I recall working in my high-tech job and having people asking me what I was doing for the holidays. I don’t have much family to speak of, and I’m not one really for “orphan” dinners. So I said, “nothing really.” The eager and expectant smile on the face of my colleague fell fast. “Oh, how sad!” she exclaimed. A little puzzled, I asked what she was up to, and over the course of the next half our or so, I learned all about the mandatory holiday traveling, the family conflicts, the gifts that wouldn’t be appreciated, the cooking, the worry about how it would all get done, etc. etc. I couldn’t help myself: “wow, that sounds pretty stressful. While you’re doing that, I’ll be in my bubble bath with a book I’ve been longing to read.” With a sigh she conceded: “yeah, that does sound pretty nice.”
Just yesterday I told someone that I don’t “do Christmas.” Maybe that is sad, but it’s a choice I’ve been making for a long time. Always with a wily cat in the house, I’d long given up having a tree. Perhaps since my high school days, I’ve thought of decorating as a chore (because back then, it actually was). Shopping around this time of year–even for the usual weekly stuff–gets harder because everyone is out buying more. And often they are very stressed trying to fit it all in, so courtesy goes out the window at a time when it should be front-and-center. For several years I’d successfully done “Chinese and a movie”, but I don’t eat much Chinese anymore and the movie selection, frankly, leaves a lot to be desired.
I suppose that makes me a real Grinch right?! Well, maybe. But I know that I’m going to have some time off, and even better, some time off at the same time as my honey, who is often on a schedule opposite mine. We are getting some gifts for each other (and the Awesome cat of course), and this year we even got and decorated a little tree. We both enjoy cooking but haven’t done much of it together lately, so a project of that nature–where the cooking is as much fun as the eating–is on the list. Because I’m working on this business, there’s also some end-of-year planning and tallying, but the “work” will be done on a day of my choice, with lots of breaks for hanging like a bat on my new inversion table, taking Epsom-salt baths, movie watching, and of course, present opening. I’ll also be finishing up that book I’m nearly done with. Maybe I’ll even do a few “tech free” days.
To me, the holiday is a time to have a bit LESS stimulation of the senses (in yogic circles, this is called pratyahara). I find that I intentionally withdraw MORE during this time of year, because I know that for me, it can become “too much” quite quickly. It’s not that I don’t enjoy good company, lots of amazing food choices, or gifts. But I’d prefer to spread them out throughout the year and keep my sanity (and health) in the process. (There are ways to practice pratyahara even when you can’t, or rather not withdraw. See this article for useful insights.)
As a former “resolver”, I have thoughts on New Years’ Resolutions too, but I’ll save those for another time. What I’ll leave you with is to consider another yogic principle–that of intention. What do you intend to do with the rest of your year? Are these choices you’re making, or are you caught up in the “should’s” of the holiday season? Then set your intention for that day, that hour, that moment. You might take a deep breath, listen to your body (e.g. hunger/thirst, rest/exercise, etc.), be with a family member (just as they are!) or simply close your eyes for a few moments of peace each day. It comes from within. Truly.