The Holiday Response: “Light or Flight.”
It’s the season of larger than life holidays accompanied by larger than life emotions—joy, gratitude, affection, and also for some of us fear, dread and low self esteem.
For a lot of people not named Martha Stewart, Thanksgiving and Christmas are both scarier than Halloween, and New Year’s Eve is just plain paralyzing. Many of us fantasize about running away. Instead of visions of “sugar plums dancing in our heads,” there are dreams of palm trees and warm sunny beaches in Florida, or Hawaii or a ski resort in California; and maybe a stop by to see if the tables are in a seasonally giving mood in Las Vegas.
When this holiday season waltzes its way to our doorsteps, it will find there slightly hearty mums and what used to be pumpkins; already the pressure mounting. When do we switch to the cornucopia-themed accouterment at the door with all those oddly colored ears of corn and whicker baskets, or do we just skip all that pilgrim silliness and go straight to the inflatable Rudolph, Frosty and Santa with the satellite reckoning laser light show on the house.
Of course, we can resist all of the decorating for religious reasons, or we can rationalize in other ways if we choose to, but we still have to eat. Just thinking of the imminent and numerous celebrations, and the get-togethers and the gatherings and the sleepovers and the family and the food and cocktails is enough to make you want to nap. This is the moment of the physiological effect, you can choose “fight or flight,” or in this case, choose “light or flight.”
If you have small children—babies and toddlers—in the family, then Gramps and Uncle Stan look forward to seeing you at their place in during the holidays and it doesn’t matter to the kiddies where they are, they are getting spoiled and the grown-ups are getting their time with the little ones. Once you are traveling to visit Mom Mom and Pop Pop’s place with your freshly minted teens though, Gramps is a somewhat less enthusiastic host, the place seems a lot smaller and warmer and funkier, and Uncle Stan is nowhere to be found and the teens are dourly outfitted in full seasonal civil disobedience regalia. Joy.
So, where did Uncle Stan go?
Odds are good Stan and his tribe took a flight and are skiing on brand new California powder, or sunning on the beaches there, or Hawaii or Florida. Stan loves Vegas, he might be there. Traditions have to begin somewhere, Stan is out there making it happen and for many of the folks for whom the season’s allure has evolved with the nature of their personal circumstance, Stan’s the man with the new plan. We all have to change to accommodate our new reality. Get out of town, buy a Christmas tree for your hotel in Naples or San Diego. Enjoy a Thanksgiving turkey prepared by a celebrity chef in Las Vegas, see what New Year’s Eve looks like in California or on a Hawaiian Island.
If the holidays make you think about snowplows and traffic jams and store crowds and dirty dishes, and overindulgence—it maybe time for the Stan plan, there’s no shame in it, and there might be a suntan and some happy family members.
However, for each dreading dozen of us who choose flight, there is one of the others, one of those who choose to light the season. Shining brightly among every group of friends, every family, in just about every neighborhood, there operating in ornament-themed earrings, coordinated red and green scarves and hats and gloves, there is a super host giving us all a place and reason for our holiday cheer. They arrange the big event, they throw the party, cook the meal, host the family. They have the big house, the proper seasonal decorations, the creative themed and garnished cocktails and appropriate matching glassware and all the fabulous meals. These holiday hosts love this season; they love to be the cornstarch and water that holds their circle of friends and family together. This season big box chain Walmart has a television advertising campaign airing called “Here’s to the Hosts” which shows these superhuman beings making seasonal magic happen at home for the holidays.
They are beaming with happiness and pride. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a huge burden.
For these fabulous folks I would suggest, after you have taken care of us, make yourselves a fabulous travel plan to take care of yourself; getaway to some place warm and sunny, or snowy and fabulous, enjoy an exclusive extravagance, craft a luxury escape, take a vacation for crying out loud you deserve it.
On behalf of the dreaders and rationalizers, we recommend that you take care of yourself in this way. Escape. Let someone else take care of you for a change, serve you and clean up after you. It will make us feel better.
But not until after the holidays, you’ve got a party to plan.