I grew up in a Latino home. Food, gifts, music, and alcohol are always a must. Last year, I spent my Christmas and New Year in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. I've never been so happy! The weight was off my shoulders, no gifts to buy, no people to invite, no invitations to decline. The peace and the contentment I felt was priceless! I never want to go back to loud music, more food than I can eat, expensive gifts, cultural expectations… it takes too much from my joy.
I'm not the only one, and if you've gotten this far, you can probably relate. The responsibility of making it look nice, food arrangements, making sure everyone shows up, and the little final touches typically fall on the ladies. After my divorce, I took the time to get to know myself, and in all honesty, I used the holidays to find clues about who I am. Ironic? I think not! How often are we paying attention to the version of ourselves that makes us feel content, fulfilled, full of joy? If you are a woman that honors family, probably not enough! We spend so much time delivering, gifting, embracing, and nurturing everyone else, but we forget the little things that make us happy. Here is how to look for cues during this holiday season Questions to ask yourself
Am I having fun, or does this feel forced?
Do I enjoy being around this group of people?
Is the gathering too big, too small, or just right for you?
Am I doing all the hosting work? Do I enjoy it, or do I want to run away?
Am I stressing over conversation topics, or do I have to talk more than I want to?
Am I overwhelmed with expectations? What are those expectations?
Breaking down the holiday emotions…
Gatherings create anxiety in most humans, but often that anxiety comes from over-compromising and not honoring your truth vs. the gathering itself. During my marriage, I used to have huge gatherings (potlucks, parties, just-because gatherings, holiday events), and it was all too exhausting! I prepared food, cleaned, set up, hosted, engaged, stayed attentive, and after everyone left, well, I cleaned some more. I did it for ten years, convincing myself that I genuinely enjoyed it. I developed severe anxiety around gatherings, and then I realized why!
My presence felt forced.
They weren't meaningful.
I disliked cooking for large groups.
Most of the people attending annoyed me.
Too many side conversations about "nothing" were dull.
Implementing a new way and adding your spark.
1. You can choose who you invite - Some time ago, I learned that I prefer engaging in meaningful conversations. The whole "small talk," because we are in each other's presence, feels too forced. I don't care about how Susie from next door had a horrible experience at Lowes. I only invite guests that I enjoy having conversations with; often, those same friends open up great topics to share as a group. I challenge you to only surround yourself with people that make your soul feel good… family or not!
2. You don't have to host - I prefer going to gatherings instead of hosting. There is something special about meeting new people from other walks of life, lending a helping hand to the host, or being part of great conversations with new people. It makes me feel alive without feeling overwhelmed. When I do host, I now stick to the basics (no more grandiose cooking) cheese platters, anyone? Drinks, BYOB! I keep it simple to focus on what matters, genuine conversation exchanges.
3. You don't have to follow tradition - I mentioned my trip to Brasil earlier, and let me share that no amount of friends, family, or gifts can replace that feeling of true contentment and joy! I dare you to do something you've wanted to for a long time! Canceling your hosting duties, buying a plane ticket instead of gifts, challenging your culture, doing things differently, maybe even cooking ham instead of pork this year. We recently released a blog on "Managing holiday madness," give it a read!
Listen to your intuition this holiday, and if you are still wondering what that spark of holiday joy feels like, remember to ask yourself those much-needed questions and implement a new way of doing things.