Thoughts on the Holiday Season
By Lynn Seiser, Ph.D.
Have you ever noticed how the Holidays can bring out the best and the worst of us? Remember last year? How did the Holidays go? If you liked the Holidays, how did you do that? If you didnít like them, how did you do that? If you were an angel, how did you do that? If the devil came out in you, how did you do that? How would you like this Holiday season to be? How do you intend to do that? What would you like to see carried over from this Holiday season into the rest of your life? How do you intend to do that?
There is nothing we can do about the past except learn from it. We cannot change it or have a do-over. We can choose to continue feeling bad or let go of the disappointment and resentment and feel good. The past usually isnít all we wanted it to be. There was less than enthusiastic reception of gifts given. People were trying to make sure all the guests and family members arrived at the same time, and all the food was ready and on the table.
Then there was that Holiday thrill of the hunt. Trying to find the perfect present for that less-than-perfect person who wonít appreciate it anyway. Letís not even talk about the office party. For many people, the nicest thing about last yearís Holidays is they are over.
Another nice thing about the Holidays is that they are pretty well grouped together. Once the children go back to school, we look forward to a string of events. Halloween is followed by Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas, which is followed by New Years. Thinking ahead is very important. By deciding what you liked and didnít like about the past Holidays can help you prepare for future Holiday seasons. The two elements to be decided are what and who. What do you want to do, who do you want to do it with, and most importantly, who do you want to be?
Decide ahead of time what you plan to do. Try not to overbook or overlook activities. Know which events you want to attend and which ones you only want to put in the obligatory appearance. Be honest with yourself. Making sure you donít resent showing up may be one of the most important presents you can give. On the other hand, once you show up, you just might choose to stay and have a good time.
What are the activities and events that make the Holidays special for you and the people closest to you? Is it watching a parade in person or on television? Is it a special church service? Is it a meal or just spending time together with people you love?
Sometimes the most special times are when we prepare for the Holidays. These times can be special if there are activities we engage in with love. If there are activities we engage in reluctantly, then perhaps we need to find someone to share the joy of the Holiday season with and look forward to spending time with each other. Too often we simply forget why we are doing all these Holiday things. Finding the positive intent of any activity can turn it from a chore into a statement worthy of gift-wrapping.
Sometimes it is not what we do, but how we do it and who we are with. I love shopping for my wife and sons. I gather my information during the year so I know what to buy. I would never be able to figure it out by myself. They will tell me when I just listen to them. Buying early lets me savor the anticipation of them opening their gifts. Thatís the gift I give myself. It is okay to be a little selfish that way.
Equally important to what, with whom, and for what purpose is who do you want to be this Holiday season? How did you make yourself naughty or nice last year? Do you want to be the person who regrets what they did, or the person who people remember with joy and thankfulness? We can never control everything during the Holiday season.
Life just doesnít always go the way we think it will, should, or could. Looking back on my behavior after the first of the year, I want to be proud of myself. Another gift for me. I want people to think kindly of me. Another gift for them. And I want to maintain that Holiday Angel mentality throughout the year. A tall task? Yes, but one worth striving for.
Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey and the Holiday season. From me and mine, to you and yours, may your Holidays be safe, healthy, and happy.
Lynn Seiser, Ph.D., is an internationally respected psychotherapist and author with offices in Long Beach and Tustin.
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