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What Will You Remember From The Holidays?

I had the radio on while I was out yesterday, trying to stay afloat in the sea of holiday traffic. What I heard was a constant barrage of, “Do you know what makes the holidays great?” And, “This is a must for your holidays!” — all with the incessant backdrop of sentimental Yuletide music and jingle bells.

I turned it off.

At this juncture, I have a fair number of holiday seasons under my belt. Whatever they were trying to sell me wasn’t going to make any day great or cause my holidays to be the best ever.

I know what makes a holiday meaningful, to me at least. I know what I look forward to, and what, when it’s over, I smile about.

First, it’s the feelings.

Feeling the easy laughter of long-time relationships. Riding an excited rush as you catch your first glimpse of someone you haven’t seen in far too long. Sensing the warmth of tears welling right behind your eyelids as a toast is made in honor of someone who’s no longer by your side. Watching with gentle amusement as the now adult children you’ve guided and loved try to coax their own children into settling down for a nap. Hearing about a planned surprise and enjoying the anticipation of seeing someone you love feel special.

And — it’s the effort. It takes effort to travel. It takes planning to put together a big meal for lots of people. It’s work to decorate, to put up lights or try to make sure favorite rituals still happen. Knowing that both your favorite and your not-so-favorite relatives will be arriving? That can require both patience and a sense of humor, neither of which is necessarily readily available during the holidays.

Now efforts don’t always “work.” Maybe my tree won’t be spectacular, maybe my rolls won’t rise, maybe Santa will bring something that’s too small, and I’ll vow to eat Paleo for a year.

But when January’s icy blasts arrive, or I’m sweating it out in July’s humidity, I’ll remember the effort, and enjoy those warm feelings all over again.

Next year? Those damn rolls will rise.

Oh I forgot… I’m now eating Paleo.

Happy Holidays to each one of you.

Looking to make sense of the feelings that get stirred up by the holidays? Read 5 Ways to Combat the End of Year Blues and What Do Do When the Friendship is Over.

Margaret Rutherford

Dr. Margaret Rutherford is a clinical psychologist, who has practiced for over twenty years in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Since 2012, her writing has been found on her own website, as she writes about mental health, with a special focus on Perfectly Hidden Depression, midlife and relationship issues. She's the current mental health columnist for Midlife Boulevard, writes an advice column on Vibrant Nation, is a weekly columnist for The Good Men Project, and hosts a regular FB Live video session on depression for The Mighty. Her work and expertise can also be found on The Huffington Post, Sixty and Me, Better After 50, Reader's Digest, Prevention, Psychology Today, and The Cheat Sheet. Dr. Margaret recently has launched a new podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford, where you can listen to her direct and down-to-earth advice.

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