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This Is No Norman Rockwell Holiday

This Is No Norman Rockwell Holiday

Can I be super-duper frank? Holidays can be hard. I’m the child of divorced parents, and so I know the pain of divided holidays and heartbreak. I know the confusion of blended families coming together for Thanksgiving once a year, and the challenges of trying to figure out how to relate to people you don’t know well but are suddenly “family.” I know the pain of family rupture: I remember the Christmas Eve when I attended the evening church service alone as a teen. My mom was too devastated to leave the house and my brother disappeared with friends (which was his coping strategy). I sat in the back of the church and cried as the congregation sang carols.

Even when there’s a lot of love, respect, and clear communication, it can still be hard. Holidays often inspire supercharged emotions. Holiday celebrations are fraught with insanely high expectations. We believe we should feel the most lit up and joyful at this time of year, but often we really feel overwhelmed and agitated.

The truth is this: we humans are just so messy. The older I get, the more I’m deeply aware of this. We are all precious, and we are all just trying to figure out how to be here on the planet.

There’s got to be a way to make this easier, right?

Here’s what I want to do this year:

Slow down. Really. Only one thing at a time. No more than three priorities for any day in order of importance. If I start to get anxious, I stop what I’m doing and take three deep, slow breaths. If that doesn’t help, I go outside for five minutes and connect with nature. And if that doesn’t help, I will…

Try to be grateful for all of it. Yes, the hard bits too. There’s a clever reframing technique by comedian Pete Holmes in which, when something difficult happens, he says “Good episode” to himself. This allows him to observe his life as he would a beloved television show — a place where drama is more exciting than alarming. It might go like this: My uncle has had too much to drink, my mom is about to dump the cranberry sauce on his head, she’s so angry, and I just wish my dad were still here. Good episode. Or: Ahhhh I’m an anxious mess AGAIN. Good episode. Techniques like this help pull you out of the thick of the emotion and into a bit of self-awareness. And that can bring peace and even appreciation.

Embrace my emotions. Feel the feels. ALL of them. Anger! Yes. I feel you. Fear! Hi fear. Where are you showing up in my body today? Grief! How about a bath, dear grief? Let’s soak you in epsom-saturated water. Joy! Well hello! Let’s not only feel you, but let’s share you.

Connect with people who get me. Call one of my good friends and ask for five minutes to rant or cry. Make an appointment with a therapist. Invite a buddy on a walk or for a tea date. Circle like-minded friends up for a meal. We heal best together, in community, so I won’t hesitate to reach out.

Self-care, self-care, and more self-care. For me that includes meditation, exercise, journaling, and reading or listening to inspiring things. Time with friends. Epsom salt baths. Plus wholesome food and lots of water. Sounds like a part-time job, doens't it? It sort of is — and it makes a huge difference.

So — bring on the holidays! The crazy, the unruly feelings, the mess. The striving, the longing, the determination. And also all the insane love I have for my people. I may sport the pretty apron and roast a beautiful Rockwell-level turkey, but my mascara will likely be smeared from weeping, my kitchen will be a wreck, and I’ll probably say and do awkward things. But hey — THIS is my big and beautiful life.

About the Author

Lisabeth Sewell

Doer of Many Wonderful and Odd Things (including CEO)

Lisabeth Sewell has worn many hats at Sparkle over the years, from Sparkle Kitchen Blogger to Editorial Director to Doer of All Odd Jobs. Her primary role is as CEO.

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