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STORIES FROM THE 44TH PARALLEL

Freelance Writer & Photographer in Michigan

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  • Marianne Kuzimski

Navigating the Waters of Holiday Gloom


I love Christmas! It is my favorite holiday.

So what’s the problem? What is it about this particular holiday season that is stressing me out and bringing me down?!

It’s not just me, either…


I am relieved to discover that I am not the only one enduring these feelings of holiday gloom. As a matter of fact, the holidays can disrupt even the most stoic of holiday revelers!


There is so much going on in our lives during this time of year that it’s no wonder people get stressed out. For me personally, I tend to fall into this trap of creating the 'perfect holiday.' The house will be decorated perfectly for Christmas, and the perfect holiday gifts will be chosen for the people who will just LOVE what you got them, and they will all be stacked neatly under the perfect Christmas tree in their shiny, holiday wrappings...


Um… yeah, right!

It never works out perfectly. So how the hell am I, or ANYONE else, supposed to live up to all the hype?!


Maybe a lot of these feelings have to do with the generation I was raised in? You know the “Little House on the Prairie” mentality of perfection.


Yes, yes… I know that Laura Ingalls was constantly learning her lessons the hard way, but it seemed to me that she was the only one in her entire family that wasn't perfect. I think that the series painted this picture of idealism, and even though poor little Laura Ingalls tried to get it right, she had a difficult time living up to the family's standards.


Perfection is difficult to achieve, but it’s those pictures of perfection that are soooo stuck in my head that often gets me into trouble during the holidays. Especially since I'm more like Laura Ingalls in that I screw up a lot!


I recall 20-some years ago, at a time when my children were still very young, someone once told me that I might be happier if I didn’t have such big expectations in life. At the time, I thought it was an odd thing for someone to say to me. What I didn’t realize at that time was my happiness often DID depend on life events unfolding the way I had imagined.


You see, I had unrealistic expectations of life that depended on everyone involved to “play their part". Their “parts” were already scripted out in my mind according to past experiences we had together and the ideals of the perfect holiday season. Yet for some reason, the way things played out always turned out differently than I had imagined.


Disappointment would often follow, and even though it took me nearly half a century to realize this, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only moron who does this. The thought that I'm not alone makes me feel a little bit better about being so flawed and utterly human.


I guess the first step in rearranging my idealistic mindset is to understand those holiday ideals are just dreams of what I think ‘perfect’ should look like. The second step is planting those REAL human reactions into these dream in order to understand that depending on what is going on in a person's life, they may not always react the way I'd expect.

All kinds of issues can get in the way of responding in a good and proper manner. Stress, pain, illness, lack of sleep, poor eating habits, lack of exercise, lack of money, worry, etc. All of these issues, and more, will cause people to react poorly from time to time depending on the circumstances involved in their lives.


Luckily, being a loving, caring friend or family member means that we often realize when someone we care for is struggling, so can forgive a few poor reactions throughout life’s journey.


If you’re like me, and find yourself stressed-out about the upcoming holidays, here are some things you may want to consider in order to help yourself through it all:


1. Try not to get caught up in visions of the Ideal Christmas and Family Gatherings as portrayed in all of those sappy, holiday movies! Remember that life isn’t like “Little House on the Prairie.” Live in the here and now and you will be that much more in control of your feelings this season.


2. Watch your eating and drinking habits! When you start overdoing it with yummy treats

& holiday cocktails, and you find yourself packing on a little extra padding for the winter, you will start feeling YUCKY… Both physically, and mentally! So watch yourself, and get a handle on it as soon as you realize what’s happening. Getting a handle on it, to me, means FORGIVE YOURSELF for the slip-ups and get back to the old, feel-good routine as soon as possible… like eating healthy, getting regular exercise, and drinking lots of water to help flush out all the toxins and negativity that’s been building up in your system.

3. Get good sleep! Lack of sleep makes for a day of mistakes when next you wake, which leads to an evening of self-disappointment and angst to follow. Try to get enough rest to ward off grumpiness, self-destructive attitudes, and sickness throughout the holiday season. And don’t forget that too much computer screen time will affect your sleeping habits immensely, so try and shut down an hour or so before bedtime so you can fall asleep easier.


4. Don’t compare yourself to everyone around you! Even though “Little Miss Sunshine” appears perfectly happy and it seems her life is a cake-walk compared to yours doesn’t mean that is the truth of the matter. Know that people tend to put on their ‘happy face’ when they are out in public, and you may not understand how fucked up their lives really are! Again… shut off that idealistic mind and realize that people put on a front in public. They aren’t going to show you their hurts until they can’t hide them anymore.


5. Cut yourself a teensy-weensy break and know you are among friends and people

who love you! Friends and family are there for you, and you for them. Remember to appreciate all of the people you have in your life right now, for tomorrow they may not be there.


Even though we all tend to get wrapped up in our own problems, try to remember not to take anyone in your life for granted. Every single person is a blessing in some way or another, so try your best to cut your family and friends a little slack this holiday season knowing they maybe feeling a little blue too.

To close, I would like to wish all my friends and family a joyful holiday season. I know that many of you are struggling to get through your own personal issues right now, as am I, and I think if we just hang on to each other as best we can, we will be able to navigate the holiday gloom together.


Love to you all…



#holidays #stress-free #family


Thanks so much for reading!


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