It’s December 22, three days before Christmas and Hannukah and just a few weeks shy of 2017. My house doesn’t have a tree (again), and we are continuing the tradition of not sending Christmas cards. My husband never gets asked why we don’t do these things, but I do, and my answer is simple: “I don’t have time, and it’s not a priority.” I haven’t ever been bitten with the holiday bug, something people do not hesitate to tell me will happen “when we have kids” (but people telling me what I will do/how I will feel when I have children is a whole other post.)
For the most part, I don’t feel bad about my lack of Christmas cheer- I don’t spend any time feeling sad about our lack of decor or holiday cards. It is only when other people tell me I should feel nostalgic for these things that I ever question myself, or let the nagging feelings of guilt creep in. Overwhelmingly, the comments and questions that I receive about these personal decisions about how my household celebrates this holiday come from other women.
This time of year in particular, guilt is a downward spiral. When I start to feel minimally guilty about one small thing (holiday decor), I find myself ruminating on all of my other “failings”: all of the resolutions I didn’t keep, all of the goals I didn’t accomplish, all of the money I didn’t save, etc, etc. After just a few moments down this rabbit hole I find myself looking back at 2016 as a long list of failures rather than accomplishments. I feel anxious and sad. It’s crazy, right?
Luckily, I don’t stay in that rabbit hole long. And I’m writing this because I don’t want you to stay there, either.
I’m calling on my fellow women to stop the cycle of end-of-year-guilt. We might all have different ways of decking our halls, but we can ALL spread holiday cheer in one simple way: forgiving ourselves*.
So you didn’t lose the ten pounds you set out to lose/stick to your unrealistic in 2016? So what. My guess is that you probably made many healthy decisions, some of which were traditional (eating salad) and some of which were good for your soul (grabbing pizza and laughing with friends). Forgive yourself, and consider making a different resolution this year, such as nourishing your body with healthy food rather than depriving it of something else.
So you didn’t start daily the meditation practice that you’ve had on your resolution list for the past three years? So what. There is no time limit or expiration date on learning to meditate. You will get around to it. I don’t know much about meditation (this one is direct from my yearly list of resolutions that I haven’t kept), but I do know it isn’t mean to make you feel guilty or stressed.
So you didn’t have a baby? For lack of any better words: starting a family can be fucking scary, and it can be a lot harder than you may have ever expected for personal and biological reasons. This is one that as women we are all guilty of asking about and comparing ourselves to others. This year, let yourself feel any of the feelings you need to feel about your family life, and then just let yourself off the hook. Starting a family isn’t measured in calendar years for anyone except yourself. And for those of us struggling with any biological reasons that starting a family might be difficult: the holidays are really hard. Anyone who asks you “when you’re having a baby” can be told with any amount of sass that you deem appropriate to shut down that noise, ASAP. And you should not feel guilty about it.
So you didn’t get that promotion? As a woman, that hurdle is significantly harder to surmount than it is for your male counterparts. Instead of measuring your work success based off of one piece of a very large puzzle, reflect on some of the changes that you made in your career this year. Did you shut down any mansplainers or form any positive relationships? These are accomplishments, big and small, and you should celebrate them.
So you didn’t find “work/life balance”? No one did. We’re all working on it. All we can do is breathe, work hard, try to laugh daily, and figure it out as we go.
*and, stop questioning other women about their own decisions. That just spreads guilt.
I could continue this list of resolutions that you didn’t accomplish for thousands and thousands of words, but I won’t, because you get the picture. Lists like this one from a website I found during a simple Google search for common resolutions shouldn’t give you hives.
As you sign off from 2016, you aren’t leaving behind a list of failures. You’re leaving behind battle scars from work, personal life, and let’s be honest- one hell of a terrible election season that left most women significantly scarred one way or another.
But you made it through, you persevered, and you accomplished many great things. So, forgive yourself for the things you didn’t, and relax into whatever holiday tradition fits your lifestyle.
Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!