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.

Now is the Moment: Seize it!

It’s the month where we look toward January first and the New Year to turn a new leaf over on life with our new year resolutions. It makes sense, I suppose. January ushers in a whole new calendar year to try and “get it right” all over again.

Statistics and experts also tell us each new year that within three weeks we will be back to our old ways. Although our intentions are astounding, our follow-through often goes astray very quickly. I have always been puzzled by this as I am also one who succumbs to letting go of my own resolutions to better myself.

That’s why I don’t wait any longer for the new year to roll around. Instead, if there is something I want to change or add or delete about my life, I seize the moment and start right then and there.

No more waiting. Not even as this crazy holiday season is ushered in — now is the time.

If you think about it, now is really all any of us have in our lives. The past is past and we are not guaranteed the new year. This moment is the one that is most precious because it is the one we are in just at this moment.

So, my thought as December says, “Hello” to you and to me – is to begin whatever you want to begin today.

Right now.

Tis the Season

Tis the season to be jolly…

Or so the popular holiday song goes. What exactly is “jolly” anyway?

I took a moment to look up the meaning of “jolly” in the dictionary and read,(1) “in good spirits, lively, merry; (2) cheerfully festive or convivial; (3) joyous; happy.” Yes, this holiday song reminds us we are now in that time of year where we are to make merry and be lively, happy, joyous to make the festive season — well, festive, of course.

As such, many of us have this expectation well and truly ingrained in our minds and bodies for as long as we can remember. Yet, the pressure and stress to be jolly can lead us to being anything but merry and bright. This season arrives during the darkest days in the northern hemisphere as well as when natural light is seriously lacking in our days.

When I lived in Oz for a year, I will never forget the unusual holiday season I experienced where it was hot – about 100 degrees on the Gold Coast – and the days were at their longest. Well, it was all upside down – the light was with me, but the heat made me feel like Santa was definitely going to melt on his sleigh. Still, the natural light added a joy to the season that seems to lack in the north.

How are you feeling today as the jolliest time of the year kicks off?

Perhaps you are festive and merry – ready to make it the happiest season of them all!

Perhaps you are anything but and are looking for places to honor the dark spaces and feelings within you this season.

I am curious if you aren’t a mix of both — a little happy and a little sad? Holidays can often lead to many special events and traditions that we look forward to all year round and, simultaneously, evoke in each of us a poignancy of what has been lost over the past year or anxiousness over a season that often feels overwhelming and stressful.

It’s a mixed bag to be sure. Honoring where you are as the season kicks off and staying true to however you are feeling allows you to lean into the holiday season with a connection to your authentic self. Probably one of the greatest gifts you could give yourself this season and throughout the year.

Check out this article from the NY Times for an interesting article on being sad over the holidays.