Like many people, I don’t have the best of Christmas stories or memories. Finding anything positive to say about the season, from a storytelling point of view or otherwise, is a struggle.
The stories you tell yourself at Christmas, like those you tell at any time of year, are a function of your own history, your cultural and family training, and your own imagination. You have a choice about the stories you allow to define your ongoing reality. This is a pretty tricksy concept to get your head around at the best of times. If this is a new concept for you, Christmas may not be the best time to start the unravelling.
So, let me just say this. If you’re struggling with Christmas in general, or with Christmas memories, be kind to yourself. Don’t expect to fix a lifetime of stories in one highly-emotive season.
Instead, try a few of these very simple ideas that help me to function when all I really want to do is cuddle up with the dog and a bottle (hot water or alcoholic):
- Give yourself time and space to breathe. Whether it’s an hour-long yoga workout in the privacy of your own room, or a five minutes of peace in the bathroom at your in-laws. Take. Time. To. Breathe.
- When painful memories pop up, make a note of it and then allow yourself to set it aside—even if you tell yourself it’s just for now. The act of writing out painful memories can diminish the power they hold over you. This doesn’t mean anything has been fixed, only that they’re a little easier to let be just this moment.
- Know that you’re not alone, however much you may feel as though you are. Other people may not share exactly your Christmas story, but most of us have some version of seasonal pain. Even if you’re not in a time or place to share those stories, just know that other people are covering up their own discomfort with a thick layer of smiles and Baileys Irish Cream. At the very least, know that I’m here. If you want someone to write or talk to, in a judgement-free zone, that zone is me. Write to me. Tell me how you’re doing.
- Whether you’re with family, friends, or on your own, enjoy what you can and try not to give too much credence to what you can’t. I guarantee, once the season has passed, once the days become just a little bit longer and brighter, those memories and thoughts will be a little easier to handle. Then, maybe come June or July, when summer is in full flow and this season is distant, take a look at those Christmas memories and see what and where they take you.
- Make time for the small rituals that keep you connected to you. Its all too easy to put your true self into deep freeze when you’re forced into close proximity with other people at this time of year. Especially if you’re any kind of introvert. Whatever it is that’s important to you, be it walks with the dog, reading trashy romance novels, writing, or catching up with some form of a Real Housewife, give yourself time for you.
- Indulge in a few early nights. Take a book, a mug of hot chocolate, your dog or partner with you and just chill out.
- Give yourself something to look forward to. Sign up for a class, book a trip to see someone you really, really want to see.
- Set yourself a challenge—something that tests a deeply-held story you tell yourself about yourself—and then tell someone about it. Tell me about it too, if it helps keep you on track.
Whatever you’re up to, today, tomorrow and in the coming weeks, be kind to yourself and know that you are not defined by any one moment. Your Christmas stories are not all that you are. The stories you tell about yourself need to be told with the same care you would tell stories about those you love most. That includes the stories you tell yourself about yourself.
And remember, you can write to me any time.
See you on the other side.
p.s. If you have time to spare over the holidays and are looking for something positive to do, why not try a few of the Root Stories memory exercises?