; and for yet others, the daily struggles they have do not diminish with the gaiety forced upon them from all sides, perhaps deepening their frustration with the hardships life has handed them.  I viewed this video today and felt compelled to share this moving story.  Whether you are struggling with health concerns, personal relationships, a fitness goal, or are just having a bad day, I dare say all of us can find a spark of inspiration in Arthur’s journey:

Be mindful of the things that matter during this holiday season.  If you fall off the happy wagon (I can assure you that I do at least once a day, just ask my husband and my teens . . . ), brush yourself off and hop back on (knowing you are not alone in these seasonal “bah, humbug” moments).  If you overindulged, rather than depriving yourself of the enjoyment or beating yourself up with guilt, simply hit the reset button, go for a nice long walk or run to help balance things out if you are able to do so, or start anew in whatever way you can (so says the blogger who ate way too much cheesecake this weekend).  If you are facing a goal or burden that seems overwhelming, and many days are two steps forward, one step back, then think of Arthur and his transformation, and take each day as it comes, one at a time.

I leave you with this thought as we countdown to Christmas, just a small excerpt from a classic Dr. Seuss tale, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”:

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?  It came without ribbons.  It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes or bags.  And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.  Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.  What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Dear Santa . . . I will like the gifts I will get . . .
Dear Santa . . . I will like the gifts I will get . . .

The Grinch was wise indeed in recognizing that the true meaning of the holiday season comes from focusing on the “stuff” that matters — and that many gifts come already opened.  Isn’t that true of life throughout the year?

Ciao! ~ Kat

22 responses to “Unhappy Holidays? Focus on the “Stuff” that Matters”

  1. This is an inspiring post and I like the part of that we gifts in our life that are already unwrapped. During the holiday season some cannot celebrate as picturesque as those portrayed in Martha Stewart which can be a reminder to be thankful for what is in our lives right now.


    • Glad you found the video worthwhile, Maddie — everytime I see one of these “viral” videos, I figure everyone else must have seen it already except me, but always worth sharing again! ~ Kat


  2. People must be reminded that some fall victim of depression from this glorious, “joyous” holidays, that not all people get to celebrate it (the way they want it to). So true, people should not get their heads so fixated with the chores and as you put it holiday “expectations”. They need not to forget to look around. Then, perhaps that can be enough, when they start to compare what they have from what they saw after looking at others that they can be merry.


  3. Cool Post! Far removed from the hustle and bustle of Christmas this year, and hopefully seeing the true gifts:)


  4. My house is ready for the holidays, I’m scheduled for shopping on Dec. 8., I got a 2 reunions, 3 kiddie birthday parties, 2 adult birthday parties, 3 baptismal (I’m the godfather), 4 weddings (one of which I’m the emcee) and 7 Christmas parties to attend to all within the month of December. And, yes all of them matters but just the thought of all these makes me wanna just get lost ! 😦 I will do my best to be happy 🙂 Thank you for this.


    • That is the struggle — it is not that many of the events, activities, traditions are not things we enjoy but just that the rest of life keeps going with its daily demands as well — take a deep breath, off we go! ~ Kat


  5. Thank you Kat for the reminders about the joys of the holiday season – the trick will be to keep the focus on the joys rather than the “bah humbug” tendencies in the midst of all the frenzy and the bombardment of messages about “stuff” and “expectations.” Re-reading inspiring posts like yours and watching inspiring videos about people like Arthur definitely help.


    • Exactly, Anna Marie — I think I am talking out loud more to myself in these recent posts, in preparation for the holiday season, hoping to maintain some sense of mindfulness even while getting caught up in the frenzy periodically! I appreciate the affirmation! 🙂 ~ Kat


  6. You’ve wrapped it up nicely (pardon the pun)! For those of us who suffer from one form of OCD or another this time of year can be nightmarish – we have to learn to let all sorts of things go, especially our expectations of ourselves otherwise performance anxiety gets the better of us – and besides, the last thing your sons’ future wives and partners need to hear is “that’s not the way Mom used to do it…”


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