Friday, December 27, 2019

Good Riddance, Christmas: A Grinchy Look Back

Yesterday - Christmas day - my friend Kari remarked on Facebook, "I’m beginning to understand and relate to the Grinch more and more every year."

Over on Instagram, a reader and I were chatting via DM, and she said, "It's a weird season. We push ourselves in the 'spirit' of it, but it's an odd spirit that seems to demand sacrifice." [emphasis mine]

We exchanged laughing emojiis, but dang. Ain't that the truth?

My friend Adam posted, "I wish I could tell 2005 me that Christmas is always going to be the time you feel your shortcomings the most acutely." He went on to lament never having enough time, never DOING enough, and feeling like he was letting everyone down.

Any of this striking a chord with you, too?

Obviously this isn't new; we all know the holidays are brutal, especially if you're not feeling festive. There's just no room for anything less than a Perfect Hallmark Moment. There's no allowance for sadness, for anger, for loneliness or pain or even apathy. But we're human. We all feel those things. And when we feel things we're told not to feel, something's gotta give.

It wasn't 'til I got flattened this week by a run-of-the-mill head cold that I realized just how much I had riding on "the most wonderful time of the year." I didn't think I wanted all that much: just some conflict-free family time, a little last-minute crafting, a fun Epbot post or two - you know, the usual.

But when all of that was taken away from me, I discovered something quite ugly in myself.


 To be fair, I'd made my own Grinchy bed. I'd been pushing myself into overtime for 6 weeks, always behind, always stressed, always reaching for that perfect Christmas that would all be worth it once I got there. So when I got sick on the 23rd, right at the finish line, just before everything was finished, I spiraled straight down.

When I say I discovered something ugly in myself, that's what I'm talking about: the irrational despair. I was literally inconsolable for over 36 hours. I sobbed into my chicken soup, I blubbered into my tea, I stared morosely at my phone for hours.

In short, I was being ridiculous. I'm not saying it's wrong to feel sad - quite the opposite - I'm saying I was unprepared for what to DO with the sad. I had no pre-approved outlet, no action plan.

So now what?
In my better moments, in between the sobbing and sneezing and neti-potting, I tried to fall back on my philosophy that there is something redeemable in every situation, no matter how awful. Even if that redeemable thing is simply telling another person in the same place that they're not alone.

This philosophy is why I share so much here on Epbot: I figure SOMETHING good needs to come out of my panic and struggles - because otherwise, my gosh, what a waste.

I wanted to make an update then, of course, about how miserable I was. I wanted to go online and tell the world everything was awful and my Christmas was ruined. The compulsion was almost irresistible; why, people needed to know! 

 I did resist, though, because I knew that kind of negativity would only hurt others, not help. I also knew that eventually I would feel differently. So I put down my phone.

That night I lay awake for 5-6 hours with my usual insomnia, miserable and snotty in the early hours of Christmas morning, and at some point there in the dark I thought: where's the good in this? 

And if there is no good in this, then what good can I possibly create?

I wrote that post to myself, but I knew I couldn't be the only one who needed the reminder. Thinking about the other people out there - many who were no doubt hurting more than I was - helped give me a little perspective. And speaking words of love and encouragement to them made me feel a little more love and encouragement myself.

Almost immediately, messages started coming in. Most were simple thank yous. Others were words of commiseration. A few sent cute pictures of their pets. Some told me for the first time how much my blog has meant to them over the years. But here's the best thing: No one pitied me. No one sent a sad face or "poor you!" Because instead of focusing on just me, instead of ranting about my rotten luck or all the things I was missing out on, I focused on us. I found the redeemable aspect. I found the good I could create: community. I looked up and around at everyone else out here with me... and we came together, and I think all felt a little better for it.
There's something profound in this, gang, and I don't want you to miss it:

With every word you write, with every update, tweet, or post, you have the power to either drive people away or draw them together. You can isolate yourself behind walls of anger and negativity, or you can reach out to the people around you with something still honest, but hopeful.

And guess which way actually makes you feel better.

It's not easy, of course, because it takes sifting through a bad situation to find the sliver of good - even if the only good is to say, "Hey, all you people going through this thing I'm facing right now? I see you. I'm here with you. And it sucks and I'm sad/mad/hurting, but we're going to get through this."

We need more of that hope, that community. Especially here online.

So please, and by all means, be honest about your feelings, your struggles, your hurts. Let others see your humanity. But end with that sliver of good. End by looking around at all the people watching - and there are more than you think! -  and reminding them we're in this together, and we're stronger together.

Now here we are, the day after Christmas, and I feel a lot better. I'm pretty sheepish about all my dramatics, of course, and sorry for John having to put up with my sad sack for three days, but at least this week has shown me how I've had some priorities wrong. At least I've learned something for next year.

 Next year, I need to focus on people, not parties. I need to do some volunteer work, so I can feel like I'm giving more of value. I want to schedule more down time to rest, and see friends and family more often, so I can load up on those hugs and laughter all month.

 And finally, I need to go watch The Grinch now, even if it is the day after Christmas.

Because it makes me laugh, and John and I could use more of that tonight.

Thank you to everyone who messaged me this week with all your crafts and pets and memes and things to make me smile, even when you didn't know I needed it. Your messages here and in the PO Box have helped me more than you know, and I will never ever take them for granted. 

I hope you have a relaxing, healthy, and peaceful rest of your week. And if that can't happen, then I hope you'll remember to look around you, and reach out.

I love you guys! Thank you for making me feel joyful AND triumphant.


  1. I was dreading the holidays. My husband died in June, and facing this first one without him was going to be so hard. So I didn't make big plans--I didn't decorate, I didn't bake, and I didn't expect anything good. But my family rallied around me, and the love and encouragement and support I got took a lot of the sting out of it for me.

    It was still hard, and I still would have given anything for my husband to still be here. But I think having such low expectations made it easier for me, because I unexpectedly had moments of peace and joy that I didn't think would be possible.

    I don't have any advice for anyone--I'm just so grateful for my family, and so relieved that I made it through in one piece.

    1. I'm glad you got through it OK. This was my first Xmas without my mum - not the same as losing a partner, but still hard. No-one in the extended family remembered, but my immediate family looked after me. Stay safe and calm.

    2. I'm so sorry for your loss, @juniegirl and @christina. The first Christmas without that important person pretty much sucks, and I hope that you can both enjoy Christmases to come.

    3. I'm so sorry for both of your losses, but I'm so glad that you both found moments of peace. Like Lori, I hope that both of you continue to find moments of peace and joy in the future.

    4. Glad you all made it through ok. Lost my Mom in May. We have a small family. We almost didn't do anything but My Aunt (her sister) asked what I wanted to do. I said I want my family. We got together, had a few gifts and had dinner. Made it through. Sending you all hugs

  2. My son's 2nd christmas was taken over by the stomach flu, and that was after i had survived my in laws and then the day after christmas my husband caught the flu. So i has these exact thoughts. Christmas this year wasnt magical it was just life. And thinking through how i would like next year to be different i too decided id love to volunteer more. Food and presents come and go but making a difference in someones life now that would be truly magicial. Glad you're feeling better. Here's to a more magical 2020

  3. Every year I tell myself that next year I'm going to simplify and focus on the most important things - togetherness and service. And every year I succumb to the pressure of trying to get perfect gifts for everyone - family, friends, and neighbors. And I end up not getting enough sleep, spending more time in the kitchen than with my family, and wishing Christmas was over. Intermingled are fun and memorable moments, but there's always some regret. Here's to focusing on the most important things in 2020 and letting the other stuff go.

  4. It's so incredibly easy to get caught up in the Hallmark Christmas Expectations--that we forget that it's just one day. Out of 365 days a year, it's just one day. I think it's a fair assumption to say that every single person has had a Christmas of Doom and Despair where stuff didn't get done, a gift didn't get bought, the icing on the cookies slid, the turkey was dry, the Drunk Uncle was especially Drunk, the weather didn't cooperate, the kids loved the boxes but not the toys, the eggnog was curdled, a loved one was gone or lost, or someone got terrible news. It's just one day. There's tomorrow. There's next week. The beauty of The Grinch (and not that hellspawn awful movie with Jim Carrey) is that the message is about love and forgiveness and simplicity and appreciating the time spent with loved ones.

    I'm sorry you were sick--that sucks. I had a feeling things were going to snowball with all the projects you had with the party, especially hot on the heels of your big Halloween. It's OK Jen (and everyone else out there.) We all have those opportunities to get carried away and then throw the best pity party when our (unrealistic) expectations aren't met. Maybe the internet and social media has led us to have these Pinterest priorities where we have to believe everyone else is having such a perfect magical life that ours looks ruinous in comparison. NO, that is not true. All that crap on social media is curated--and not real life. Real life is curdled eggnog and Drunk Uncle Being Especially Drunk or the ache of a lost loved one. It's coming down with a cold and letting yourself wallow in the despair that Hallmark and Santa skipped your house this year.

    I lost my mom and dad in 2011. For many reasons the holidays are especially difficult for my husband and I. We decided in 2013 to change our expectations and now we head to Europe for the week(s) before the holiday. I appreciate deeply our financial ability to do this--it's not reasonable or feasible for most people. But the idea is more to physically and emotionally and spiritually move to a different space completely and change your perspective. It works for us--we come home by the 23 or 24th, have the holiday with the family and let ourselves not be wrapped up in the whole Christmas miracle dream. We've created our own space and time around the holiday that's unique to us and it works. The weeks before Christmas are still hard for me but it's eased by something else.

    I appreciate the space you've created with EPBOT and FOE and how we are a family who supports each other. There's so much good out there and you've done that Jen (and John). This is a great community that really comes together with kindness, honesty and love.

  5. I'm glad you're feeling better, Jen!
    We joke about the Lost Christmas we had when I came down with a 10-day migraine that sent me to the ER at one point. The migraine same also caused us to cancel my 50th birthday party, which was a big party to be hosted at someone else's house. I guess it helped that I felt too crappy to even be all that upset about the missed celebrations, but it's good to remember that it's just one day (ish).

  6. This all reminds me of a quote I read somewhere once and try to keep in mind . . .
    "The problem is that with today's social media, we are comparing everyone else's highlight reel with our own behind-the-scenes reality."
    Feel better soon Jen.

    1. Agreed. The curated feed usually isn't the whole story.

  7. I got off fairly light this year, but there are a lot of things about the Holiday Season that are kind of weird and I only recognized them as common compulsions this year:
    1. the urge to do more at the last minute, even if you've already done everything you'd planned (although I think it's most identifiable as a Weird Thing if you've already done everything you'd planned!) There is something, at least for many specifically-socialized women, that says that if we're not trying hard at Christmas right up to the very last sleep-deprived minute, then we've missed something, and I didn't realize until I'd seen a number of blog posts and twitter posts about this (either in the realm of buying gifts or in the realm of cookies or decorating or whatever) that this was... fairly normal. And also bad. (it's also something I don't run into every year, though, because often I'm doing things right up to the last minute just because I haven't gotten everything done, not because of this weird... gap?)
    2. wanting to fix people and situations by mechanisms that are just... not going to work? (because that person who is slightly alienated is unlikely to be less so simply because you made two additional types of cookie to put on the cookie plate you gave them, unless those specific types of cookies are the ones that make them feel "seen" - but usually it's just "more types of cookies! that are attractive and pinteresty! that will Fix It All!" and nope, it really won't?)
    3. A desire to have things you don't actually want, simply because they're put forward as desirable. Sometimes this is physical objects, other times it's experiences. But, as an easily-overstimulated introvert, I loathe loud, raucous parties, I can still wish I were going to one because *other* people are so excited about it, and this is *completely nuts* (but also diminishes the more and more I know myself and what I *actually* enjoy-or-don't, and can "talk back" to the tug).

    Of course, all of those are different from having plans you actually liked and were looking forward to and then having those plans go "poof" with a viral crash, which is indeed miserable - it's unpleasant enough having a gunky cold, but *more* unpleasant when that's keeping you from something really fun or really worthwhile.

    Anyway: it's the most wonderful... er, emotionally-complex... time of the year! And thank you for both letting that be what it is, and also for giving us this how-to on sharing things not being perfect while not swirling people into a Spiral of Misery for us. :-)

  8. My family's go-to Christmas movie is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, we've watched it at least once every year. I think there's a lot of appeal in seeing a movie where everything goes wrong, tensions are high, and Christmas is shown as a chore, because it really can be a pain in the butt sometimes. There's so many Christmas specials where people who dislike Christmas have to learn the true meaning of Christmas, which tends to involve a lot of gratitude and talk about people just not having the "Christmas Spirit". Sometimes it's just nice to have that reminder of "Y'know what, this holiday IS stressful, and it's okay if that stress drives you a little nuts".

    I think the real take-away is that people shouldn't ever be afraid to say "I need to focus on me" when December hits. Just because it's Christmas it doesn't mean you're not allowed to feel stress, anxiety, or general grinchiness about the holiday. I think you had a really healthy response to those emotions and you should be proud of how you navigated yourself through them!

  9. I had a real struggle getting to Christmas this year and we're not quite done yet - have a few more folks to celebrate with. It wasn't as bad as the year of the stomach bug and sewer main break, but it's been an emotional haul. Not everything needs to be Hallmark, and thank you for being real about that. Here's to 2020.

  10. I love that you share not only the good, but the not-so-good parts of your life. Life is not sunshine and rainbows every minute of every day. You are human. You are allowed to have bad moments, just like everybody else.

    I have also been flattened by a cold. I started feeling lousy Christmas Eve-day, and am still fighting it. I would love to be able to lay down and breathe through my nose, but it's just not happening right now.

    Things will get better.

  11. I appreciated your story posts, although I didn't have the energy to reach out. The whole span November through December hit me really hard this year. Huge all-extended family in for Thanksgiving, dumping straight into Christmas prep and seemingly endless family obligations. I love my family, but it doesn't make it any less exhausting. Compounded by family that doesn't seem to understand needing down time, where I got extremely pressured to keep going even when I tried to back out for my own sanity. Luckily we managed to carve out Christmas morning for just my husband and I. We opened presents together, watched Die Hard, I finished up my remaining Christmas gift, he made me breakfast. It was a much needed respite before a smaller family dinner. And now we're free until the end of the year!

  12. I'm 55 and went a year almost to the freaking day without a period and thought finally! a christmas away without the whole bloody mess. HAH! Nope. It's bad enough suffering at home but i had to suffer at my sister's family home and function and be social to my other sibling and his family too. All I wanted was my own bed and my own comfy chair!
    I suffer from depression and anxiety as well so once all her company left Xmas day- early early meal- I asked to be driven home. (no car). Usually I stay until boxing day morning then my homing beacon goes off. it went off this year while I was packing to go. we live in the same city and about 20mins apart- an hr plus if i go there by bus. a yucky christmas for me but the little great nephews had fun, so that was excellent

  13. This is my first holiday season since separating from my husband. I was desperate to make it memorable for my two kids. Then we found out my younger son needed his tonsils out, and the surgery was scheduled for 12/20. I dutifully carried out my nurse-mom role, while feeling more and more isolated with every passing day. Then Christmas came, and I got sick with strep. That afternoon, while I was supposed to be enjoying the holiday at my mom’s, instead I left my boys with her and spent over an hour at urgent care. I didn’t start to feel better again until the next morning. Meanwhile my son hasn’t been himself the whole week, as he’s been going through his own post-surgery struggles. I’ve felt lonelier and more isolated than I can remember, and some of it is definitely attributable to the pressure of the holidays.

    The boys go to their dad’s tomorrow for the remainder of the school holiday, and at first I was incredibly sad. My whole time with them has been a bit of a wash. But I forced myself to reframe my thoughts last night. I honestly wouldn’t have had it any other way. My baby needed me as he recovered, and I would absolutely give him my time, energy, and even my health all over again. And my older son has enjoyed the lazy days being able to play games with his friends and enjoy his new presents.

  14. Not related to Christmas but with 100% of my colds/coughs when I'm at my worst I declare "I'm never going to get better, this is my life now" so I relate to your dramatics :)

  15. Thank you for this. My Christmas want the greatest emotionally. My kids had moments of ungratefulness, my husband was one day post-op from a nose surgery, my house was a mess, and Christmas dinner was an hour and a half late! I didn't know where to go emotionally because everyone just expected me to be happy and I couldn't do it.
    Thank you for helping me feel normal in my emotions.

  16. Thanks for sharing, Jen! At age 50, I'm only now starting to get the hang of letting go of all the clamor/expectations/etc. I especially hate the expectations because I never feel I'm good enough - nothing I do, make, give, etc! So for years I've been saying I'm not bothered by it all, insisting on no present exchanges with adults, trying to focus (and bring others' focus) back onto spending quality time together...I think this year the 'fake it until you make it' actually worked! I took an extra step of skipping the present-opening of my nephews and nieces...they get so much it makes me sick how that's the focus, and of course anything I give gets lost and forgotten, adding to my 'not good enough' thing. So now I skip that, and the day or two after Christmas either take them to a store to buy something they want (with a price limit), or send a gift card if I'm not there.

    Also, plenty of research shows that volunteering or doing something for others in need are the best things you can do for your own wellbeing (I'm a social scientist). And don't wait for next Christmas season...charities get lots of willing volunteers then (often more than they can handle), but they need help all year, especially January (I also work for a charity). Just be aware that it takes a lot of work and skill to properly handle and take care of volunteers, and not every charity is good at that, so if you have a disappointing experience, don't give up but find a different place. And if you can't commit to doing something long term, look for one-offs like helping at a charity run (you can help set up, give water to runners, even just cheer on runners, etc). Or if people aren't your thing, plenty of animal charities need help too! Good luck and thanks again for sending your ray of sun and hope out to us all!

  17. I had a generally craptastic year - nothing horribly tragic, just enough to be draining and leave me not particularly feeling like celebrating. I had already decided to give myself permission to opt out of some of my usual Christmas "duties" - decorating, baking, shopping. Then I was notified days before Thanksgiving that my employer was going out of business. I had no Christmas spirit this year. My daughter baked maybe a quarter of the cookies I would normally do, and the tree is only about half decorated. I ordered some gifts online, and anyone I had no ideas for got gift cards. And I refuse to feel guilty about any of it. Life will go on, and hopefully next year will be better.

  18. Yeah, I never actually understood why people put so much emphasis on Christmas. I was looking forward to it because I like chocolate and presents, but there's no point in celebrating if it's just going to make you miserable, and there's no point in giving a gift if it's something you don't genuinely want to give, you know?

    Personally I'm a lot more excited for the 29th, which is the day I'll have been clean from my addiction for 6 months (assuming I last two more days, lol). I feel a bit silly, because it's only relevant to me, but maybe being only relevant to me is why it's so meaningful. There's no outside pressure making me feel obligated to celebrate - I just want to. And if the day ends up being terrible... well, so what? I have lots of terrible days.

    1. That’s not silly — that’s a major accomplishment. Good for you!

  19. There isn’t any shame in being sick, or sad, or mad, or anything other than merry on Christmas. You may be familiar with the artist Lindsay Sherbondy (Lindsay Letters); in August her young daughter suffered a TBI from a freak fall, so the last several months for her family has been hospitals, surgeries, and therapy. At the beginning of December, her shop posted this message:

    “Christmas is wide enough for big tensions. It’s parties and laughter and merriment, but it’s also a candlelit service at the end of a weary and broken year. It’s hope for a world that’s being made right, and it’s a reminder that it’s not yet right...please know that there is a place in Christmas for you. At the heart of Christmas is a message of hope for the entire world — which means hope for our entire selves, and all the parts and emotions and experiences that entails.”

    My Christmas certainly wasn’t perfect, but that helped me remember that it was *perfectly fine* for things not to be perfect. I’ve written that out to put in my box of Christmas decorations to remind myself next year and (try) to take the pressure off. Hugs to you <3

  20. I love Christmas. Well, since I decided to make my own traditions: Make and send some silly/ funny/ pretty Christmas greetings. Decorate the entire front door as a Christmaspresent. (Which makes at least some of the neighbors in my apartmentbuilding smile.) Make the meatballs. And that's it.
    If I should feel a bit stressed I light a sparkler or two and dance around in the kitchen singing along with the Christmas music on the radio.
    (Of course I have enough sparklers for any crappy moments during the entire year that requires it.)
    I usually spend a couple of hours at my mom's. After that I'm perfectly happy spending Christmas Eve eating my second Christmas dinner watching the movie Arthur Christmas.
    However, for those who don't enjoy Christmas as much, I would recommend the British comedian Sarah Millican. For nine years she has spent Christmas on Twitter's #Joinin. She explains all about it in her YouTube video #joinin 2019. Apparently this breathingspace on Twitter has helped thousands during Christmas.

    Karin Beronius

  21. Everything you say is absolutely truth itself, Jen. <3
    Our family tries to avoid the pressure of the holidays by working it out so that Christmas isn't over on December 26th. For example, when my two kids were little, we avoided "Present Overload" on Christmas Day by opening certain gifts over all of the 12 Days of Christmas -- what Santa brought on 12/25, then a day or two later what the grandparents sent the kids, then a day or two later what Aunt Anne sent (the woman should have been a professional shopper!), then a couple days later our family gifts to each other, and finally, on January 6th, some little token gifts from the Three Kings to gently wrap up the Season. No extra money spent, just a stretching out of the whole process.... My friend who celebrates Hanukkah inspired me to plan things this way, and it's just brings so much sanity to our family.
    Also, my sister-in-law has a huge everybody-in-the-family Christmas sleepover in the 5-bedroom house that only she lives in (she got the house just for occasions like this), and -- get this -- the Christmas sleepover is always held the first or second weekend in January!! No pressure, no presents (so okay, we all do stockings -- yay, after-Christmas sales for little stocking stuffers!), good food (potluck!), good conversation, good games, lots of fun and love! And then of course I have to cocoon myself for an entire day afterwards...! :)
    When I was a little girl in the Midwest, my family would always do the annual Christmas visiting of aunts, uncles, cousin, second cousins, etc. starting on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas all the way through Epiphany.
    What I'm trying to say with these various examples is that I think the build-up is so huge for Christmas, and then -- BAM! -- it's over. That has come with commercialization and buy!buy!buy! And the let-down is real and very depressing. But it doesn't have to be that way.
    Yes, slow things down, Jen, and give yourself the gift of resting (I'm still working on that one...), and by all means, volunteer (especially the weeks after Christmas when charitable organizations are experiencing their post-Holiday let-down, too). But also please remember that Christmas is a lovely 12-day season, and not just one day. 12 more days to share hugs!! <3 <3 <3

    1. We are Catholic, so we also celebrate 12 days of Christmas and are still celebrating! Most of it happens on 12-25, but the spirit of celebration continues after the first day and anything that doesn't happen before hand can happen during the festive time.
      This year we all ended up with the flu on Christmas Day. I was surprisingly not upset.
      Once we all had lots of medicine it was wonderful just being together and seeing the kids having fun. We had a very hard year of losing both my grandpas and my husband's dad and grandpa. The year has taught us to find joy in unexpected places and lower our expectations. It wasn't the Christmas I hoped for, but like the Matt Damon SNL Christmas sketch, "Even when it's the worst, it's still the Best."
      And if you need a chuckle, look up the Back of the Christmas Tree ornament sketch from SNL.

  22. I try hard not to envy all the people who are trying to juggle family expectations, gatherings, gift-giving, baking, etc. I lost my husband at the end of January last year, and I think I was still numb last Christmas, plus I had a wonderful cousin visit for a short time before the holiday, and I was also making memorial presents for my in-laws, so that kept me busy. This year, it was a lot worse. I had no one visiting, everyone I knew locally was going away or spending time with their own families, and my mom lives far away & doesn't like to travel. I didn't want to go there because I just didn't have the energy, and I couldn't stand the thought of leaving my only real source of comfort, my dog. Even the stable where I volunteer didn't need me on Christmas. Nobody was even calling to check on me or ask how I was doing. So I was utterly alone on Christmas eve & Christmas day, having a major pity party. When I did call my mom, she had little time to talk because she was getting ready for the rest of the family (my sister's adult kids & grandkids) to come for dinner. I think it was worse, too, because I felt like I 'should' be doing better by now, it's been nearly 2 years, but the emphasis on family at Christmastime- "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays", and all the songs like that, every commercial & Hallmark movie, all of it- is so overwhelming that it just makes me feel crushed by the weight of my loneliness. But, here I am. I survived. I took my dog for a walk, said 'Merry Christmas' to other folks in the park, watched some "Vicar of Dibley", and ate my sad frozen turkey dinner with the yummy mashed potatoes I made. Today I went to the stable, and after my volunteer shift, I got to ride for the first time in many years, and boy, being on a horse can make your day a lot better if that is your thing (and it very much is my thing). I know a lot of people who are overwhelmed with activities & family & parties & shopping at the holidays may wish for solitude, but let me tell you- I will happily trade places with you, in a hot minute. And next year, I will definitely be making multiple plans in advance (in case some fall through, like this year) to try to avoid being in the same place by then, one way or another. Thank you, Jen, for being so open and bringing this subject up, as you do so many hard subjects. You are a superhero to many.

  23. Thank you for sharing, Jen. I need to do more of that on my blog. I always tell myself and others that it is okay to acknowledge a bad day. A day where you just sit and binge watch something, play games, read, sleep -- whatever. As long as you don't stay that way. And sometimes, we need to act on faith. We hear a happy cheerful Christmas song and instead of snarling and pitying ourselves, we sing along, on faith. Faith that maybe not this year, but some time it will be better. And yes -- you really said it when you said reaching out to others in some way helps. It helps me a LOT.
    Maureen S

  24. #1 describes me so well! Every year I plan and start things earlier, hoping to have a calm holiday, but never achieve it. Reading this makes me realize that I HAVE been ready but I’ve been filling that time with “just one more ...” instead of embracing the fact that everything is done. Who cares if I make one more dessert? No one. They’re happy with what I’ve already done. I’m going to have to remember this wisdom every year! Thank you for sharing!!

    1. I'm really glad that it was helpful! This is the first year I've really grasped being-done-but-feeling-compelled-to-keep-on-doing-more as a Thing, and... yeah, I think it's a Thing worth squashing, if feasible, if it's wrecking your peace. (I'm going to try next year, anyway!)

      I would note that I don't think this applies to activities you don't feel compelled to do/guilty about and that you inherently enjoy and that aren't stressing you out. If you really enjoy making finger puppets for kids and plan to make 5 to go in stockings but then have the time to make 10 and you're gleeful about it, then: make 10! But all the things where you have in fact done what you intended to do... but feel like you "should" make more/do more/buy more up to the last minute: NOPE. You're done and you can call it a day. The guilt stops here - hopefully. :-)

  25. Thank you for this reminder. This was my worst Christmas ever and I didn't see it coming. I went No Contact with my Mom in February. My son is about to graduate college and get married so it was my last Christmas with him as a 'kid'. I had a massive depression breakdown ever since Thanksgiving. I've been beating myself up for all the things I couldn't do like fully decorate the tree (cat issue) and I never baked cookies or all the other things I wanted to do. I have made an effort over the last few years to talk openly about my depression and anxiety so maybe just one person won't feel alone. I think this month I've been a little heavy on the feeling bad and not enough on ways to help people not feel alone. Thank you for reminding me that I'm not alone.

  26. Hugs, Jen. Thank you so much. Christmas has been really awful for our family the past five years. The specifics aren't important. They include three deaths, two severe life-threatening diagnoses, a myriad of puzzling autoimmune issues (stress induced? Probably.) and a special needs offspring being...well, special. I'm exhausted. That you for reassuring me I'm ok, even though my heart is screaming that it's not ok.

    I pray your cold is soon much better.

  27. I've had the same head cold -and I posted the same thing! All I wanted for Christmas is to breathe through my nose... and... I kind of got there on Thursday. Mostly.

    This one's a doozy, I hope you feel better soon!

  28. This "never having enough time, never DOING enough, and feeling like he was letting everyone down." This is me every. dang. year. For the past 25-30 years (I'm 50 now.) I know what it is now, I'm trying to recapture some of that magic from my childhood/teens and I can never achieve it. I need new traditions with who I'm with now, create new memories instead of constantly trying to recapture the old ones. Nostalgia can really get to you. I'm right there with you. I didn't get sick, but boy was it a crazy day of running around to a bunch of different friends and relatives. I never seem to sit long enough in one place to truly soak it all in. Here's to a new year and more achievable goals. :)

  29. Jen THANK YOU for posting this. I think we all get wrapped up in the expectations of Christmas that it's easy to be disappointed when things don't go as planned. It's always been a bittersweet holiday for me, at least as an adult. Truth is, I think everyone is going through something, we're just good at hiding it.
    I was diagnosed in October with ovarian cancer. I missed much of my favorite time of year being in the hospital, undergoing uncomfortable tests, having major surgery, being thrust into menopause at age 47. I started the first of six chemo sessions on December 19th. Thankfully, I have had few side effects, but, on Christmas Eve morning, I fainted at work (side effects from some meds I am taking), had to go to the ER and felt tired and crummy the rest of the day. My husband and I had a light dinner and I just burst into tears after thinking, "This wasn't the Christmas I wanted." I didn't get to make cookies this year, or visit my husband's family like we originally planned. I didn't send cards and we decided not to do a family gift exchange which I must admit I didn't miss.
    I kept telling myself I should be grateful. Things could be a lit worse for me-it's an early stage cancer, no spread, good prognosis, chemo side effects limited. But it was disappointing all the same. And that's when I read your post that it's ok to be sick or sad or hurt because it's just one day. And it meant so much to hear that.
    We ended up having a nice Christmas day. I really am blessed and thankful that my treatments are going better than expected. But it's so helpful to remember to take care of yourself, allow those negative sad feelings but don't wallow, and move on. Enjoy the moments that you can and keep spreading kindness.

  30. Im glad you are feeling better. Sometimes life sucks. Sometimes it doesnt. I prefer when it doesnt, but we dont get to choose what happens or when. We just choose what we are going to do with the situation. For me, I cuss, make a fuss, and get through it however I can. Then I make a list of what I went through, so I can look back and say, well sh*t, NO WONDER! LOL! HUGS!

  31. I love that you posted about this. I always seem to be in a grumpy mood around Christmas right through Valentine's Day. I blame it on my ex going home one Christmas and never coming back. Our tradition was to go to his parents' house for Christmas, but that year he couldn't wait the one last day I had to work, so left without me and never talked to me again. I know I should be over it by now (that was in 2011), but I'm not. I still get grumpy this time of year.
    This year we had plans to go to Chicago to visit my brother. It's the first time in awhile I had an extended amount of time off over Christmas (6 days) and if finally worked to go somewhere. I had to work on Monday, so we were flying out on Christmas Eve. Well, our flight got cancelled due to fog in Chicago. My mother dealt with this by getting grumpy with the people working at the airport, all the other flights that day and the next were full up, surprise. I went home, cried and had a pity party for myself. Christmas comes and everyone's sending me Merry Christmas texts and messages on Facebook, I wanted to say something rude, but I didn't. I hate that my parents tried to make it ok and happy, when all I wanted to do was be in a bad mood.

  32. On November 4th I broke my ankle and was out of work for 2 months on Workman's Comp. SO many blessings came from it. I was able to help jump the dead car battery of a distraught elderly couple who were waiting to get a CT Scan at the same time I was. I was able to babysit for my friend so she could go to her work's Christmas party. My mom was able to come down to visit me for a week and I didn't have to use PTO. I'm sure there were many more that I haven't even thought of. I just started back at work yesterday and this post is a good reminder to continue to see the light when the darkness is overwhelming! Thanks so much for sharing.


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