Meg Luce: Making the holidays happy in the purple tier
Everyone can agree that in many ways, 2020 has been stressful beyond belief. And here it is, holiday time, and the challenges keep coming. There is much for couples to negotiate from whether to be with extended family at all and, if so, inside or outside, with how many people in attendance, and what about having quick hugs with masks on? Aside from a large group gathering at The French Laundry, which I think we can all safely rule out, there are many choices for couples to consider.
Whereas the holidays typically have their share of domestic disputes, this year, couples have their work cut out for them due to a whole other layer of decision-making. With 45 California counties currently in the “Purple Tier” and the corresponding set of safety restrictions, it creates something to figure out together. Whether you agree with the limits or not, differing opinions are something to navigate along with those of family, friends and your dear spouse. Navigating the holidays well in the purple tier will require flexibility, imagination and a dose of humor. We can look forward to future holidays when a return to all the traditions can reenter our lives. But first, it would be nice to get through this year with our relationships intact.
It’s OK To Be Sad
If you are experiencing lockdown grief, it is understandable. For many people, the collective loss of normalcy might be even more challenging during the holidays. Meet the challenge by slowing down and tuning into your feelings rather than avoiding them. For example, if you find yourself often angry, you might find sadness underneath your irritable exterior. This could be the year to learn to recognize and cope with your strong emotions. If you are interested, check out the great mindfulness meditation by Tara Brach called RAIN. The acronym stands for Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture.
Allowing your feelings to surface doesn’t mean you have to feel blue throughout the purple tier holidays. Quite the contrary is often true. As suggested in Rumi’s poem, “The Guest House,” when you allow your emotions to surface, they will often come and go like a visiting guest. (Like back when we had visiting guests!) If you do feel stuck, pick up the phone and call a therapist. We are here to help.
OK, here is the tough one. If you can challenge yourself to be flexible during holidays 2020, you will have a lot more fun. When you look back next year, how will you want to remember your season in the purple tier? How you spent your holidays complaining to your spouse about how they and your extended family didn’t get it? Or would you rather remember how you overcame your urge to be the Grinch and decided to go with the flow and make the best ever double-decker pumpkin cheesecake?
Your kids will take their cues from you. If you can be flexible with your spouse and extended family, they will have a better chance of doing the same. (FYI, sometimes it takes a few years to catch on.)
People are missing pre-pandemic celebrations, and yet, many are also finding new ways to mark festive occasions. Priya Parker, author of “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters,” provides loads of inspiration for improvising on holiday gatherings. In her recent New York Times article, Ms. Parker suggests we start by asking, “what do we need this year” for the holiday? Perhaps smaller cluster gatherings will give a chance for more in-depth sharing. Ideas include sharing funny memories, favorite teachers, and goals for the future. Maybe you’ve been too busy traveling in the past to get into cookie decorating with the kids. But look here, opportunity abounds.
Another way of improvising this year is by gathering around the Zoom lens. Fun ways to connect with friends and relatives on video are endless. Some suggestions are talent shows, Hanukah candle lighting, cooking together from afar, or charades. How about a holiday sing-along? (You know who you are. Are you in?) Get the children in on the brainstorming. What else can you and your family come up with?
Whether it’s outdoor gatherings with masks or smaller groups with those in your bubble, there are ways to be festive and grateful during this holiday season. We can’t control all of the events in this crazy world of ours, but we can decide how to respond. Why not respond with great intentions and goodwill? Make the holiday season bright—you got this!
Meg Luce, M.S., is a Marriage and Family Therapist in Grass Valley specializing in helping couples create satisfying relationships. You can find her contact info at https://NevadaCountyTherapist.com
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