I am trying to make sense of this, the deep feelings that come over me directly after a holiday. It might be when driving home from somewhere else, or when the door closes at my house after the flurry of goodbyes and coats and hugs. The sudden quiet, the change in energy… I find myself sucked into a vortex of sadness settling into my chest, an emptiness, loneliness. I find myself asking, Why?
Often, I will have had a good time celebrating the day. Even though I’m a quiet person, I’m more of an extrovert and love socializing. I have family. We have delicious feasts. But it often all ends too soon for me, with people rushing off, as people do in their busy lives. I find myself longing for more — more connection, more laughter, more time spent together. Is this all there is?, I wonder.
Maybe I’m looking for more than any special day can give. Maybe I’m hoping to fill some empty, desolate places inside me. I used to do this with food when I was deeply entrenched in my eating disorder. I wanted the food to be special and make me feel Wonderfully Good. But it never really “worked,” except to numb me out. It’s just food, fuel, flavors, I’d realize. Not magic.
The holidays DO promise magic. They are heightened times of feelings and expectations, something special and out-of-the-ordinary, with advertising campaigns galore. The sad little kid in me wants to believe in it all, and really, what can live up to it? When it’s over, we are just left with ourselves once again.
My friend Serena has spent most of her holidays alone for quite awhile. She says, “I get bummed out around the holidays too. You are not alone! My expectations are now very very very very very very very very low. Even so, i find myself missing the small parts of my life that held good moments. I am working on feeling thankful for them. And I do feel thankful.”
Gratitude is such a powerful tool in living a better life, one that I forget too often. It is a perspectives-shift, and a way to rewrite the stories in our lives. When I think of all that I have to be grateful for just around the holidays, something softens in me. I do have so much to be grateful for.
And yet, this sadness. I don’t think you can just gratitude-away your emotional process. I may not entirely understand where my own lonely-emptiness is coming from, and maybe I don’t need to. Maybe I can’t stop the feelings or shouldn’t even try to. Feelings are there for a reason and I’ve come to believe it’s good to acknowledge them, give them space.
But I am thinking maybe I can plan for them, in some way, around the holidays, to know they are likely going to show up, the possible probability of the sadness, the emptiness. Maybe then I can seek ways to nurture and comfort myself when they do come, a list of ideas, things I can do that might help remind me that I’m on my own side. And then, if the feelings come, I can help myself through them.
This is what I’m thinking about after Thanksgiving, a perfectly lovely holiday that I still felt sad after celebrating. Maybe these ideas will help me as we go into the bigger guns of Christmas and New Year’s. I will do some experiments!
How about you — do you feel blue after holidays? How do you deal with it? What helps for you?
[Photos courtesy of Eric-Ward-4554 and Jez-Timms-468 of Unsplash.com, and me. And thanks to my friend Serena for her words!]