published Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Holiday fear can change to cheer

No one is born with a fear of the holidays. It sort of develops.

To those unfortunate ones, the hustle and the bustle feel like an anxiety attack waiting to happen. Gift giving is accompanied with the shadowy risk of disappointment.

How do you transform holiday fear to Christmas cheer?

Not all holidays are the same. There were those wintry seasons that caught me too far from home to come back, and I spent a Christmas, New Year's or Thanksgiving celebrating makeshift with people I barely knew.

There were others that found me unable to see very important people in my life, and I felt downhearted. Others were deliriously happy, like the time all my nieces and nephews were present and we had a familywide talent show, complete with harmonious singing and skits.

Or the time I spent them with two college girlfriends who made me laugh non-stop, even when I got locked out of my house in my PJs trying to say goodbye.

But this year, after a stressful week that caused my spirit to feel deflated at the mere thought of putting up a tree, or wrapping gifts, or even shopping -- I decided to treat myself. I got my hair cut spontaneously at the salon. The style was perfect, and I shook it playfully when I was complimented. I went to have my nails painted and let the young lady draw a beautiful, snowflake design on them that made me happy, like a little girl. I decided to get false lashes again, though in the past this has proven to be an misguided act that left me partially eyelash bald. I even got a half-priced massage with a spirited therapist who lifted my mood from the moment I walked in. Wow.

And then I visited Main Street, where a friend and I ate hot tamales to the tune of Latin music, listened to a wonderful bluegrass band, and drank the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted. Suddenly, the holidays became joyous again.

Sometimes it's in the small things. In "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," Dr. Seuss writes, "And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?"

And then there's this from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol":

"But I am sure that I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round ... as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely."

Though we should surely think of others during this season, sometimes we have to bring the cheer to ourselves first so we have the energy and overflow to bring it to others. My last quote is from Dale Evans. "Christmas, my child, is love in action." How beautiful, how true. Even if some of that love is reserved for you.

Tabi Upton, MA-lpc, is a therapist at CBI Counseling Center. Email her at tabiupton@bellsouth.net.

about Tabi Upton...

Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center.

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