4 Pointers for Surviving the Holidays

For some peeps, it's the most wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful time of the year. Then, there's the rest of us. (Also, I'll give you a little update on last night.)


Who among you is OUT THERE TODAY? Is anyone reading? Is anyone at work? (Here I am, a voice crying in the darkness, apparently ... or, at least, a voice crying out from the Internet void.) ... Hello?

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I went on that second date last night. It was very nice. I had the scallops. It was not love at second sight. But I certainly went into it with a MUCH better attitude, thanks to all your comments ...

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Today, before I take off for North Jersey, I've got to deliver some chocolates to my favorite neighbors. (Even the one who has said to me before, in his very thick accent and broken English: "Why you no baby? Why you no man?" Why he no tact? Regardless, he's so sweet--he helps me dig my car out of the snow, and often asks if he can get me a soda from the bodega--that I am very fond of him.) I've also got to wrap some presents, stop by the bakery for a pie, and hit the gym--I hope? Then I'll make the drive over the bridges and get out to where my pop lives. (Anyone need a ride?)

Tonight, he and I will be having dinner with some dear old family friends--The Connors!--who have managed to be wonderfully supportive and hearty all through the years ... even when my father (who gets incredibly moody over the holidays) has acted like a bit of a pain in the gluteal muscles. For instance, more than once, he has abruptly announced he will not be participating in any Christmas festivities--and he has, more than once, stuck to his word and stayed at home, by himself. Other times, he has picked obstreperous political fights during dessert. Other times, he would just only barely speak. So ... maybe you get the picture.

But now that he's on anti-depressants, he's been much more dependable. So I think things will go smoothly this year.

Regardless, this week, I've found myself more than once having to dig out of an extremely bad mood that has come upon me for no good reason; I suspect at least part of the problem is mental muscle memory: my brain knows Christmas is coming, and it's been such a tumultuous and disappointing time, in the past, that some part of my head is anticipating the worst, even though the forecast seems good.

Anyway, along these lines, if YOU often get into fights with family members (or simply feel unstressed or unhappy around them) during the holidays, I thought I'd give you a few tips for getting through the next few days ...

1) Go easy on the alcohol. We all think drinking makes us a little less uptight, a little more relaxed. The reality is that it can heighten our emotional reactions, and make us more prone to outburts of anger, or crying jags. So have a glass of wine or two, but don't go overboard. The other problem with boozing too much is the hangover--which could very well put you in a terrible mood the next day, and make you more vulnerable to mood swings.

2) Get enough sleep. For some people--those who are traveling a lot, for instance, or those who are trying to squeeze everything in--getting proper shut-eye over the holidays is a challenge. But depriving yourself of your ZZZ's means you feel cranky, short-tempered and more sensitive to the family politics or sibling rivalries that get under your skin. If you're well-rested, there's a better chance you'll be able to take everything in stride.

3) Fill your heart with love today -- as David Bowie might say. Don't condescend to anyone, but try to remember all the hard experiences, and even just genetic misfortunes, that cause people to act the way they do. In my father's case, as I mentioned last week, depression runs in the family ... and when my dad was just 10 or 12, his little brother, who was 8, died of lockjaw (in impoverished Ireland) on Christmas Day. I really don't think he ever got over it, and in the past, whenever my father's been really difficult, I've tried to picture as that little sensitive boy who got such a terrible surprise.

know it's not easy to be empathetic--especially when we're talking about your parents. Because no matter how old they are, THEY're the adults--and you're the kid! But try.

If you need some help, dig this quote from a character named Zossima in what's probably my favorite novel of all time, THE BROTHER KARAMAZOV:

"Love one another ... [Each of us] is responsible to all humankind

for all and everything, for all human sins ... Only through that knowledge, our

heart grows soft with infinite, universal, inexhaustible love. Then

every one of you will have the power to win over the whole world by

love and to wash away the sins of the world with your tears."

John Lennon might've put it thusly: All you need is love. I know that's something of an oversimplifaction ... but I think there's something to it.

4) Know that you're not alone! A lot of us fight with our families. A lot of us feel like there are certain dynamics that will never change, that will never be anything less than infuriating. But if you're feeling trapped or alone or misunderstood ... please know that you're NOT alone. (I'm with you!)

BONUS TIP: If all else fails, take a (sober) ride in your car, and listen to some loud rock music. Or just check out this duet by the two dudes I quoted today: David Bowie and John Lennon, doing a pretty killer rendition of Bowie's song FAME. Dig it! (Also, please give me whatever Bowie is having. With less chest hair.)

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Lovelies, I's gots to get going now, because I'm already late ... and being late is the kind of thing that will upset my father, so I want to be sensitive to his needs!

But before I go--and I'll get into this more around New Year's Eve---I do want to say that writing this blog has been a very nice thing in my life. And it really works both ways: A lot of you have written in to say it's nice to hear that someone else (i.e. me) is going through stuff that's similar to what you're dealing with. Well, it's nice for ME, too, to know I'm not the only one.

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Happy holidays! Whatever you doing, whatever you're celebrating, I hope you enjoy it.



PS: I'd love it if you became a fan on Facebook.


dear commenters:

this is only brief, because i need to roll. but thank you for all your insights! and reprimands. more soon.