As someone who has lived through over 50 Decembers, I have learned many life lessons about Hanukkah and Christmas (some I wrote about here). I consider it a good sign that I am still learning more with each holiday that passes, and as long as I am still learning life lessons — and regularly reminding myself to live by them — I can become the kind of person I am striving to be.
Since the holidays can be overwhelming at times, here are a few life lessons and worthy reminders to keep in mind:
Nobody has the perfect family or the perfect life. We are all struggling with something. The pressure to have the “perfect” holiday, with a warm and loving family, lots of gifts and decorations, and the perfect life partner, often makes people depressed and makes this time of year hard because most of our realities don’t match this fantasy. One of the advantages of being post-50, is that the older I get, the more people I get to know. Those people have shared their experiences with me. Even people who from the outside I thought had the “perfect” life, might have a dysfunctional family that they are estranged from, have financial problems, have lost loved ones to substance abuse or alcoholism, struggle with loneliness at the loss of a partner from illness or divorce, or are fighting an illness themselves.
No matter how sad we might feel, being good to others really does make us feel better. As I wrote last year, giving is good for us. When I give a friend a gift, when I do something nice for a stranger, or when I volunteer and help others in the community, I often feel that I get back just as much, or even more than they do. I stop thinking about myself and think about them. Happiness is contagious.
Create the kind of holiday tradition that you value and that means something to you. Just because you have always done something, or because your parents did it, doesn’t mean it is still right for you. Make a commitment to yourself to only do those things that makes the holiday happier for you, not something that makes you feel sad or creates more stress than pleasure. To use an over-used cliché “life is short,” and the time we have to share it is limited — so don’t waste your days.
Be good to yourself. Do not forget self-care; it is even more important during the holidays. Stick to your exercise and healthy eating routine as much as possible, schedule alone time so you can relax, unplug and recharge. Don’t forget to do the little things that make you feel good. After all, it’s the season of giving, and you should put yourself at the top of the list. If you don’t, you will have nothing left to give to other people.
Are there any life lessons that you have learned from some of your hard holidays? Share them in the comments section so that others can learn from them too.