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Some Timely Emotional Agility Advice

The Perfect Christmas Tree Found: No where

November 24, 2020

When my kids were young, I had one unspoken goal - to give them the perfect Christmas. And I’m not talking about just Christmas morning. I mean all of Advent, Christmas Eve, Christmas morning and Day and each of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Each year I tried harder as I never even came close to perfection — whatever that is. Migraines and disappointment followed.

Sounds crazy/stupid and now in hindsight I see how I let my expectations run away from me. (And this wasn’t the only time I did ☹️.) I doubt my kids even now this about me. I’m hoping that we established and continued some Christmas traditions (but not including striving for perfection!) that they will enjoy (not stress over) and carry on.

That is what I thought of when I read this month’s blog post from Susan David (below). I like what she wrote but it is awfully inwardly focused. The holiday season is ”not about me.” To me it is now about showing my gratitude, about being generous and about having no/low expectations/staying in the present (pun very much intended).

But to her point, the holiday season can be hard. Hopefully it is a time when we can reach out to our friends and loved ones and share how much each one of them means to us. and that can be so helpful to those who are having a difficult time.

Geez, sounds like a lecture. Sorry - just sharing my evolved perspective.

Here’s Ms. David’s post:

No month insists on its own cheerfulness quite like the month ahead. And while the confluence of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the New Year can certainly make for a festive season, it doesn’t always live up to its billing. In fact, the pressure toward merriment can wind up making us feel sadder rather than happier.

This is especially true if you’re working through grief. Your heartache can feel all the more acute when compared to the joy in the air, and the season’s familial focus is bound to stir up memories of time spent with now-departed loved ones. As you navigate the coming month, try to remember a couple things.

Despite the smiles and Santa hats, not everyone around you is as happy as they seem. Many of us have developed techniques for masking our difficult emotions. Your co-workers seem exuberant, but they are likely dealing with their own losses and anxieties. You’re not as alone as you may feel.

Pretending to be happier than you are is a losing proposition, and pushing yourself to be more "genuinely" happy is self-defeating. Our emotions are data points. What we feel is neither good nor bad, it just is. Fighting against our emotional responses robs us of the opportunity to productively process them.

Besides, outward expressions of sadness signal to others that we could use some help. Don’t hide behind a veil of false cheer. Give those close to you the opportunity to support you. You may be surprised at how well they are able to help you through your season of grief.

The holidays may push us outward to families and feasts, but this season can also be a great time to look inward. Give yourself the gift of being with your emotions, whatever they may be. How you feel is how you feel. Let these feelings pass through you, and remember that they do not last forever.

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