Skipping the Holidays?

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.

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The Holiday Season: What Matters to Each Element

Dear Vicki: “I’m devastated that my grandchildren won’t be here for Thanksgiving. How could their parents decide to take them to Hawaii?”

Dear Vicki: “I don’t want to go to the company holiday party. Can I get out of it?”

Dear Vicki: “My husband is obsessed with finding the perfect gift for his best friend. How can I convince him that’s not the point?”

Dear Vicki: “I want to host the family holidays this year. I throw better parties, but my sister says they’re too loud. Who should win?”

Dear Vicki: “My wife and I have always had a quiet ceremony on New Years Eve, but now she thinks we should go to her best friend’s house instead. Really?”

Etc.

Dear Readers: To paraphrase A Tale of Two Cities, the holiday season is the best of times, and the worst. The holidays celebrated from November through January, replete with tradition and meaning, guarantee that fun and ceremony will likely end up co-mingling with pushed buttons and dashed expectations. “We’ve always done it this way; that matters to me” must dance with “We’ve always done it this way; I think it’s boring.” To help you navigate the holiday season and keep your relationships harmonious, I offer a brief summary of what will matter to each of the elements, and what won’t. There are also a few suggestions regarding ways to keep the season happy for everyone.

Water People: Odd as it may seem, the hustle-bustle of the holidays sits in Water time, which is winter here in the northern hemisphere, a time for quietness and contemplation. This energy of going inside sets the tone for Waters’ lives, so don’t expect your Water friends and family to start acting like Fires just because the holidays are here. On their own, or in quiet talks with others, Waters will emphasize the meaning of the season and how it relates to the bigger picture of almost everything. Ultimately, they might be willing to participate in events they deem important, but you may still need to coax. If and when they do show up, help them feel welcome and part of things by finding a small group of people with whom they can enjoy deep discussions. I know one woman who invites several philosophy junkie friends to her family party every year to help keep her Watery uncle engaged. Be gentle with the Waters and remember that if things get too intense, they might float away to a quiet cove for a while. Let them. And holiday season or not, remember that time alone will still be of paramount importance to your Water friends and family.

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Wood Needs Holiday Help Processing Loss

Dear Vicki: My partner Jillie and I have been together for eight years and have lived together for the past five years. This summer, our house was damaged beyond repair in a storm, so we have moved into an apartment with the small amount of our household goods that were salvageable. The holidays are coming and I know it’s going to be a very different year, but my usual optimism is failing me. I used to love decorating and hosting family and friends, but this year I just want to ignore the whole season. Jillie is a Metal/Earth and has been clear she’d like to have some kind of festivities. I’m a Wood/Earth, so should want that, too, but I’m just not feeling it. All I feel is exhausted, not particularly supported by Jillie, and a complete lack of enthusiasm for the whole season. What can I do? Signed: Sad in the South

Dear Sad: I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. It’s always difficult to move forward after a tragedy, and the holidays can be an especially challenging time to do this. The memories of what has been lost can haunt us like Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Past, making current holidays hard to imagine. This will be especially hard for you and Jillie because you both have a good amount of Earth, which is where home and family sit. What Jillie has going for is her Metal energy which makes it possible for her to detach from expectations regarding the holidays. Sadly, it isn’t going to be as easy for you. Expectations sit smack dab in Wood and I think it’s your Wood that’s a major factor in how you feel.

You and Jillie have faced a significant loss together and even though you both have a lot of Earth, how you process that loss and move forward will be very different. Jillie’s Earth is a secondary to her Metal and relates to it on the Nurturing Cycle. So even though she was probably just as devastated as you were by the loss, her Earth fed her Metal and made it easier for her to let go of things. This heightened Metal would also long for a traditional acknowledgement of the holiday season since traditions matter to Metals. You, on the other hand, also have Earth as your secondary, but your primary element is Wood. These two elements relate on the Controlling Cycle. In the face of the loss, your Wood probably rose up to manage the chaos and in the process took down some of your Earth energy. Less Earth energy for you means less connection to Earthy things like holidays.

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