Whether it be the in-laws coming to town, the lights on the houses, the layout of the supermarket, the birth of JC, or the ending of the yearly calendar, the holidays seem to force us into a state of reflection. And, no matter what you do to celebrate this time or hide from it, you know that it’s happening and you can’t help but to feel a little different than usual. Some feel more alive, excited, or jolly; others, more lonely, irritable, and anxious maybe. Personally, I’m feeling it all. It’s a real mix…cozy, nostalgic, subdued, generous and greedy, envious and grateful, and so on. I imagine there are others feeling the same way too, but I haven’t actually heard that from anyone.
As I sit here scrolling through my Facebook feed on NYE, a new mother surviving on coffee and love, I’m struck by all the conflicting emotions and I’m trying to explore them all and allow a space for them all to sit and be heard. Through the posts and pictures I see, It seems like the people I connect with through social media and otherwise are all so excited and happy that I wonder if they too feel any of this. I know what you see on social media is not a “real” portrayal of people’s lives, and I know logically that there are many people feeling a million different ways on this night, but I’m noticing that people only seem to share one emotion, their happiness. As if, if they felt anything less, they would somehow be less.
Granted, there’s a ton of pressure to be nothing but excited and happy around the holidays; It’s in every commercial, every song, and part of every salutation (Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Hanukkah). So it makes sense that the all too common stigma of depression would be even more exaggerated around this time. But I’m not just talking about depression. It’s like you’re not even supposed to look back and reflect as much as you are encouraged to look forward and press on. It reminds me of when a child loses his favorite lovey, the one covered in crusty food, snot, and memories of growing, and before he can even search for it, he’s presented with a brand new one he “should” be grateful to have received.
So, while I realize this is a joyous time of year (for some), I can’t help but want to grant myself the permission to pay attention to these other more “naggy” feelings. Among them, missing people that I love (friends, my parents and siblings), wishing I could go to a movie without having to pay a stranger to watch my child, anxiety about chores needing to be done and bills needing to be paid, and of course the all familiar FOMO. But also, I’m realizing that on NYE specifically, it’s like we do whatever we can to avoid the reality that what has actually happened is that we’ve lost another year of our lives, gotten older, and are…well…closer to dying. I’m not suggesting that we talk about dying…not on NYE anyway, simply that we sit and allow awareness of all of this. I feel it, and maybe others do too; the pressure, the mourning, the self-doubt, and the loss that inevitably coincides with anything gained (like a new year), and I believe it’s good and healthy to validate that.
In the end, the bitter feelings that I am experiencing are tempered by the overwhelming gratitude I feel for what I have in my life. Gratitude is what makes all of these other feelings feel more “OK”. I feel love overwhelm my heart and bring tears to my eyes, as I think about my family and friends, and it becomes totally fine that I also acknowledge and feel those other things. It’s life, and I feel it’s important to express and acknowledge the dichotomy and continuum of emotion that exists.
I wish we would all share our experience of the aliveness we feel at holiday time, on Facebook and in person. Acknowledge the happiness and hope in our hearts, but also lean on and let in others when it comes to the more difficult feelings we sit with. Because that’s what’s real, and it’s really beautiful too. After all, reflection and validation help us grow and allow us to be better in the year ahead.
What did the holidays/NYE bring up for you? Would love to hear about it!