This year I did not struggle to provide for xmas. I saved all year, as I have in the past, and had a reserve of cash just for this. We made gifts for teachers. I made a decision about charity vs. products for adults in the family. I had enough money to get a few great things for my kids and loved ones. We have enough. We are fed. We have a lovely home. We are free from concerns about meeting our most basic needs.
But it’s still the holidays, a hard time for many folks. I was a single mom for a while before I met my ex, and Christmas was rough some years. I’m going to leave out commentary here on what holidays are like when you’re in a loveless marriage. Enough of us have been there. If that’s you this year, please reach out. I have nothing but empathy for you.
This year, I kept my commitments low and my expectations right down there with them. Holidays have historically been catastrophically terrible for my mental health, and I am determined to put an end to that nonsense. So I did a few things to ensure my stability during this weird and whacky time.
Here’s my list of kindness toward myself:
Relax about the house.
Really. It’ll be uncomfortable sometimes. It’s okay to be uncomfortable. Let it go once in a while, or for weeks, or until the last possible second.
Be okay throwing things out
When I found myself picking up a thing (especially an ornament or decoration) and wondering either 1) where does this go? I can’t figure out where this should go or 1) why do I have this? It’s ugly.- I gave myself permission to throw it out.
Turn down invitations
No, I don’t want to go to your holiday open house. No, I’m not going to make it to brunch. No, I don’t want company. Why? Because Netflix is why. This is not unique to the holiday season but at this time of the year it’s crucial that I stand firm in my position that there’s not one damn thing wrong with sitting on the couch in my pajamas when I could be doing x or x or y or bonding with my friends.
Stay the course when it comes to the budget
I like to say I’m anti consumer but the fact is that I love the holidays and the shopping that goes with it. I ADORE giving presents. I love that the holidays gives me an excuse to give people things I want them to have. I struggle with this contradiction in myself. I like to save a little all year and use only cash to get gifts. At the last minute, I tend to get to selling off a few of my things to make extra cash for the extra shopping that I am prone to do. But one thing I do not ever want to do again is use credit to finance Christmas gifts. I love that credit exists and I know plenty of people use it, use it well, and are happy with how it works. But it feels like a looming monster over my shoulder. This year, I’m working two jobs to pay off a debt I incurred when my mother died in New Mexico, and I gave myself the freedom of locking up all my credit cards. I’ve paid for each gift with the cash reserve I saved. I am struggling now that it’s close to christmas and there are SO. MANY. AWESOME. THINGS. I want to buy for people. But my best gift to my loved ones is my sanity, and my sanity depends in part on not feeling the crush of holiday debt.
Keep expectations low when it comes to kid bonding
Sure, kids love rituals. But kids also have a short attention span. What they remember isn’t the actual playing out of the ritual (which in our case often involves children wandering in and out of the room where the Special Movie is playing, leaving their homemade hot chocolate to cool untouched, listlessly hanging two ornaments on the tree, and then bolting for the yard because hello, it’s so nice outside)- kids remember that you made the effort. Kids are weird. They do have expectations, and they do want things to be “just like last year” but when they’re 20, they just remember that you showed up. Which brings me to:
Just show up.
Just go. To work. To the kitchen. To the restaurant with the kids. To the couch with a cup of coffee. Just show up, and let the universe take care of the rest. What people remember is that you were there. What matters is that you showed up. Take a nap after. Drink some wine during. Just show up, and keep showing up, and pretty soon it’ll be January.
I’m going to make it. I’m not where I would like to be, emotionally, at the holidays. Not yet. But I am stronger than I was last year and I am a completely different person than I was the year before that.