Friday, December 16, 2011

What is it about Christmas??

Okay. I am going to admit it. Christmas is my least favorite holiday of the year. Depending on your faith, there are maybe 5 biggie holidays of the year and from the outside, it would seem that Christmas holds the top spot for those of Christian descent. I was not raised with much religious structure so for me Christmas has never been anything but the big ass day of gift giving. I find this December holiday to be fraught with pressure, guilt, anticipation, and very often let-down. The latter can be in the form of a child's heavy heart when all the gifts have been opened and IT IS OVER. Or it can be the feeling that you didn't get what you hoped {or asked} for. Christmas day is like a sugar high, it feels good when you are in the thick of it but once it is over you are exhausted. And why all the exhaustion? I refer back to the first three reasons why I don't like this holiday, pressure, guilt, anticipation. I like holidays that are just about food. I know. Huge surprise.

If you have children you know you want their holiday to be magical. Many of us fall prey to the Pollyanna-ic ideals of making everything perfect, shiny and bright. You want to make sure that the stuff under the tree makes the children happy, that the party you throw to feel all warm and fuzzy with holiday cheer comes off perfectly, and that you have a smile on your face as you pretend to enjoy the radio station that only plays Christmas music. Your company is at year-end and you are either still slaving away to make plan, or you are required to spend every night entertaining clients or you are still traveling like a lunatic to pull in last-minute contracts. All the while, you still have to be saying "yay Christmas". It is kind of a lot don't you think? I do think there is pressure to pull off a great holiday for your loved ones. I do think there is guilt if you can't or you don't. And I do think the anticipation of it all can lead to some pretty major disappointment. I dare you to deny that this holiday comes with expectations. And at the end of it all, I wonder how many of us don't harbor some negative feeling. I wish I could have done more. I wish I got what I wanted. I wish I didn't feel taken for granted. I wish, I wish, I wish.

And the reason I think for all this is that we feel the need to connect with the people around us more deliberately at this time of year more than any other. The neighborhood party that is full of cheer, the holiday cards you send, the special gift you buy or make for someone, and most importantly the holiday spirit you try to share with your children to add to the magic and joy of Christmas. Last night I stumbled upon a TED talk from the summer of 2010 by Brene Brown who talks about the primal need for human connection and the instinctive feelings we all have that can unravel it. From there she brings up some really interesting theories about who the people are who connect well with others and why. She theorizes that it is fear and shame that prevent people from forming authentic connections. And yes, I know how heavy handed that sounds but.....think about it for a minute. I mean doesn't everyone's life seem perfect on Facebook?
"Is there something about me that if other people know it or see it that I won't be worthy of connection?"
She then goes on to highlight that "shame is universal and that the only people who don't experience shame have no capacity for human empathy. That no one wants to talk about it and the less we talk about it the more we have it." It is funny because I would have defined shame as something pretty major that you feel guilt over but I guess it could be classified as any negative feelings of not having been good enough in any area of life.

She dissects it even further to explain that vulnerability and worthiness are the underpinnings of shame and that people who form the best connections in life are those who innately feel worthy and also embrace their vulnerability. It is a head scratcher of a 20-minute talk and I challenge anyone to listen to it and not walk away with some positive feeling of how they can make their life better.

Every year I wish I could enjoy this holiday with less snark as I wrote about herehere, and then here and more joy. I am going to work on that but after rereading those three posts, I have to say I got a good giggle out of it all.  So grab a cup of coffee and take 20 minutes at lunch today to watch this.


Alison Ryan said...

Shan, you are one of the most authentic people I know. I love your honesty in real life and when you write. I adore you, truly, and am so happy to call you my friend. I love this post, and I get it. Totally agree.


Shannon said...

Thanks sweets. I think I scared most people away with it though. And yes I am honest. Sometimes brutally. Good and bad.

JennyA. said...

No fear here, Shannon. I loved your post. It spoke to me - loudly. You are a treasure.

Shannon said...

Thanks Jenny! xoxo