give yourself permission to *not* be in the holiday spirit

holiday-spirit The holiday season means something different to every single person. Much of the meaning is associated with how holiday experiences were in your family growing up, or how it feels now returning to that family of origin (or in-laws) and relating to them as an adult. Grief complicates the holidays by magnifying the loss of family members who are no longer here. Many people have had traumatic experiences during the holiday season that they will forever associate with this time of year. Then there's the gift-giving element, where it can be difficult to find the line between getting thoughtful gifts for loved ones and buying in to the hyperconsumerism madness (and associated debt) of the holidays. And for anyone with disordered eating, the holidays are full of stressful food and body challenges.

Some folks strongly connect to the religious facet of the holiday season, while for many others this is only a small component or not at all. Some love bundling up in the cold weather, and others (like me) can't wait to lose the jackets. Some love decorating for the season with the Christmas playlist on endless shuffle, while others would be happy to never see another Christmas ornament or hear "Jingle Bells" ever again.

I'm somewhere in between. I don't hate the holidays, but I also don't really feel the magic anymore. (Cue the, "Aww, that's too bad, the holidays are the best time of the year!!") I do love the good excuse to have a few days off work, get together with family (I'm sad that we won't be going back to Texas where my family is until sometime in early 2015, but we alternate every other year), the food, and some of the music. I can also count on getting new Christmas ornaments every year from my in-laws who have a long-running Hallmark tradition (which I'm certainly not complaining about! Maybe some fairies, please?) :)

But I'm noticing this year, in particular, I'm really not feeling "in the holiday spirit." So far, the only "holiday" things I've really done are listen to the N'Sync Christmas album (truly a classic, amiright?) once on my commute with my work wife, and help our friends put up a 12-foot artificial tree in their A-frame house, a laugh-filled 45-minute project even with seven people.  I mentioned something about decorating the house to my husband, and when he said we could take some time today to do so, I found myself balking. "Nope, don't wanna. If you get all the stuff out and start, I'll help, but I'm not gonna do it otherwise. And if we don't decorate within the next few days, what's the point in doing it at all?"

I was inspired when I recently heard Jess Lively's  interview with Courtney Carver (of Be More With Less) on her podcast, The Lively Show. The interview focused on Courtney's story about how she became more minimalistic in her life and how to approach the holidays with more intention. She talked some about how her family has pared down holiday decorations to fewer things that are all meaningful and truly appreciated. I have always felt pulled toward both nesting and minimalism, which seems like a weird, conflicted place, but pretty common, I think. The nesting side wants to continue to acquire the "perfect, classy, grown-up" holiday decorations, while the minimalist side says "put up some white lights (and maybe the little fake tree) and get rid of the rest!" This year, unless my husband takes initiative with decorating, I think the minimalist side will win out.

When I started thinking about why I'm not getting into the holidays this year and don't really care to decorate, I felt a little guilty. Am I so down with my seasonal blues that I can't even appreciate the magic of the holiday season? Isn't my whole vision all about how to increase joy and magic in day-to-day life? Who's gonna want advice from Debbie Downer over here?

But the truth is that life is not all rainbows and unicorns. (That life exists in Lisa Frank world, and Thank God for it.) The things that bring you joy might do nothing for me -- and vice versa.  And choosing not to get super into the holiday spirit doesn't mean that I'm not open to joy; it just means I may not want my joy wrapped in red and green with a bow on it this year. And dammit, that doesn't make me a Scrooge.

I'm giving myself permission to not be in the holiday spirit if I don't feel like it.  I hope you'll give yourself that same permission, and that you'll think twice about the vast differences among personal experiences of the holidays before judging anyone who may not seem very joyous about this season.