emotions, holidays, pleasure, presence

Are you a “Ho-ho-ho”, a “Ho-hum”, or a “Bah-Humbug”?

humbug__by_xhee_heex-d6wa0dgThere are three types of us, it seems, when the holiday season rolls around… which are you?
The Ho Ho Ho – Overflowing with holiday cheer, the Ho Ho Ho loves to decorate, shop, wrap, and really revels in the joys and sensory pleasures of the holiday spirit. Finding rich meaning in the season, their love for family, giving, togetherness, peace and joy are amplified.
The Ho-Hum – Neither a lover nor a hater, the Ho-Hum is mildly annoyed by the pressures and obligations wrapped with a bow during the holiday season. They will go through the motions, and even enjoy certain parts of the season, like holiday cocktail parties and Secret Santa games, but for the most part, they could take it or leave it, and often harbor a secret guilt that they “should” be doing more, feeling more, giving more, baking more, and being jollier in general.
The Humbug –  The Humbug can’t stand the holiday season, the contrived peace and love, the forced togetherness, the pressure to spend, the commercialization, the obligation to be with people they secretly hardly like, and oftentimes have painful associations with the holidays, so in the midst of all the contrived joy, they are harboring deep pain, loss, grief, loneliness. The holidays are something they must get through, resisting and even resenting the whole shebang.
I’m definitely a borderline Ho-Hum/Humbug. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of personal inquiry around this, to explore the reasons. I’ve identified a few, and better understand my resistance. I’ve given up trying to change myself into a Ho-Ho-Ho, in preference of allowing myself to be who I am. I’ve also done some shifting and healing organically, by practicing openness, presence and intention.
There are certain holiday rituals I admit to enjoying… parties, of course. Ugly sweater ones and fancy red dress ones. And  I’m not gonna lie: I love opening presents. Here’s a holiday hypocrisy: I love getting Christmas cards in the mail. I hate the chore of sending them.
A few years back, I asked the Humbugs in my Facebook community what their reasons for being “humbug” were. I got dozens of interesting responses, but they all seemed to fall into one of two categories:
  • Pressure: The pressure from media, family, the world at large to “feel” jolly, to buy, to bake, to wrap, to send cards, to feign happiness in family situations that are less than healthy or happy. So much pressure to be, feel and do what is out of line with our personal truth.  When we feel, do or are what is out of line with our personal truth, we are out of integrity. NO WONDER Humbugs don’t like the holidays! NO WONDER Ho-Hums feel uneasy about them.
  • Pain: The saccharin-sweetness messages of peace, love and joy doesn’t fit with their personal experience when there is loss, grief, death, loneliness and other painful experiences and feelings linked to the holidays
So what should we do, those of us who find it difficult to be folded into the fluffy cream of the holiday season? Go through the motions, out of integrity, getting through til January? Ditch the whole thing, disappearing from society until it’s over? Tell our families we won’t be participating this year? (Oh, THAT’LL go over well…) Buy, when we don’t feel like buying? Smile, when we don’t feel like smiling?
Here’s what I suggest we all do, whether a Ho Ho Ho, a Ho-Hum or a Humbug…
  1. Feel your feelings as they arise. When you are feeling funky, say for example, shopping, stay in touch with yourself and your experience. When you’re feeling overjoyed with holiday spirit, notice it, bask in it. If the holidays are a time of pain for you, give yourself a designated, sacred time to feel your pain, to tend to your tender heart, to be a loving friend to yourself.
  2. Stop shoulding on yourself. Shaming yourself, feeling guilty for what you don’t feel or don’t want to do, adds an extra layer of crappiness onto the crappiness you’re already feeling. Ie, “everyone’s so happy at Thanksgiving. I should be happier than this.” We spend too much energy thinking we’re ‘supposed’ to be feeling something different than we are. Stop it!
  3. Practice presence in everything you do, holiday-related. If you “must” participate in a holiday activity that feels inauthentic to you, how can you become present to that activity? How can you open up to what might be there for you in your resistance? Can you start a holiday tradition that feels more authentic and meaningful to you, privately, or with others?
  4. Focus on the activities that bring you joy and give yourself permission to scrap the others. A few years ago, I decided not to do cards. I had to come to terms with the fact that this would mean I’d receive less cards, and I had to be okay with that. It was a fair trade-off.  On the other hand, I am one who is easily excited by pretty, sparkly things, so I love ooh-ing and ahh-ing at impressive holiday lights. I will keep doing that.
  5. Allow others to feel what they feel without the impulse to judge or change them.  No need to jump down mom’s throat about the commercialism of Christmas, if she’s really into giving gifts. Perhaps you can let go of the urge to teach the family what really went down, during colonization, while passing the the sweet potatoes. Let them have their experience, while you own yours. 
And Ho-Hums and Humbugs, take solace in the fact that it will all be over soon. But here’s the thing: when it’s over, we’ll be that much closer to the end of our ride, to the day of our death. So why not be as present as we can, no matter what we’re feeling, and savor as much as we can- out of every day, and the enjoy the extra sweetness that the holiday season offers? After all, there are more cookies!
Feel your experience, give yourself and others permission to be exactly where they are and savor every moment, as much as you can. It will all be over too soon, I’m afraid… all of it.  Now pass me a gingerbread cookie, please.

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