The holiday season is a really delicate time of year for my family. On the one hand it’s the time of the year I most look forward to because my entire family gets together for some insane shenanigans. Then on the other hand, the holidays are a reminder that a huge piece of our puzzle is gone and will never be with us again. The reason I went on my first initial run on Thanksgiving Day back in 2012 was because I was drowning in grief. I couldn’t stop crying. I was missing my brother and there was nothing I could do to make myself feel better. In a way dealing with loss puts you in a state of helplessness for the rest of your life.
So how can you be happy when you’re broken? How is it possible to feel happy during such a difficult time of the year? How do you fight the urge to light a house of fire when you see the endless Facebook status updates about how blessed someone is to have their family this holiday season. The entire point of Thanksgiving and Christmas, at least at our house, is family. The holiday seasons come and go now without my brother and even though it hasn’t gotten easier, I learned how to keep my head above the water when I feel like I'm drowning in grief. Being happy is a choice that you have to work towards because it’s not going to magically happen. These are my tips to finding joy and happiness during the holidays--
1. Be In the Moment
We spend so much time consumed with what’s to come or what’s already happened that we miss what is happening right now. I get it, you’re busy and you have a lot to juggle. But remembering what used to be or focusing on what could have been is a black hole. It takes a conscious effort to engage in the present. Engage with what’s happening and take it all in. Time is precious and it needs your attention. It's OK to feel sad, but you have to stay present.
2. Small Tiny Choices and Small Tiny Goals
Focus on what you can accomplish today. Focus on the choices you are about to make now because what you do now affects what you do in the future. Are you trying to eat healthier this Holiday Season? I’m a glutton and I eat when I’m sad. So instead of giving up sweets entirely, Ifocus on not eating an entire chub of cookie dough. Or I find the time to get outside every day. Find some time to grab your kids, friends, significant other, dog, neighbor (or hey! go alone!) and go for a walk. Only focus on what you can do and control today.
3. Stop Crafting Perfection
Want to know what isn’t interesting? Perfection. I don’t know a single family who is perfect. Want to know what’s memorable about the holidays? The unexpected and the chaos! Embrace it. Enjoy what you have instead of what you are trying to prove. Seriously, let that go. Life isn’t a perfect made for TV advertisement. Embrace the flaws, embrace the chaos, and remember it’s the most wonderful (and stressful) time of the year. Everything isn’t perfect. It’s ok to acknowledge that.
4. Be a Weirdo
My family had to start all new traditions that are 100% weird and unconventional. We buy our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve (It’s also 80% off) and we decorate it using hot glue, construction paper, glitter, spray paint, balloons and all sorts of nonsense. It’s our “disposable” tree. It was too hard for my Mom to get all the Christmas decorations down because it all reminded her of my brother. So we came up with new weird and wacky traditions that keep us laughing. BE A WEIRDO. Stop with the perfect instagram pictures, you’re not fooling anyone. I’d rather see a bunch of people having a blast than a bunch of posed nonsense any day.
5. Stop Caring About Being Right
Keep calm and carry on. Don’t take anything personally and don’t worry about pleasing everyone. Someone is going to have an opinion or prefer something done a different way. Don’t worry about being right, just do you.
6. Invest in Yourself
Go for walks, hikes, runs, or bike rides. Find time to get sweaty because life’s stressful and getting active is the best way to manage said stress. It’s also the perfect excuse to take a moment to yourself if you need one. I don’t like letting my family see me cry, I’m what is called a hero child (I’m working on it) but I know I can announce that I am going for a run and I can escape to cry, run, and be with my thoughts. You have to do what you have to do. Be selfish in moments when you fall apart. It's the only way you'll survive.
It’s really hard to ask for help or to admit that you are falling apart. So if someone needs some time to remember your loved one, listen to them. You don’t have to do anything for anyone. It's no one's job to make someone feel better or fix anything. Just listen and be there for each other. You don’t have to change anything. All you have to do is listen.
8. Don’t Be An Asshole
This one is specifically for me because if I get upset, I turn into an asshole. DON’T BE THE ASSHOLE! You didn’t get your way? That’s ok, go do something else. Things aren’t going according to schedule or as planned? THAT’S OK! People aren’t thanking you for all your hard work? No sweat off your back! Roll with the punches. Be a problem solver but don’t be an asshole.
9. Be Vulnerable
Every year my Grandfather reads us “Twas the Night Before Christmas” as we drink cocoa and tea and hang our stockings before bed. Well now it’s the time when everyone pretends like they aren’t about to cry so you just see 20 people all choking on tears they don’t want to let out. It’s hard to be vulnerable but it’s important. Be honest. It’s so much easier. I know it’s hard, trust me you’re talking to the Queen of “EVERYTHING'S OK! I'M NOT CRYING!”
10. Say Thank You and I Love You
Two simple phrases I want you to say all day every day. Be grateful. Tell people you love them. Even if you think it’s implied, just tell them anyways.
Even in your ugly cry, smile. Smiling makes everything a little less shitty, it just does. Smile at people. Smile at strangers. When that ass hole steals the last parking spot, smile. Remember everyone has a story, everyone has a family, and everyone else has shit to do. SMILE. Please God smile smile smile.
But most importantly, you can be happy and sad at the same time. When grief rears it's ugly head, acknowledge it. Cry. Talk to your people and tell them you miss them. They can hear you. Then choose to make an effort to try really hard to be happy for just a moment. It may seem impossible, but all you have to do is try.
Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.