The holidays are supposed to be a nice time of year but for many people it’s a depressing time instead.
The media sells us a story about the holidays that reinforces a falsehood – that everyone has some sort of perfect life with families who welcome them home every year. For many people this is not the case. People get sick, they die, they move far away so they can’t afford to visit, and some people have abusive families. Here are my tips on how to survive the holidays alone, without family, or with a depressing situation.
STEP 1: Realize that the media lies: All of those images that you see on TV aren’t reality. I have had the privilege of meeting people from many walks of life. People who are alternative, people who are mainstream, people who are of every income level from completely poor to those in the 1%.
I call all of these people friends.
They all have the same thing in common. Dysfunctional relationships and hardship doesn’t always seek out people of a particular race, class, or situation. The more people I meet from various backgrounds, the more I realize that we are all the same. We may wear different pants or have more pairs of pants but the human experience is the same.
I will not give specific names to identify people obviously, but over the last 20 years I’ve met poor people who had wonderful families and terrible families. I’ve met extremely rich people with he same – some who had to live every day in fear that they’d be brutally assaulted by their family.
You need to realize that what you see on the surface isn’t necessarily truth.
Remember Cordelia, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer? If you haven’t seen this show, Cordelia was the more popular “mean girl” in the beginning of her story. Pretty girl, popular, rich – she seemed to have it all. But she didn’t. Her personality in High School was an attempt to fit in and make up for what she wasn’t getting at home. And she collapsed after High School.
That was some of the realest stuff I’ve seen.
In the popular narrative she may have been characterized only as a villain toward Buffy. But she wasn’t. She was just a girl trying to get by. You may have started out hating her but eventually you grew to like her once you got to know her and even felt sad for her.
We are all the same. Your first step to freedom is realizing that the media lies and the image of a perfect holiday doesn’t exist for everyone.
There is no such thing as a perfect life or a perfect person.
I challenge you to look at Facebook over the holidays and see how many people you think have it all are complaining about the torment they have had to go through on that day from their family. I see it every year. If storybook happiness doesn’t exist for you, that’s OK. It doesn’t exist for that many people because it’s a fake idea.
If someone’s life looks perfect, they are probably just good at putting on a good front and dealing with crap.
STEP 2: Cut out the noise: Turn off or cancel TV service. If Christmas music bothers you shop online or use headphones in the store just like we do in NYC. Define what makes you feel bad and do your best to remove it from your life. We aren’t babies anymore. it’s our turn to control our lives.
STEP 3: Create your own tradition: We feel disappointment when we expect X and get Y. If you know X is impossible, throw X out the window! Are you setting the bar too high so that it’s unrealistic?
Stop torturing yourself right now. There are children with terminal cancer who are happier than some folks during the holidays. Consider that for a second and take responsibility for the gift you have – life.
If you can’t get to your family this holiday or have family who you don’t get along with you need to identify in your life who your chosen family is. If you don’t have anyone near you you also aren’t alone. Most people’s friends are on the internet nowadays and hundreds or thousands of miles away.
This is not a rare or unique feeling. You are not alone in this.
Take control. Define what a good holiday means to you and do that. Don’t allow TV’s fake definition of the holidays to crap on you every year. Is your best holiday a week long video gaming party? Is it a week of fitness? How about art? Maybe you get in the car and take an epic road trip since Christmas Day has almost no traffic on the roads. I do that a lot myself, actually. Vroom vroom.
Define what your truth is. Define your own tradition. Do that. Don’t use a false success metric (that almost no one truly achieves) and set yourself up for failure.
Most of us do not have perfect lives, but people often fall prey to the trap of editing out what they don’t see and assuming other people do have perfect lives so that they can beat themselves up for not having something that just plain does not exist!
Cut that shit out and you’ll be much happier. Your life is about you, so own it – even if it takes you some years to work up to the point that you can.