Holiday Gifting

Holiday gifting. Does it bring you delight to see all the gifts under the tree or dread? Or would you love to see all the gifts if there wasn’t all the work and expense that had to be done to produce such a scene?

I was at a comedy show recently and the comedian was talking about her Mother announcing that they were cutting back on gifts and that everyone should do the same. How would you feel if someone said this in your family? Gifting is over! Of course, the comedian went on to say her Mother had ordered her a bunch of stuff and so actually the gifting was on — it just sounded good to say at the start of the season.

I get it — holiday gifting is a fundamental part of most Christmas traditions. People grew up with gifts and want to give and receive gifts as adults. To not have a pile feels — well — just wrong. However, I had the opportunity this particular holiday season to doe exactly that and not buy any gifts.

Well, I bought a few presents for people who I knew could use some holiday cheer. However, my annual list of “have to buy for these people no matter what” stopped. As I have been walking through the season it feels tremendously freeing to not have any gifts to have to buy as well as strange. How can I possibly walk through a department store and not buy bunches of stuff to give to people? It’s so much a part and parcel of who I am and how I celebrate the holidays. Well, it all feels odd.

Such an experiment is not for the faint of heart. I almost feel like I will be dreading Christmas morning with nothing to give or receive — and yet there are different things that I want this year that really can’t come wrapped in a box with a bow. Gifts of love, presence, kindness, opportunity, persistence, striving, and more that I want in my life more than any goods.

And that is what I am giving myself this year — as well as to my family and friends. It’s less expensive in some ways and more expensive in others. It’s me and my life that I am crafting that I seek to shape not in the direction of commercial goods, but into a direction of crafting a life I am happy to lead.

Maybe it’s too radical to ask you to join me this year, but perhaps something to hold in mind for next season. If the thought of not buying gifts for your loved ones gets you upset, defensive or afraid, it’s probably right where you need to be.

Here’s to gifting — gifts that can be seen and unseen. I’m in the latter category this year.

Happy Holidays Stress Less

Happy Holidays Stress Less
Be like snow person and stress less this holiday season!

Happy Holidays! Now is the time to stress less.

What? How is this even possible when it’s less than ten days to Christmas? Right now, I am hearing — and I am sure you are too — “I am so busy!,” “Why is everything so packed?,” and “How am I going to get all of this done?” Very rarely do you hear someone saying they are truly enjoying this magical season — with enough time and resources to make it easy peasy.

The funny thing is it is such a special time of year — the glittery lights, the children’s wonder, the baubles that are fun to window shop, the cheesy holiday movies, the special treats, and the opportunity to be with family and friends and generally make merry. But we are so BUSY, it is hard to even actually be present to any of it. December 26th or January 1st or 2nd dawns and it’s pure relief that we got through it — which is fine — you did and you lost out on being present to yourself throughout the season.

So, as you enter into these final days of the build up to the season, I encourage you to stress less. How to do that? Here are some simple ideas to hold yourself in mind to reduce your holiday stress:

First, choose you. This is probably the greatest gift you not only can give to yourself, but your loved ones as well. Taking a nap, watching a favorite show, getting a way for some time on your own will not only rejuvenate you, but will also help you slow down and be present to yourself and the season.

Second, you have enough time — you are in time. And whatever you don’t get to there will be another time. Think about what are the top few priorities and let the rest go. Focus on the things/events/people that are paramount to your, your life, and your traditions and let the rest rest.

Third, say no. We hear this all the time, but really this two letter little word is your best friend — especially this time of year. As everyone is saying they are so busy and trying to get you to ease their burdens, you can choose you and choose to say no. It is not imperative that you hop on the other’s anxious holiday state. No, no, no is a yes to you.

These are just a few thoughts to keep in mind as you celebrate happy holidays and stress less. You can have both when you hold yourself in mind as you make merry.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year
Happy 2022!

Happy New Year.

We are only a few wee hours into 2022 — does it feel like a new page for you? Of course there is always the annual stress that occurs post-Christmas to think about the past year and find some things to renew and resolve for the new one. Funny, does one evening and the flip of a day really carry that much on its shoulders? It strikes me that the calendar day/year is set up like this and then we follow suit. How to unwind?

I was reading an article the other day about how the Gen Z and Millenial generations are no longer waiting for the magic of January 1 to begin anew, but beginning wherever and whatever day they are on. As I read the article, this was not a new concept in the least, but perhaps it is so much more a “here and now” society the idea of waiting on anything — even a new year to begin — seems like a waste.

I am not sure if you make resolutions. I am now hearing people call them intentions these days. Resolutions, Intentions — it all seems to me to be a moment of actual reflection and a place to build a bridge between the old and the new. Why do we want to slam the door so hard on the old and seek to wash our hands of our “bad” habits or those things that were less than what we wanted for ourselves. We all know that by the end of January everything that is new is yet old again.

I recommend recognizing this and building a bridge. It’s often a wonderful thing to take stock of all the good that the old year held for us — what are we proud of, what was a highlight, what motivated us to do better, what did we learn, how did we express our curiosity? From there, how would it look to have more of that and what else? Can any of these things build bridges to other habits and moments. So, it is no longer a frame of throwing it all out and beginning anew with perfection in mind, but building on what has been to what we want to continue, to discard, to build upon.

Life is not a linear line. It builds on itself and even as we awaken into this new year, we are made up of all the events, happenings, and how we brought our self to it all over all of the old years. Bringing these parts of ourselves into the new — honoring, being with, and companioning all the parts feels so important.

I wish for you a bridge between the old and the new. May it light your days for all the new ones to come based on all of the days and years that have come before.

Here’s to it!

Dear Therapist: New Year Resolutions

Dear Therapist,

It’s that time of year! What do you think about New Year Resolutions? Should I make some or let it go for 2020?

Ah! Yes, a new year is about to dawn as is a whole new decade.

That means the pressure is on to resolve something for all of these new days to come. However, there is much evidence year in and year out that three weeks into the new year, the resolutions have been broken and we’re up to our old ways again.

Oh well, we gave it the good college try! But it does beg the question, should we even bother? Isn’t this just something else artificial that we lay upon ourselves to feel bad about in the not too distant future?

Through that lens, I would say let it go. Do not officially make any New Year resolutions.

At the same time, if there is something you want to resolve to do, be, take action on, etc. do it now whenever “now” arises. Do not put off change to some designated day in a given year.

Start now and make the commitment to yourself for you not because it is some season to do so. I think then and there we have a better chance of reaching our goals.

Whether or not to mark January 1 with a resolution, well that is entirely up to you. Only thing, if you do and you don’t stick to it, let it go and don’t worry about it. The effort is what counts.

Start the new year resolving to go gentle with yourself!

The Holiday Hangover

Do you have a holiday hangover?

I’m not talking about being hung over from drinking too much, but rather the feelings of being “spent” or having made too much merriment? The holiday hangover I am also describing may be called the “Holiday Letdown.”

The holidays that have been building for what seems like months – in Seattle, the radio channels started playing holiday music on Veteran’s Day for goodness sake – and now it is over. No more songs on the radio, the holiday movies all of a sudden have no relevance, people are returning to work, and people are anticipating their credit card statements as they know the bills will soon be due.

It’s all back to reality in many ways. I know there is still the New Year’s Eve holiday and traditions to enjoy, but the presents are opened, the feast inhaled, and the merriment made to a large extent. Now, it’s about the clean-up and out of the season.

Do you have any rituals that you use to make the end of the season easier for you and yours? Do you spend time together before life rushes back in to play one more board game? Do you write your thank you notes really appreciating what was given to you by your loved ones? Do you make up a plate of leftovers to taste it all again one more time?

These are ways to mark the end and also savor just one more moment. With all of the hoopla of Christmas in the rearview mirror, how are you spending your day?

Book Review: The Night Before Christmas in Paris (Series)

Mrs. Claus Recipe for Self Care Right Here

A whimsical tale to celebrate Christmas and its spirit. Betty Lou Phillips and Roblyn Herndon teamed up to give us a delightful tale of cheer revolving around Mrs. Claus, rather than Santa Claus.

Mrs. Claus takes off to Paris in this little book to shop and enjoy herself — and stays a little too long for Santa’s liking. After all, Christmas is upon us! He hails the first sleigh to Paris to find Mrs. Claus, who is enjoying herself above and beyond.

This little series of books — there is also one that takes place in New York City, is all about taking a beloved story and modernizing it for today. More for adults than for children, this is not a story that will last through the ages, but I am happy to see the emphasis shift to Mrs. Claus and her adventures before the big day.

In many ways, in these books she is at the height of taking care of herself during the busiest season of the year. When I read through these little books, it’s a reminder to take time for myself and do as Mrs. Claus does in these little charming books.

It’s a perfect moment to wish you and yours a wonderful holiday week. I hope you have some special books that you enjoy pulling out this time of year and enjoying the special messages of the season.

Merry Christmas!

Holiday Anxiety

Tis the Season to be Anxious

Well, it’s two days before Christmas – if this is the “most wonderful time of the year” then this day, this week, should be the happiest two days ever, So, why is it when I look around or talk with people, everyone is stressed out?

  • Could it be the long “to do” list with not enough time to get it all done?
  • Could it be other people’s expectations of what they want you to do for them to make it all happy?
  • Could it be that you feel pressure to deliver up the best holiday ever for your kids, given these are the memories they will hold with them forever?

It seems like all of these “two days before the big day” stressors have to do with other people rather than ourselves. If we were doing the holiday our way, who knows if any of these fears and pressures would play a role for any of us? Perhaps then it would be the happiest days of the years.

This season strikes me as one full of having to make the other happy rather than ourselves. To think about ourselves two days before the holiday is downright selfish and people will even say as much.

And, yet, what is selfish about remaining true to yourself during the season? I wonder if that is on anyone’s list this year? Have you noticed when someone says they are taking care of themselves and not doing much for others this year, how it is sort of frowned upon or, on the other end of the spectrum, envied by those who want to do this as well.

Before you strike one more thing off of your to do list, I would like to suggest you add one. To create the holiday that is good for you in at least one significant way. Perhaps it is letting the to do list go, perhaps it’s calling it good with what you have created to date for your kids, or could it be that you let go of meeting others’ expectations of you and meet your own?

Choose any one of these options and my guess is some of your holiday anxiety will alleviate just for being comfortable in your own choices this season and letting others carry their hopes and expectations for themselves.

May peace be with you as this holiday week unfolds for you.

Dear Therapist: Gift Disappointment

Dear Therapist:

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but this time of year stresses me out in a way that may sound selfish. To be perfectly honest, I give good gifts to my family and friends. What I mean is the gifts are perfect for the person because I have heard them when they get excited about some item or another. The holidays are a time for me to surprise them with the thing they have told me they love. Not the case for me. I get a bunch of stuff that could be for the mailmxn quite frankly. I am always disappointed, but I never tell the person but rather hide it. I find myself taking a big bag of stuff to Value Village every year. How can I avoid feeling this disapppointment for yet another year?

Gifts – pretty as they are packaged – may sometimes disappoint!

Talk about a taboo topic! So glad you wrote in and brought some breath to what I believe many people feel in their hearts this time of year when they are opening their gifts from friends and family. Instead of genuine surprise and joy, most people have to put on their best role to pretend that this is the best present ever. How uncomfortable and tiring.

And, yet, as you point out, to show anything less than gratitude would mean you are selfish and ungrateful. Neither of these look good on anyone this time of year so we smile, act out our appreciation, secretly feel hurt and disappointment, throw it into the bin, and take it to the charity come January. We simply chalk up our disappointment as par for the season.

Ugh! To think this is what millions of people do each and every year. I can see why you want to avoid this uncomfortable rut.

Your question further delves into being someone who takes time to think about someone and then thoughtfully purchases something for the person to delight her. When this type of thought is not reciprocated it is doubly hurtful as you can easily begin to question if the friend or family member even knows you.

Well, what to do?

We cannot control anyone else but ourselves. It sounds important that the people whom you buy gifts for have something special from you. Feel good about this just for the way that you honor your loved ones.

Regarding the presents you receive, you could try moving into your truth by speaking it in a kind way. Letting the other know how much you appreciate that she thought about you and that this doesn’t feel like you for x, y, z reason. Even as I type these words, I feel how this sentiment can be taken as selfish,. Yet, being honest in a world where people smear over hard feelings to make the other feel OK, is actually a gift one can give another person.

First, that person is going to notice that you noticed what she gave to you. It’s not just one other thing you have now, but something that either suits you or does not. This leads that person to knowing two important things about you: one. you care about what she gave to you and two, she now knows what you do and do not like. It could be the person was just regifting something she didn’t want and didn’t know you cared so much. Either way, your truth will offer emotional vitality behind the gift received and given.

If you are truly sick of the cycle, but can never imagine bringing your truth to the table for whatever reason, you could also create a boundary and simply not exchange any longer. Perhaps these gifts are from long ago friends who really are out of touch with who you are now, but keep up the annual gift exchange without thinking. It’s OK to call it a day and say no to the entire exchange. This may also bring relief from your disappointment.

The holidays always offer some awkward moments, particularly around gift giving. Owning your feelings and bringing them forth in your truth is one way to set yourself free from this cycle of disappointment.

Bah Humbug! No Invitations

Bah Humbug – No Invitation Season!

It is the time for parties and it most certainly is the height of the season today. Everyone seems to be making merry with friends and family during this important season of parties. For many, they will have received many invitations and feel included in these types of festivities.

My question? What about the rest of us?

It almost feels shameful at this time of year to admit you were not invited to one holiday party. I write from experience. The other day I mentioned to my husband that we had not been invited to any parties this season — even his work party was delayed until January. The reason? To accommodate everyone’s busy party schedule. Bah humbug! What party schedule I thought.

During this happy season, with no party invitations in hand it is easy to feel excluded, even isolated. Remember when Charlie Brown heads to his post box and opens it to find no Christmas cards in there. Yeah, that feeling captures it really well. I think that is why many of us love this old Christmas classic. The truth is many of us don’t even receive cards, let alone party invitations.

Well, what to do? We could become like another infamous character on a Christmas TV special, the Grinch, and become hard-hearted and stingy with our love given we had none given to us. OR, we can still embrace the other with a warm heart and give. That’s right meet nothing with an open and truthful heart.

You may even want to let the shame you feel go by telling people how you feel — Charlie Brown does exactly that and what do you know? He is cast as the Director of the Christmas pageant. Not too shabby. Letting someone know how you are feeling can lead to people including you, which is what we want deep down. To belong.

However, how dare any of us ask for this base need to be filled? Shouldn’t everyone already know that they need to include you? How bad you are feeling? How sad and ashamed? Why won’t someone alleviate the pain?

So true — the desire for the other, whether they be our family or friends – to read our minds and give us what we so desperately want – to be included. Sometimes we have to just say what we need and open ourselves up to what we receive in return. Sometimes we have to make peace with the fact that the invitation we desperately wanted will not be coming this year. Sometimes we have to be the ones to open up and include all the others who have no one else including them. I have been in all three positions.

The one that feels the best is living out my truth and accepting what is. Perhaps when faced with no invitations that is the greatest gift we can give ourselves – acceptance.

Remember, there is always the perfect party for one waiting to be planned.

Book Review: Snowflakes Pop-Up Book

Pop-Up Snowflakes!

What is it about a good pop-up book?

Maybe you are thinking, “Pop-Ups? My kids read those when they were young. I’m long past those days.”

Maybe you are thinking, “Pop-Ups? I miss those fun books!”

Well, I have news for you — there are pop-up books that are not only for your kids, but also for you and maybe even your pet, if you live with a curious cat as I do.

This Snowflakes Pop-Up Book is a perfect example of a gorgeous pop-up that enchants with not only all of the hidden facts about the snowflakes, but the beauty of the snowflake cut outs that pop and delight page after page.

I pull my copy out each and every year and it gets point-of-pride placement on my coffee table in the living room. The cat comes over at least a few times and paws over the various images that pop off the page. It’s enchanting.

If you don’t have a lot of time to read the latest bestseller or even that pop fiction quick novel, a pop-up book can give you a sense of reading accomplishment. Not only that, but you have the chance to appreciate the images that delight.

I highly recommend any pop-up book, especially one like Snowflakes that transports me to a winter wonderland each time I read this book.