Dear Vicki: This is supposed to be such a joyful time of year, but try as I might, I always end up sad and depressed around the holidays. And of course, with Covid this year, it’s even worse. I think of family and friends who have passed away from natural causes, and more recently a few from Covid, and I miss the holidays of my childhood. I am an adult who has been very content in her singlehood and happiest alone, but this time of year makes me question whether the effort I put into my legal career at the expense of relationships was wise. I know your blog is about relationships, but do you have any suggestions on how I can get through the holidays this year? I act like all the fuss is a colossal waste of time, but in all honesty, a small part of me wishes I wasn’t so automatically dismissive. I don’t expect to be joyful, but it would be great not to be so down. Signed: Sad in Sycamore
Dear Sad: Bless you for reaching out. The holiday season is a complicated time of year for all of us, especially this year. If we were lucky when young, we had parents who tried to make the holidays as magical for us as possible. We likely didn’t see the sacrifices they made to do this, or the responsibilities they juggled to manage it all. Even if we were this lucky, few of us ever experienced the kind of highly idealized holidays that the advertising world seems to insist is normal. Yet when we admit that we just don’t have the time, energy, or means to meet the expectations they create, we feel like failures.
For those of us whose holiday experiences centered on friends and family, the inevitable loss of loved ones over the years no doubt puts a damper on things. And this year, due to Covid-19, we’re all being encouraged to stay isolated, or at least keep celebrations to a gathering of the immediate household. Naturally, we all long for the magic of more normal holidays and times when we could gather freely with family and friends.
I want to assure you that these are all normal reactions and responses to our current situation and the procession of life through the years. People come into our lives, and people leave. There are wonderfully magical times, and times of sorrow and loss. That is life at its most basic. But that doesn’t mean we are destined to be victims of the past. There is much we can do to manage our response to the holidays this year, so let’s look at ways you can make a difference for yourself.
Based on your letter, I suspect you are a primary Metal personality. Metal people excel at the detail and focus it takes to study and practice law. Given its place at the end of the Five Elements cycle, Metal deals with endings; it is Metal’s job to discern what to take forward into the next cycle and then let go of the rest. When stressed, this focus on endings and letting go can create sadness and grief in people with primary Metal personalities. It’s hard for any of us to let go of someone or something that’s important, but it can be especially hard on a stressed Metal personality.
Further, stress often creates a rather prominent dismissive streak in those with a primary Metal personality. They assume they know more than most people (sitting at the end of the cycle as they do, they have seen it all) and this can come across in very unpleasant ways. That said, balanced Metal people are some of the kindest people alive. Their wisdom gives them a deep appreciation of the human condition and what people go through in life. Unfortunately, if particularly stressed, Metal people often forget to extend this kindness to themselves.
Another key character trait of the primary Metal personality is their tendency to focus on the past. Metals are brilliant at synthesizing wisdom from the past to use going forward, and this will be key in helping you through the holiday season this year. I can’t promise that it will ever be your favorite time of year, but there are aspects of the holidays that will appeal to your Metal approach to the world, and that is what we’re going to build on to help you. The key here is traditions, which is something that Metal personalities deeply appreciate.
Traditions are based on the past, which as we said, is the arena of Metal people. They are often the ones who develop opinions (also rules, regulations, and laws) regarding the “right” and “wrong” ways of doing things, be that driving a car, setting a table, or practicing law. Eventually, many of these widely accepted protocols become our traditions. This means that Metal people usually have a large part to play in developing traditions, and the holidays are nothing if not about tradition.
You don’t mention which holiday traditions were part of your family growing up, but I suspect some of your sadness is based on missing these traditions. Rather than just ignoring the season altogether, I encourage you to find ways to include some of these traditions in your life this year in whatever way you can. Whether a Christmas tree adorned your family home, a menorah sat in the window, or some other traditional representation of the holidays was part of your family, resurrect that tradition for yourself. It will not only connect you to your past, which will feel comforting, it will also feed your Metal soul to emphasize the reason for the tradition. Honoring this history is one way to provide a meaning to this season that will vastly surpass the commercialization it has taken on.
There is another aspect of the holidays that is also important for you to consider. As we have discussed in this blog many times, each of the Five Elements personalities has a season that is “theirs.” Winter relates to Water, Wood relates to spring, Fire to summer, Earth to transitional times between the seasons, and fall is the season for Metal. In the northern hemisphere, fall is when the activities of summer fade away and the energy of nature withdraws into the earth. Here in America, most of the holiday season falls during winter, the time when the bulk of nature is still, quietly preparing for the advent of spring.
This flow of energy from fall to winter, which is from Metal to Water in the Five Elements model, is a lot like the New Year’s celebration: It’s about letting go of the old and embracing the potential of the new. As a Metal person, this may be hard for you to do because, as we just said, the old is where the hard-won wisdom of Metal sits. But it’s a fact of life that each cycle must end and a new one begin. An excellent way to embrace this is to honor this transition with ceremony, which is something that Metal people usually enjoy.
Ceremony asks you to actively honor an event or a change. The holidays abound with ceremony that honors something in the past. Lighting a menorah is ceremony, decorating a Christmas tree is ceremony, Rohatsu meditation is ceremony, solstice celebrations are ceremony, Las Posadas processions are ceremony, caroling is ceremony, and the list goes on. And while some options may be limited this year due to the pandemic, I believe that using ceremony to honor the reason for the season in ways that are still available to you will help enrich your experience of the holidays this year.
I do have one final recommendation. As you mention, people with Metal personalities tend to enjoy time alone, but most holiday celebrations and ceremonies involve other people. Our childhood celebrations certainly included family, and often friends. So while you enjoy your singlehood, I wonder if a lack of connection with others during these festive times might be contributing to your sadness. Loud parties are not something a Metal person enjoys, and those should certainly be off limits during this pandemic anyway, but a small socially-distanced outdoor gathering or Zoom call with a few family members or friends could be meaningful.
Regardless of our elemental personality, the human soul is wired for connection at a deep level and it’s this connection that’s usually at the core of our most cherished holiday traditions. I encourage you to find a way to honor these traditions and human connectedness in some way as you create your own celebration of the holidays this year. And of course, it goes without saying that if you continue to feel sad and lonely, please reach out for professional help.
This will be a different holiday season for most of us, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a sad one. With a little thought and creativity, we can find ways to fill the season with some of the traditions and people who are important to us. And that can make a big difference. Blessings to you! Stay safe and well.