A Healthy Holiday Perspective is Part of Healthy Aging

This time of year it’s so easy to lose perspective on what is really important and what truly needs to be done. We are accustomed to sending out x amount of holiday cards, shipping oh so many packages to friends and family, and shopping and baking and decorating until our heads spin like the red stripes of a candy cane.

We are so afraid of forgetting to remember Little Jimmy or Aunt Jane; will our heads really explode or will our loved ones become traumatized or hate us forever if they don’t get our gift in time? It sounds silly when we say it in so many words, but that’s how it feels when we’re in the midst of the insanity. We’ve been conditioned over the years to follow certain traditions and meet various expectations of both our own and that of others. There are so many memories and emotions linked to this time of year that create powerful demands on our psyches.

As I get older, however, I find it easier to step back from the fray and put my goals into perspective. I have experienced years with more and years with less and somehow the earth has continued spinning. I have learned through years of ever-increasing business challenges that there is no way I can possibly get everything done that people expect of me, and certainly I can’t do it all myself. I have also learned to prioritize. What really needs to be done, and what can be done IF I have time or WHEN I have time? Yes, believe it or not, cards and presents do not evaporate the day after Christmas or whichever holiday you celebrate.

I have also learned that friends and family will understand if you can’t do everything every year. In fact, they might even prefer that we do things when we can with love and joy rather than to hurl meaningless gifts tinged with anger and frustration at their heads.

My ex husband (59) told me that he has drastically reduced his To Do list for this holiday season; he is trying to get back to the true meaning of the holiday—giving and sharing. In light of that, he has given a substantial amount of furniture and items to Good Will throughout the year. Who says that all of our giving has to happen in December and on specific birth dates anyway?

It seems to me that we as Americans have too much stuff as it is. In fact, our lives would probably be simpler and happier without most of it. So do I feel compelled to gorge my friends with baked goods and lavish gifts? Not really. I do give modestly because I want to, and I should only do it when I can. The holidays aren’t meant to be a burden. We need to get away from the “we shoulds” and “why didn’t they’s.” Instead, let’s focus on all that we have.  Enjoy the extra parties (which I do). The holiday season is a great time of year to enjoy loved ones we often don’t get to see during our hectic routines.

As we age, hopefully we gain wisdom from years of repeating the cycle of the seasons, and we gain a truer understanding of what is important in life. Making choices from a healthy perspective will make us happier, and being happier will keep us healthier for the long run. So enjoy the season by doing what you can and desire to do, and leave the “have to’s” to those who haven’t yet learned the secret of keeping it all in perspective.

So what will I be doing this holiday season you ask? I love the holidays, and as long as I have time to enjoy the process, I will bake my zucchini bread, put up a tree and lights and wrap a reasonable number of colorful, meaningful presents for under the tree. But only because I want to and I feel I can this year. Next year…I’ll have to wait and see…

but the lights and colors of the season make me very happy. I wish I could keep them up all year. Taking them down might just be another expectation I’ll have to challenge.

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2 Responses to “A Healthy Holiday Perspective is Part of Healthy Aging”
  1. Travis says:

    I found your article pertinent and pithy and it prompted me to share our holiday strategy.

    For all the reasons you cited, we stopped giving gifts several years ago. Instead, we hold a Solstice Gathering and put out cold-cuts, drinks and desserts for all our friends. Gathering a half a hundred friends or more for a party is an excellent way to catch up — a lot of work, but very gratifying. True, we never have enough time to talk with everybody on the one night, but we circulate and tell each other what we learned the morning after.

    The “Gathering glow” keeps us going right up to Christmas Dinner, which we prepare for our local family (and such out-of-town relatives as may get into town). Christmas Dinner is our gift to the family, even as the Solstice Gathering was our gift to our friends — and the out of town relations on the East Coast who can’t be here for dinner, know that they can call here and get to talk to everyone at once! (Unfortunately, talking to everyone at once leads to confusion and leaves us all comparing notes what we think we said, and what we think they said, but is, nevertheless, an entertaining sharing experience.

    Finally, with our major holiday events behind us, we’re ready to wind down for a quiet New Year’s Eve. Usually we’ll have a small cadre of like-minded friends over to watch a few movies and try to finish off all the leftovers from the first two events.

    And life is good..

  2. Thanks for sharing your holiday planning solution, Travis. Having just attended your Winter Solstice party last night for the fifth or sixth time, I can say how appreciative I am that you and your wife take the approach you do. For me, some of the people I see at your party I only see at your party, and it’s so nice to touch base with them once a year. Thank you for keeping the focus on what is truly important about the season—re-connecting with friends and family.

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