Dear Vicki: It’s been a tough year for me in many ways and the whole idea of creating the holidays my family has come to expect depresses me. But the minute I decide to cut back on buying gifts, I feel guilty. On top of that, even though my children have families of their own, when I mentioned not baking Christmas cookies, they were shocked and now I’m worried they’ll be too disappointed. I’m taking care of my own mother and working full time, so I just don’t have the energy or joy in me to do the whole holiday thing. I’m relatively new the Five Elements, but think I could be an Earth. Is there an easy way to tell my family that I want to skip the holidays this year? Signed: Tired in Tennessee
Dear Tired: I can promise that you’re not alone in your desire to skip the holidays. I’ve heard from many people – mostly women – who have expressed similar sentiments. And it’s understandable. In the US, the holidays have become a behemoth commercial event perpetuated by a retail industry brilliant at pushing all of our “make it perfect for those you love” buttons. Somehow, we seem to have bought into the idea that bigger and better gifts equate to greater love. But deep inside, we know that isn’t true. So why does it exert such a hold on many of us? It won’t surprise you to hear that I believe there’s a Five Elements reason we often go overboard with our celebrations this time of year.
As readers of this blog have heard me say time and again, the dynamics of the Five Elements model are all about obtaining and maintaining balance. Within the model, the Five Elements interact in ways that guarantee more energy will be provided if an element is deficient, and energy will be removed if an element is in a place of excess. And it works perfectly because the whole purpose of the model is to maintain a balanced state of optimal functioning. The model doesn’t decide to go crazy one month a year and overdo everything in the name of love, power, or profits. But if it did, the dynamics are there to automatically bring things back to balance.
We humans do have a tendency to go crazy around the holidays, usually in the name of love. For centuries, gift giving has been a primary expression of love and esteem. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s actually part of our Five Elements make-up. Sharing with others is an expression of the Earth element. Earth is also where home, family, food, and deep, lasting friendships sit. Sounds like the holidays, right? And those clever advertising people figured out decades ago that if they tied all of these things together during the holiday season, they create a very powerful message. Nothing tugs at our heartstrings more than the idea of sharing time, gifts, and meals with those we love during the holidays. And again, there’s nothing wrong with the idea. What is wrong is that the expression of this idea has become very unbalanced, mostly because our western cultures are yang-based patriarchies. Yang energy believes that more is always better than less. So in a patriarchal culture, we have come to “believe” that doing/sharing/giving more means loving more. And I think that’s where you’re getting tripped up. Honestly, that’s where we all get tripped up. We’re pretty much all celebrating the holidays from a place of imbalance and it’s taking us down. But we don’t need to go down; we can bring balance back. Clearly not for our whole culture, at least not right away, but certainly for our families and friends.
I believe you’re correct in assuming that you’re a primary Earth element. This makes you more susceptible to holiday expectations than the other elements, but even they aren’t completely immune to holiday excess. Woods will get into the gift giving and socializing as a way to reflect well on themselves. Fires will love the partying as a way to connect and have fun with others. Metals will give gifts and reluctantly socialize because in our culture, it has become the “right” thing to do. Only Waters might be able to pull themselves away from the holiday hoopla and find a quiet corner to ponder the real reasons for the season. But for those poor primary Earths, and people with a strong secondary Earth, the holidays have come to be the mother of all set-ups. Worried that bigger/better/more just might equate to greater love, Earths drive themselves (and some family members) crazy trying to do it all. But there is a fix, and of course, it has to do with the Five Elements.
In the Five Elements model, excess Earth is managed by Wood via the Controlling Cycle. Wood anchors and stabilizes Earth, providing the structure and boundaries Earth often lacks. As an Earth trying to do too much, more Wood is what you need when you face the holidays. You need Wood’s visionary ability to plan, to communicate clearly, and to create and hold boundaries (no matter how soft your exhausted Earth heart is). I encourage you to sit down with your family and assure them all that you love them dearly. Then, in a practical and linear Wood fashion, outline what seems reasonable for you to accomplish and what needs to go this holiday season. If items on the “needs to go” list matter to your adult children, they can do them. And that’s an option for you, too. Woods are great at delegating, so you could outline what it takes to create the holidays they love and share the tasks equally among all of you.
But as straightforward as this all sounds, it’s not going to be easy for you as an Earth, so you’ll need to avoid the guilt and worry traps of excess Earth by staying vigilant about building Wood. Wear green all the time, which is easy in the US given the emphasis on red and green during the holidays. Avoid the red, though, because that will build your Fire, which feeds Earth. Wear peppermint or lavender oils and jewelry made of green aventurine, malachite, emerald, or amber. On cool days in Tennessee, drink lots of dandelion or milk thistle tea. And if you find yourself slipping into guilt or worry, take a deep breath and exhale quickly making a sharp “Shhhhhhhhh” sound. You can also rest your fingers on the outer corners of both eyes for a few minutes. This will balance your Wood.
The end result is that you will likely find your family emphasizing the part of the holiday season you all love the most: sharing time together. I think many of us have come to realize that these connections matter more than any amount of material gifts. And that is as it should be. Happy Holidays to you and your family!