Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

A Holiday Meditation

christmas-holly

Oh, the holidays! Everyone is crazy right now. I know, because the amount of letters I receive always multiplies at least three times in the final weeks of the year. Anxieties and tempers are high. Seemingly simple messages are loaded with the weight of the world (or at least the weight of family baggage from decades past). People are on edge. And relationships that are challenging at all — and those are often the ones you’ve had most of your life — can become downright unbearable this time of year. People say the wrong thing we they don’t mean to say, or people HEAR the wrong thing because they’re being sensitive because they’re tired and they’re stressed and they’re lonely and they feel like they’re the only ones whose lives aren’t perfect in this Overly-Pinned world where appearances aren’t always reflective of reality. Here are some things to keep in mind to help keep your perspective in check and keep you sane as we enter the belly of the holiday season beast:

1. Those pictures you’re seeing on holiday cards and on Facebook and Instagram and blogs and wherever else of happy, perfect families where everyone looks so jolly and glad to be together? They aren’t the whole truth. What you don’t see are the countless meltdowns, the cat barf someone just cleaned up, the fifth accident the 3-year-old who refuses to poop on the toilet had this week, or the fight the husband and wife had last week about how they’re spending way too much on gifts and holiday travel and won’t have enough for the bathroom upgrade they’d hoped to make early next year. You see the newborn baby, fresh from sleep, but you don’t see the crying jags the postpartum, hormonal mother has had almost every day for the past three weeks. Photos are NOT reflective of reality. They are small slivers of the truth. Often, the best versions of the truth. But not the whole truth.

2. If you put on a few pounds this month, just remember that sweater season is forgiving. And so are yoga pants. Which, obviously, is the whole reason the holidays are at the very start of winter, when most of us will be bundled up from head to toe for the next few months, flaws hidden under layers of flannel and knit and cashmere warmth. Now, pass the cookies, please.

3. Going out on New Year’s Eve is often over-rated. You’ll probably have more fun if you invite a couple friends over to enjoy a home-cooked meal, some cocktails, good conversation, and maybe some games. Going out is great, too, if you’ve got someplace fun to go. But pack some flats to change into later in the night. You’ll thank me later.

4. If you’re single and feeling blue, just remember that it’s better to be lonely on your own than lonely in a relationship. At least there’s the exciting anticipation that you could meet someone at any time. Plus, being single has its perks. Like, you don’t have to spend any of your holiday vacation time with someone else’s crazy family. Instead, you can spend it all with YOUR crazy family. Or, spend a little of it with your crazy family and a lot of it with friends or on your own doing stuff you really enjoy that you don’t have to explain to anyone else who might not “get” it.

5. If it’s been a rotten year with things that have left you feeling depleted and not in a celebratory mood, be low-key about your festivities this year. Anyone who expects you to be all jolly when life has been challenging isn’t worth worrying about. Take advantage of these darkest days of the year and go dark yourself if you want. Read books and watch movies and have all the feelings you need to have. And then, when 2015 rolls on in in a few days, say, “Thank God!” A new year with a clean slate that hasn’t been tarnished by sadness or disappointment always has so much promise.

6. If holiday travel stresses you out and you hate being so immersed in humanity in the crowds of busy airports and bumper-to-bumper highways, try to do something kind for someone else. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, but see where you can make things a little bit easier or more enjoyable for someone else — by offering your aisle seat to a really tall person, or helping a mother carry a car seat to her gate, or buying the person in the car behind you at the drive-through a milkshake — and chances are you will feel better. And, hell, even if you don’t, someone else probably will, and sending out that ripple of good will DOES have a domino effect. Even if you can’t feel it immediately, the good energy you put out there will come back to you eventually.

7. If all else fails, remember: this, too, shall pass. In two weeks, it will all be over. And airline tickets to Mexico will be about 30% lower to boot. Like I said: the new year always has such promise.

14 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Kate December 22, 2014, 12:20 pm

    These are great! Another one I would add, is if you’re having a weird disagreement or some tension with someone, just talk it out before letting it escalate and get worse. Two people on my team were super pissed at each other a couple weeks ago over an incident that started to spiral, and both were coming to tell me about it, one in tears. I’m not either of their boss, so all I could say was, you need to talk to each other. Which they did, and then the other day, one of them said she couldn’t imagine why they were even mad at each other. It was just year-end craziness and tension (our industry gets insane in 4th quarter).

    Also, try the “it’s just soda water” or “Xanax” techniques in social situations where getting wasted isn’t appropriate.

    Aaaaand, leggings, Uggs (don’t have to be brand name, and yes, I think they’re kind of ugly too), sweaters, comfy socks, and cute PJs. They should all be in your overnight bag and on your back.

    And don’t forget to tip your hairdresser, building super, dog walker, etc. etc. etc.

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster December 22, 2014, 1:42 pm

    I’m seriously contemplating getting on a plane on Christmas Day and just peacing out for a few days. My family are being dicks.

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    • avatar

      Kate December 22, 2014, 1:43 pm

      It’s a good, quiet day to travel. You could check into a hotel with a spa.

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster December 22, 2014, 1:55 pm

    That sounds like heaven.

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    • avatar

      Kate December 22, 2014, 1:57 pm

      Why not do it? You have no obligation to spend the holidays with your family. Look for a last minute deal somewhere. Fuck Florida, it might be cold. But Riviera Maya or one of the islands down there. Maybe even Scottsdale?

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  • avatar

    Taylor December 22, 2014, 2:29 pm

    “A new year with a clean slate that hasn’t been tarnished by sadness or disappointment always has so much promise.”

    A shiny new year is one of my favorite things!

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  • avatar

    septicidal December 22, 2014, 3:14 pm

    “Anyone who expects you to be all jolly when life has been challenging isn’t worth worrying about.”

    This. Times a million. My husband’s mother died suddenly at age 55 in late October from a brain aneurysm. Getting through this week without her laughter and love is going to be especially difficult. Particularly since I’ll know on Christmas Day whether this month’s infertility treatment worked or not… Let’s just say my hopes are not high on that front. To both lose a parent and discover your own inability to become a parent the easy way – it has been a crappy year.

    At least if I am (yet again) not pregnant, I can have all the wine on Christmas Day. And I am baking pies, because pie is never a bad decision.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy December 22, 2014, 9:50 pm

      So sorry about your MIL (and you fertility issues). Holidays are so hard when you’re missing someone, especially when the loss is so recent. Hang in there.

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  • Lyra

    Lyra December 22, 2014, 7:23 pm

    This is great. Last year I was having some major holiday blues but this year I’m really, genuinely excited for the holidays. I can’t really afford Christmas presents, so I set my budget super low for my family ($20 apiece), made a bunch of gifts, and splurged a bit on Navy Guy’s niece (because she’s 4 and I’m realizing how fun it is to shop for a 4 year old who loves basically everything I loved when I was her age). It was especially fun shopping for NG’s niece this weekend. We went to the used bookstore and I found some books that she will LOVE and I also got her a stuffed cat that looks like my cat…because a 4-year-old can’t have enough stuffed animals right?? And I’m training her to be a cat lady, because…cats!
    .
    I also had some friends over this weekend for girl’s night and we ordered the type of Chinese food where you can get food for like 5 people for like $10 so that was MUCH needed and awesome. 🙂 When in doubt, hang out with awesome friends! They’re like family who you can choose. 🙂

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    • Lyra

      Lyra December 22, 2014, 7:28 pm

      Also it kind of makes me sad how much stress goes on this time of year. It’s supposed to be such a happy time and people get so worked up about EVERYTHING…perfect presents, visiting Santa, perfect decorations, perfect cookies, perfect family pictures, perfect Christmas tree… I think if people let go of “needing” to do everything all at once or “needing” to do everything perfectly we would have a lot less stress in our lives. I was a bit stressed because I didn’t finish my shopping and wrapping until yesterday (due to my crazy busy job), but at the same time I still enjoyed the process of picking out ornaments to buy for my family and our Christmas tree and finding a cute bag for my mom’s gift. Yet I saw soooo many people in Target yesterday who were so disgruntled and so grouchy wandering down the Christmas aisle. It just made me sad.

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  • avatar

    Jane63 December 22, 2014, 8:04 pm

    Nice, Wendy, I really needed to read something positive right now. Good job, again!

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  • mylaray

    mylaray December 23, 2014, 9:19 am

    This is a great list and a good reminde. You always do a good job of being inclusive of different situations and helping put things in perspective.

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  • Portia

    Portia December 23, 2014, 10:06 am

    I’ve felt kind of guilty the last few years for not doing the holidays with family, but not as much anymore and I think starting new holiday traditions has helped. This year we’re starting a new tradition of mulled wine on Christmas Eve… It’s going to be a very merry Christmas.
    .
    And the reminder that holiday cards (and Facebook pictures) are the best version of reality and not everyday reality is very important during this time of year. I personally like it when people inject a little reality into their online presence (the crying babies on Santa’s lap pictures are priceless).

    .
    Also, Happy Festivus everyone!

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