Happy New Year! How did you fare over the “festive season”? Was it as the fairy tales portray – a magical, heartfelt reconnection with all the important things – family, rejuvenation, celebration, good food? Or did it not live up to the ideal and you found the emotional triggers challenging? Or maybe you’re like me and there was a bit of both.
For some reason, for a very long time I’ve found Xmas to be excruciatingly challenging. I impatiently left home when I was 18 to travel the world and make my way in it. Each year I’d return home for Christmas but it never felt right. I felt terribly lonely. I’d look back on the year I’d just had and feel unfulfilled by what I’d achieved, I was ungrateful and unappreciative of the many gifts in my life and I’d drown my sorrows by indulging in every kind of celebratory food I could afford. I’d become bloated and fatter so I’d follow with a virtuous and wondrous health recovery plan AKA a diet – more deprivation!
Eventually I decided to skip Xmas altogether and every year I’d be “somewhere else” – Bali, The Whitsundays, Bhutan, anywhere. I had no sense that others might be missing me! I recognise now that I was very self-absorbed and wrapped up in my own pain. Pain has a way of getting our attention!
Many years later, I found my gorgeous life-partner but Xmas was never right then either. Being part of a blended family was difficult and Xmas was far from what I’d dreamed of “when I grew up”! Each year I hoped it would get better but it didn’t. Hoping gets you nothing!
The year before last was the worst Xmas EVER! Nothing, absolutely nothing was right, in my mind anyway – not the house, the holiday, the finances, the man, the day itself. Nothing! I was furious and took it out on my partner. I was bitter and resentful leading up to, during and most of the month after Xmas. It got to a point where I couldn’t stand being with myself – it was that bad.
I finally decided to do something about it though reluctantly at first as I thought it was everyone else’s problem. I eventually acknowledged that it was up to me to create the Xmas I wanted and find new ways to deal with the things that weren’t working. I worked with a spiritual counsellor to introduce myself to the mysterious demons within me. It was a bit yukky! A bit of filthy gunk oozed out of my pores; stinky stuff like jealousy, righteousness, lots of “shoulds”, and the one that trumped them all – The Victim. Hello “that part of me that epects my life to be perfect and blames everyone and everything else when it isn’t”! Interesting friends we have inside of us! A challenging year and a bumpy ride, but so, so worth it.
This Xmas just passed was the best Xmas I’ve had in my adult life. It wasn’t perfect. I still had a couple of days where “don’t touch me, don’t talk to me” emanated like an aura from my body but I didn’t take it out on anyone and it lifted, just departed like a ghost in the middle of the night! I think that day was the only day I poured myself a stiff drink. Other days I was able to enjoy festive food without over-indulging and more importantly without feeling guilty; I felt a wonderful connection with my family and could feel the love emanating from them; we had a terrific, much needed holiday camping in nature; Santa came and i felt truly blessed by the abundance we all received; and, when things didn’t go my way I was able to be philosophical about it and embody the quality of true acceptance – it is the way it is and it isn’t the way it isn’t. It really was a magical festive season.
Now, I know next Xmas will be even better. My confidence has been restored. And there’s definitely no diet in the New Year’s resolutions!
Back to you!
If you find yourself saying “I hate Xmas” or the whole experience was one you just could have missed, then I ask you – how are you dealing with your emotional triggers? This is the important question the answer to which could improve all your Christmases to come. It’s not what happens or doesn’t happen that matters, it’s how you deal with it.
Did you deal with your emotional pain by stuffing yourself with “bad” foods thereby punishing yourself a little more? Or did you get resentful then spit venom towards your loved ones? Was the entire break filled with looking for avoidance strategies so you didn’t have to acknowledge your grief about Xmas not being perfect – avoidance strategies like working the whole time, travelling to some distant country, eating and feeling guilty constantly then vowing to go on a diet as soon as new year’s was over or going out every night and getting drunk?
Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of these approaches. We do what we need to do to cope and there is no point berating ourselves for it. But, did it really work for you? Did you gain 5 kilos that now you’ve got to work really hard to lose? Did you really enjoy the break and make the most of your connections with family. Do you have no regrets about how it could have been? Are you looking forward with warmth and enthusiasm to next Christmas break?
You can be. I promise you, you really truly can create a beautiful experience around an imperfect Christmas. How? Well a bit of therapy helps and I highly recommend it! In addition here are some other ideas:
Kindness is key
Remember that it’s the small, tender part of yourself that is reacting and that berating yourself for being vulnerable and having needs is counterproductive. Punishing yourself when you’re already feeling punished is unkind. Kindness and compassion towards yourself is essential.
Take the time to sit down and eat without distractions. Pay attention. Every meal. Yes, every meal. Don’t drive and eat, don’t watch TV and eat. This activity alone has enormous potential for mastering emotional eating.
Is it loss?
If your emotional pain is caused by someone not being there – maybe they’ve died, maybe you aren’t speaking – set a symbolic place for them at the table. It’s not easy to accept that someone who should be there, isn’t, but once again, upsetting yourself about something you can’t change is futile.
Speaking of things you can’t change, have you considered what you can do to make sure next year is better? How could you improve things? What can you organise so that your emotional needs are taken care of?
Emotional eating is ok
Food and eating are pleasurable and you are allowed to experience pleasure, even if sometimes you think you don’t deserve it. Give up the guilt – it is a choice.
Please, don’t put up with being miserable. It’s not necessary. You deserve to have a great Christmas. Christmas is not just for kids, it’s for grown up kids too.
Much love to you.