In years past I looked forward to Christmas because I knew that I’d sing to strangers in the morning, see a movie in the afternoon, and enjoy a Chinese feast in the evening. I didn’t have the pressure to visit family or put on a fake smile for the gift I would never request. But today I’m relaxing. As a busy New Yorker, quick to fill in an open slot with a museum visit or a show, I eschewed relaxation as an unnecessary commodity. I lived by Warren Zevon’s song title, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” No more. It’s been a great day. Resting was required, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
It’s so nice to change things up. I know I can create rules and then feel like a slave to something that may have worked 13 years ago, but doesn’t fit into my life now. Somehow as a teen and a young adult I felt the need to prove I wasn’t lazy. I was happy to volunteer and humbly speak of my “good works.” I needed to show the world that I was, in fact, a productive member of society. These days, though, I am much more comfortable life’s contradictions. I can be busy at times, and relax when I need to. I am not so keen on denying my laziness now. It was a very special Christmas for me. And, in my own small way, resting was a miracle, a miracle worth repeating
Thanksgiving can be a wonderful holiday, filled with delicious food, family or friends we don’t often see, and the promise of a joyful holiday season. However, these experiences aren’t always shared. We go back to work tomorrow, and many people will be lying when asked, “How was your Thanksgiving.?” “Great.” They’ll say. But inside they are embarrassed and ashamed because they were unable to find the joy in the holiday. I know because, as a therapist, I hear it regularly during the holiday season. So many people experience stress, unfulfilled expectations, or loneliness. There is social pressure to not complain and to even be actively grateful for all the wonderful things in our lives. This is so difficult when we feel deprived of what is portrayed as the cultural norm.
We cannot manufacture gratitude. We can learn to appreciate what we do have. But that can take patience and time. It is not an imperative, just because it’s that time of year. If you feel compelled to say you had a great Thanksgiving when it was far from stellar, just remember your experience has validity. Whatever happened or didn’t happen during the holiday is your truth, and matters to you. And, maybe, that can be enough.