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 overwhelms me. But the minute I decide to cut back on decorating and 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 this year they were shocked and now I’m worried they’ll be too disappointed if I don’t bake. I’m taking care of my own mother and working full time, and I just don’t have the energy or joy in me to do the whole holiday thing. 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 very understandable. Here in the U.S. the holidays have become a behemoth commercial event perpetuated by a retail industry brilliant at pushing all of our “make it perfect” buttons. Somehow, we seem to have bought into the idea that bigger and better matter, but deep inside I suspect we know that isn’t true. So why does the commercialization of the season still exert such a hold on us?
I think most of us go crazy around the holidays 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 relationships sit. Sounds like the holidays, doesn’t it? And those clever advertising people figured out decades ago that if they tie 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 gifts and meals with those we love during this special season.
In truth, there’s nothing wrong with this idea. What is wrong is that the expression of this idea has become exceedingly unbalanced, mostly because our western cultures are patriarchies, which by definition are yang energy dominant. Yang 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. But that doesn’t need to happen, especially to you. Let’s look at how you can bring balance back to yourself and your family this holiday season.
It sounds to me like you are a primary Earth personality. You feel guilty at the thought that you aren’t doing enough, worried that your children will be disappointed, and are exhausted from taking care of others. This is classic behavior for out of balance Earth people. And because most aspects of the holidays tend to embody Earthy activities like food and family, people with Earth personalities are a little more likely to succumb to overblown holiday expectations than the other elemental personalities. That said, however, each elemental personality does have vulnerabilities around the holiday hoopla.
Wood people can use the gift giving and socializing aspect of the holidays as opportunities to stand out (which matters to them) and often wear themselves down in the process. Fire personalities can go crazy with the partying aspects of the holidays because they so love the fun, but if unchecked, they can literally burn themselves out. Metal people will join the whole gift-giving and socializing scene because it has become the “right” thing to do, but it really isn’t their nature; too much of it will create dismissive, controlling people out of their previously kind selves. Only Waters might be able to pull themselves away from the holiday craziness and find a quiet corner together to ponder the real reasons for the season. And if they can’t, Water people simply withdraw alone and end up characterized as Scrooge!
But for people who have primary Earth personalities like you, the holidays have come to be the mother of all set-ups. Worried that bigger/better/more just might equate to greater love, Earths often go overboard and 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, it is Wood energy that manages excess Earth energy via the Controlling Cycle. Wood anchors and stabilizes Earth, providing the structure and boundaries Earth often lacks.
As an Earth personality trying to do too much, more Wood energy is what you need when you face the holidays this year. 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 may be). 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 this holiday season and what needs to go. 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 allocate 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 U.S. given the emphasis on red and green during the holidays. Avoid the red, though, because that will build the Fire energy that feeds Earth. To build Wood energy you can also wear peppermint or lavender oils and/or jewelry made of green aventurine, malachite, or emerald. 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 as you do. All of this will help you build balanced Wood energy to manage your Earth.
With a bit of help from the Five Elements, I believe your family will be able to emphasize the part of the holiday season that matters the most: being together. After all, the gifts of time and love are the greatest gifts we can give anyone. Happy Holidays to you and your family!