How can you do something other than what your friends and family expects for the holidays, without feeling guilty or alienating them?

 In Holidays, Life choices, Relationships

Being Wise… taking in the wisdom across generations
by Christine, age 37

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As I read the blogs and think of my own life, I know that doing what you want for the holidays regardless of the expectations people throw at you are is easy, and hard, as two things: Truth and Love.TRUTH. Every one of us owes it to ourselves to be honest about what we really want and need during the holidays. For me, it’s different every year. This year it’s space, my home, joy and good food. I’ll spend my holidays nestled into home with my partner, my dog and the Christmas music and white lights that make my heart all warm and fuzzy.

I always ask myself, “What do I need and want this holiday? And what will give me what I want?” I think all women should ask those same questions, and then commit to doing what they want – before telling their friends and family. You’ve got to be super resolved inside yourself to claim what you want or else you’ll crumble at the first sign of resistance. Let’s face it, it’s one thing to say what you want; it’s another to follow through. I know that when I am clear on my intentions and committed to doing what makes me happy, I end up in situations in which I feel great. Whatever your holiday wish is this year, find it, and give it to yourself.

LOVE. First, we’ve got to love ourselves enough to believe we deserve what we want – time by ourselves, intimate conversations, a trip to the snow, staying home, etc. Then, when we step forward and express our plans or desires, we’ve got to do it from the place of love instead of from the place of being the dutiful daughter, the good girl, the victim or the raving righteous madwoman. I stopped flying back to the Midwest for holiday gatherings the year after I moved to California. I didn’t make some grand statement that pronounced, “I will not be returning for the holidays whether you like it or not, so deal with it” and I didn’t get all wimpy by apologizing for not showing up. After getting really clear that I loved being in California for the holidays (aka LOVE for ME first), I shared why I was staying in California to the relatives that asked. Some got it, some didn’t. But I spoke from my heart with all of them, and that left me guilt-free, full of joy and ready to enjoy my holiday, my way.

Step forward this year with love in your heart, truth in your soul and spend your holidays, your way… whatever that looks like for you.

Olive, age 13, says:

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One thing I hate about the holidays is having to pretend that I believe in Santa. I don’t! He’s not real! I always have to have presents from Santa for my cousins and siblings so that they think Santa is real. I hate having to play a part in all of this.Last Christmas, my step-mom put chocolate covered raisins on the floor saying the reindeer pooped in our house. Sure, IT’S HILARIOUS! But having to go along with all of it just bugs me. I have to say, “Oh my gosh! They pooped in our house!” And then of course my dad and step-mom eat the cookies and carrots so even though I play along with this lie, I don’t even get to eat the cookies! Also, since “it would drive my little sister crazy” I don’t get to have an advent calendar! Or if my little sister has one I’m not allowed to have one because then she will want to have mine. How about just tell her that she can’t have mine and she’ll have to deal with it?!

I really don’t know how my Jewish cousins do it either. Them going to school and singing songs about Santa when they know that Santa isn’t real and they have to lie to everybody? It would drive me nuts! I deal with it because I love my family and if that’s what I need to do to make them happy then so be it. They do so much for me and I really just love the holidays, snow, and presents so it’s hard to complain. I just hope that when my cousins and sister are older they won’t ask me why I lied to them.

Happy Holidays Everybody!

Christin, age 25, says:

christin.jpgThis is a tough question because guilt is a very dear friend of mine. ☺

The concept of detachment is one that has helped me tremendously. Not a heartless sentiment but the divine detachment that comes with tremendous compassion and presence. One very valuable trick I learned came from a fabulous book called “When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People” – when a relative or a friend engages in outrageous behavior that is embarrassing and would usually result in feelings of guilt; the trick is to step back in your mind observing the situation like a complete stranger and calmly say to yourself, “Hmm. I wonder whose relative that is.” Removing the reactive emotions from the situation keeps me guilt free, still part of the social event and my personal power intact. Plus, it makes me giggle inside. This question reminds myself that the other person’s behavior is neither my fault nor is it my problem.

The other thing I do is take stock of the situation with my “realistic goggles” on. If I know that after four hours of drinking, Brother Timmy says hurtful things he doesn’t mean, or that at 8:00 o’clock Aunty Mildred shows up and judges my lifestyle choices, or after two hours my friend from college gets over- the-top bossy – I prepare myself for the situation by accepting it with detachment or arranging my schedule to exit the situation before the inevitable happens.  It is usually perfectly acceptable as long as I am upfront about my expectations and time frame with other members of the social gathering.

Anne, age 41, says:

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I remember one year I didn’t want to go home for Thanksgiving, I wanted some type of adventure. I ended up going to London with my friend and I had a great time… and I got the guilt from my family. Major guilt. I had that Norman Rockwell family complete with the value system of family first no matter what. It was really hard to say, I won’t be home. But something inside of me really wanted to create an independent experience that year. So I summoned up the courage, told my mom, and she took it very passive aggressively, but ultimately understood. Thanksgiving night I ate fish and chips and felt a little homesick but still had a great time.

So I think that you can’t control how others will respond to your decisions about things, especially
when it comes to everyone’s expectations around family and holidays. What I do think is that you have to make decisions about how you want to spend your time and then be aware of how your decision will affect others. And then be prepared for the consequences. The trick is to be true to yourself while
honoring those around you.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Lynn

    I think one way not to play into the guilt game is to avoid inflicting your own brand of guilt on others.
    Recently my 23yr.old son decided to spend some extended time traveling in South America – his first foray into international travel and going it completely on his own. When he very considerately asked me if he should book a plane ticket to come home in time for the holidays, I told him I thought he should take advantage of this time to really explore the world (as well as himself) and to come back when he feels like he’s had enough! Of course it depends on his finding a job as a rafting guide, etc. to be able to afford a longer stay – but I don’t want his obligation to family to be the reason he calls short this trip of a lifetime.
    I know he cares about all of us a lot and is missing his Mom probably a little more than the average guy his age. So on Christmas day I’ll be sending him a group photo of his grandparents and cousins sending him a huge virtual kiss!
    The holiday gift I’m treasuring the most right now is to be able to support my son in his choices – and feeling totally guilt-free 🙂

  • Christine Arylo

    Lynn –
    I wish that I had you as a mom when I was growing up – in fact I hope that all moms can take a page from your book of parenting. i love your wisdom to support your son to be who he is and to realize how important an experience this is for him. It’s such a great gift in my eyes that you are giving him, to support him to be him – there isn’t anything more valuable than that in my book.
    With heart,
    Christine Arylo

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