Monday, December 9, 2013

The Holiday Anxiety Edition

I don't think I am the only one who has conflicting feelings about the holidays. They are wonderful one minute and the next they aren't.

Over the years I've come to realize that I have issues with my family members around the holidays. It just happens. I don't know why. I don't know how. I just know they exist. And even though I  have been trying to identify their source for some time, I have been unsuccessful. I thought that maybe being near family for the holidays would help soften the angst, but it has actually compounded it. Who was I trying to kid? There are so many people to see. So many people who will be upset if we don't see them. So little time. So many people to disappoint. So many expectations set to high - mostly by me.

Holidays create pressure. Let me rephrase that: I create pressure around the holidays, the holiday itself is totally innocent and shouldn't be blamed. I do it to myself. Pressure to purchase gifts the recipients like. Pressure to attend parties. Pressure to send cards (too late). Pressure to decorate (haven't started). Pressure to buy, buy, buy. Pressure to be everything to everyone. And of course the pressure to get it all done in time. It's not going to happen.

One of the areas that I create unrealistic expectations around is my family Christmas party. In the past I was also disappointed that we couldn't be there, and now that we can I'm thinking I'd like to be somewhere else. But I would never really do that. And I suppose it is only fair that since I have missed the last 7 Family Christmas Parties that I should be put in charge of it this year. That is fine by me because I like being in charge. But, that also means being in a position where inevitably people are going to be disappointed with something. And there will be many things to choose from. In fact, the party is still two weeks away and I am already feeling the disappointment or irritation.

Some will be upset that I discontinued the gift exchange.
Some will be upset with the menu.
Some will be upset over the photographer selection for a family picture.
Some will be upset that we are even taking a picture.
Some will be upset over the date and time.

I am quite happy with all of the choices - that's what happens when you are in charge. Maybe that is the lesson - when it is your turn to make the decisions do it however you want and don't complain when it's not your turn. Just show up and put a smile on your face and have a good time and hope no one complains when it is your turn.

Having a family, especially a large one, means making a lot of compromises. Some people are better at compromising than others. But the truth remains that you can't please everyone. And an even larger truth is some people refuse to be pleased no matter what you do.

I recently read a blog post that suggested we all have "scripts" that we write for the holidays and that the people in our lives play the part we give them. Like my sister whose husband is never happy with anything we do even though it was his idea last year. There probably is some truth to the script I have written for the holidays, and I am trying to re-write it and give room for something different to play out.

So how do you handle the stress that comes with extended family at the holidays?



  1. Its funny, though your post was about the stress of having family around during the holiday. I missed mine while reading the post. Coming to America for a lengthy period separated me from a huge extended family that has grown since I left. I guess focusing on the positive that Christmas is about Jesus and family will make you less stressed out. But I know it can be stressful, I have an aunt that used to plan the most elaborate menu for xmas then complain incessantly because she had to cook. sigh

  2. I think just remembering the circle of control aka you can only control your thoughts and reactions not anyone else's. As long as your holiday is happy and meaningful to you-you can't let anyone else determine how you feel. Take your power back. Slow down, be present and grateful and have the best Christmas yet :)


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