Quick show of virtual hands: how many of you are already feeling the post-holiday blues? Those tighter waistbands caused by the overindulgence of Christmas cookies or the few extra cocktails at your company’s holiday party. The post-Christmas letdown, knowing that the Hallmark movies, the hot chocolate and marshmallows on a random Wednesday, and the endless ads in your mailbox will not come around for another year (okay, let’s be honest, the ads never really go away). Or my newly favorite one this year: not sending the annual family holiday cards. Is anyone else reeling from this guilt-getter? Well I’m here to tell you (and myself): get rid of the guilt… like, right now. No, like really, RIGHT NOW.
Let me back up a bit and reveal a little more transparency to my life: I am one of those mamas who sends—without fail—a holiday book. Nope, that’s not a typo. I, for years, have created these four-to-six-page, beautifully-crafted booklettes (that’s what Minted calls them). These thick-enveloped mailers are typically complete with professionally-taken photographs of me and my family. Now you might be thinking, “Girl, that is straight up bananas!” Maybe it is. But I have done it for years. It’s the one time that I get an assortment of adorable photos of all of my kids actually smiling and looking at the camera with somewhat matching outfits. Well, let’s really face it: it’s the one time my family collectively doesn’t look like a bunch of goofballs. I color-coordinate my holiday book to the outfits my family is wearing that year (ahem: more like the outfits I forced, threatened, and pleaded with them to wear). These books are quite a spectacle, people, they really are. In fact, I often get texts once the Mathews holiday flip-through has arrived. Some have even said they feel guilty for tossing it with the rest of the holiday cards once the fireplace mantels have become too cluttered to bear. And I get it. Who the heck (besides me or maybe my parents) wants to keep an assortment of foil-pressed photos of little old me and my brood? So, it begs the questions: why do I feel the need to go to such Christmas-card extremes, and better yet, why did I throw out my (some might say obnoxious) annual tradition this year?
Let’s start with the first question. Why do I—or we—set such high expectations of ourselves at times only to feel the letdown after? I often wonder if these high standards of living and being are a way of staying in a cycle of shame and guilt when these over-the-top desires are not met. And who are these expectations meant to be for anyway? Do my family and friends expect me to send a cutely clad cluster of overpriced Christmas cards? Not at all. In fact, many of them have already seen some of the photos and heard some of the stories my book discusses because they have seen me throughout the year, talked or texted with me periodically, or if nothing else, have seen one of my Facebook or Instagram posts. So if it’s not for them, who is it for? I guess it’s for me. And maybe your lofty expectations are more for you as well. So you gained a few pounds over the holiday. Okay, so that happened. Now what? Does that mean you can’t lose it? Of course not. Does it mean that your mom, your fiance, and your dog are now going to shun you? Not at all. But it does mean that if we want to get back on a road to recovery—or a life of self-love—we need to give ourselves some slack. We need to treat ourselves with a little more care and a lot more kindness. And friends, I am talking just as much to myself as I am to all of you.
My second question feels a little more pertinent. Why did I forego the Christmas card exchange this year? Or for you, why did you choose to do something different—outside of your norm—this holiday season? Maybe you chose to skip Christmas altogether and opted for a Caribbean cruise, much to your family’s dismay. Perhaps you decided to have a “dry” December and not drink even an ounce of alcohol the entire month? Or maybe you, like me, decided to treat the end of this year like the rest of 2021… differently. This past year was unlike any year I have ever experienced. It was filled with monumental highs and some pretty hard lows. And I imagine with how much the world has changed since Covid and all its variants (flurona, really?), we all see life a little differently. We all DO life a little differently. And honestly, a holiday card talking about our family’s trip to Disneyland didn’t seem appropriate this December. It didn’t seem “real” enough.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions (I just wrote all about that if you want to check it out), but if I did, it would be to commit to doing life real. We can’t keep saying, “When things go back to normal.” This, I believe, is our new normal, friends. We wear masks, we socially distance ourselves, and we stick swabs up our noses anytime we want to go just about anywhere. And in our personal lives, life may operate differently there as well, and I believe that is not only okay, it’s good. It somehow always turns out good in the end, doesn’t it?
The sooner we embrace our new way of living and still choose to see what’s going well in our lives instead of what may seem to be falling apart around us, the better. The funny thing about expectations is that when we practice loving (ourselves and others), the easier it is for us to meet those expectations… or realize that they were ridiculous to begin with.
So what can you do right now to love yourself a little more today? To forgive yourself for those expectations you did not meet, or for setting such high standards that no one could achieve? For me, I am gently laughing at myself (with love) for the lofty ideas I have. I am committed to doing life differently and this year, it’s going to start with a new tradition: while everyone is tossing out the family holiday cards, I’ll be putting my family Valentine’s cards in the mail! Whether I will or will not send a booklette is still up for debate. I’ve got to start somewhere, right!?