Sunday, November 27, 2011

Want to enjoy your holiday? Take off the fault-finding goggles.

I'm going to try to quickly take you through some macro and micro views I have on why things go bad during the holidays for so many people.  Maybe you can dodge that bullet that seems to find so many people standing flat-footed when Fall finally arrives...

The why: it's a few things.

Money seems to always be short during the holidays, because people are generally generous to those they know and love, and they want to give a lot.  But when your paycheck finds its way to cruising altitude and is barely enough to survive on, you can hardly think of how you'll rake in more for the holidays to take care of everybody... to buy the fattest turkey, give the most gifts, or throw the grandest parties.

Not being near family can cause us to throw pity parties for ourselves.  Whether it's our children or parents, siblings or cousins, it can make one feel ultra-alone to be regular-alone during the holiday season because there is a stronger contrast drawn between being away from family at a time of year when families typically find ways to come together.

Old family rivalries can be the worst.  They often drag out, lasting all the way up to the present and beyond, no matter how long ago they began.  It could be that you have one narrow-minded family member who is extremely racist or sexist and insists on airing his or her views right in the midst of that otherwise joyous holiday atmosphere.  Could be political discussions.  Could be that your uncle always gets sloppy-drunk and starts picking fights with his brother who seems to have taken the right path in life.  There's no limit on how crazy or seemingly nonsensical the cause of a holiday gathering issue can be.  We are humans.

And don't forget the weather.  Seasonal Affective Disorder is real.  Your brain works with various chemicals, and when any one or more of those chemicals aren't just right (in quantity, quality, re-uptake rate/volume, or dispersion rate/volume) then depression is one big, bad-assed beast that you absolutely will not beat without taking action.

What to do

Money: forget about it.  You're lucky if you want the easy way out, because right now, in this economy, there are some good reasons you can pull from popular headlines as to why you can't buy the quality/quantity of gifts you'd like to give away, or throw the parties, or buy the fattest turkey.  But even in a glowing economy, you should never let your financial hardships weigh on you in the way that most people do, which is to imagine what others will think.  To bloody Hell with what others think.  They are NOT in your shoes, NOT living your life, and they do NOT know what you're going through day-to-day.  It is NOT their business, and you should inform them of as much.  It is your business what you can and cannot afford to pay for, and no matter what that amount or budget turns out to be, it says nothing about you as a person.  NOTHING.  If you're a good person, you're a good person and those that should matter to you know it.  If you're not, well, they'll know that already.  Money does not fit into the equation, so let it GO. Frankly, I stay broke, and the hardest thing you can learn (but a valuable lesson indeed) is how to be broke and survive.

If you can't be near family, see that as the gift that it is.  Somebody once said, "Give your partner the gift of letting them miss you," (ok, that is a pop. culture quote that was almost certainly snatched and modded from a more classical, timeless quote, but it's solid).  That gift translates into any and all that you care about, and that care about you.  By being gone, you are forcing others to miss you.  People who are missed often can take on a legendary status, even if only temporarily, among the family/friends/significant others that are missing them, especially at gatherings where you are being talked about.  Moreover, and way more importantly, each moment that a person spends missing you (and you them) anchors deeper into your mind and heart the good will and love you have for them.  When you reunite, you will have a solid, well-defined understanding of what your world is like without them, and theirs without you.  That's golden.

Family politics can be far more daunting than anything you'll see in public politics.  There can be deep-seated rivalries and even hatreds from one member toward another.  All you can do is make sure that you do not allow yourself to be a "host" to such insanity.  When somebody starts talking politics or religion or bashing Aunt Gloria's creamed corn, you have the option to stay silent, excuse yourself, or counter-attack.  The only time you should ever counter-attack is if somebody has come under attack that is entirely innocent and you know it.  If it's political, and you feel strongly, you can simply say, "I'm not going to enter this discussion because this is a (friendly, family, co-worker/business) gathering and it's likely that people's feathers will get ruffled, and I suggest that we toss the topic out right now and switch to something more pleasant," or whatever line you want to prepare for just such an incident.  Keep in mind that some people actually seem to enjoy stirring up a shit-pot and then acting surprised when the shit hits the fan.  I know some of these people personally.

To battle the blues or its more serious cousin, depression, something as simple as standing in the sunlight for a half-hour per day can turn things around.  On a medium scale, taking some medications might put the chemicals where they should be.  If things are extremely bad for you, it may require a counseling program and a medication one-two punch.  Whatever is needed shouldn't be a factor for you; the fact that you are broken should be the only driving factor when seeking repair.

Above all, and this applies in-general terms, do not find fault in others.  If you can only take a break from fault-finding for the holidays, you'll notice that your happiness improves drastically,  Those finding fault have to spend an enormous amount of negative energy defending their own faults so they feel they can find the faults in others while on a pedestal.  And even those who find faults while admitting their own faults are subjecting themselves to the murky filth of negative thought.  Take a moment to realize that the person you're finding fault with may be, on some scales, better than you.  If you had their life, their mind, and their history, you'd think EXACTLY the way they do, and just because that doesn't groove with your way of thinking with your mind, life, and history doesn't mean there is something wrong with them.  People are different.  A relative few are truly "bad."  How about "forgiving" the faults of others or as I tell people; you can point out my faults to me when you have your own life perfected.  Forgive the imperfect.  In doing so, you'll forgive yourself.