I am bypassing Christmas this year.
And, no I don’t have a ‘good’ excuse in terms of what is usually deemed appropriate: I am not going away for a vacation to a warmer climate, I don’t have a partner and kids to have a quiet holiday at home, most of my family doesn’t live far away making flight costs a barrier, and I am not grieving the loss of a loved one.
Nope. I am doing it because this year it is right for me.
Was it scary for me to tell my family about my decision – hell yes! Has it been awkward in social situations when the “holiday conversation” comes up – mostly. Partly because I still feel tentative in my courage to tell my truth.
(Although some people breathe a sigh of relief and tumble into their story of how they are doing the same – usually with a sense of liberation, followed by a sense of guilt. Are we being selfish?)
There are a lot of expectations and pressures around this time of year that I had to push through. I fear that I may be disappointing others. I fear that I may be judged. I fear that others may think I am judging them for their choices on how they celebrate the holiday. I fear that I may alienate myself from those I care about. And worse, I feared that my family would take it personally.
I love my family and have solid and loving relationships with them, even though I don’t get to see all of them as much as I would like. And I really value connection…like, A LOT. In fact, most of what I do in life is tethered to the values of connection - connection to self and others.
So why am I choosing to bypass this holiday season? For several reasons:
1. I am disheartened and pissed-off that the values of capitalism and consumerism have usurped this time of year. I can’t help but be hyper-aware of the consumer-driven focus that propels this season. And this sucks my soul dry. I am left feeling depleted, every time.
I can’t NOT think about it. I can’t NOT feel it.
And, I am left in existential anxiety about the state of our world, Western privilege and over-abundance, and all those people ‘going without’. I go there. Every. Time.
2. Following from the point above - this leaves me in total inner conflict. I love my family – we all deserve to have thoughtful gifts. And I do LOVE giving gifts. I love finding really meaningful (or what I hope will be meaningful!) and unique gifts for my family and friends, and spending the time to either create or support local businesses to buy gifts. But again, more times than not, this time of year doesn’t leave many of us the time, energy, or budget to do such.
3. The level of waste – from plastic packaging, to wrapping paper, to gifts that aren’t really needed or wanted, to trees. Oh god, the trees – it hurts. My insides are screaming "Why on earth, when we are living in an age of environmental collapse, are we still CUTTING DOWN trees? And then watching them die in our living rooms?". This makes me cry. I physically feel sick to my stomach. Existential anxiety = heightened.
4. I am an introvert and a highly-sensitive creature (perhaps obvious by now). I thrive best in one-on-one interactions and I desire to connect on things like our hopes and disappointments, relationships, feelings, community, what makes our soul come alive, and I truly want to listen to others stories. These conversations don’t usually happen in the busyness that this time of year brings. And, because I tend to shut down...
5. Add my sensitivity on top of everything I have mentioned so far, and I find myself feeling overwhelmed and over-stimulated, which tends to make me shut down or run off to find some quiet solo time.
And then my own story-lines about “not belonging” and “my inability to fit in” start to run rampant, and I am left feeling shitty. And then I usually feel angry and resentful that I am feeling shitty. Expectations and pressures, self-imposed and otherwise, become my worst enemy. And this can turn into a woeful puddle of deflation and sadness…on top of the existential dread.
Not conducive to holiday cheer.
6. Loss of magic and innocence – I guess I do grieve this. I wish I could still feel the magic and connection of Christmas. But I don’t. I feel a “season of shoulds” and hear this all around me in conversations, complaints and within heavy hearts and crowded highways.
7. Soul activism – I needed to choose differently this year. It is the truth of my soul, and I need to heed its call. It has taken courage, and I still feel a bit anxious about it. I also feel good about it. I am not saying that my choice to totally opt-out is the right choice in the grand scheme of things. But it is the right choice for me now. For this year.
And I am not naïve to the fact that this holiday will be just as difficult, but for different reasons. I will miss my family – and, I will make plans to be with them and connect at other times in the year.
Instead, I participated in a holiday-giving event that will bring gifts to women in need who are leaving abusive relationships. So that they will feel supported by a community that cares. And, I supported a local artist buying her beautiful art cards and writing personal messages to friends and family... bypassing the envelopes.
I will also be practicing my own rituals of gratitude for all the beautiful abundance in my own life - for my family, for a beautiful community of friends that support me, for a comfortable home, and for my ability to do meaningful and fulfilling work while also nurturing my creative expression through music. I have a lot to be thankful for. And I will send love and light to our global community, because this is how I roll, and it is needed.
I sincerely wish that you have a beautiful holiday season, however that looks for you, and that it is all that you hope for. I wish this for everyone.
Shauna Janz, MA is a passionate speaker, writer, educator, and musician. She engages audiences with her ability to create connective experiences that inspire empathy, insight and both personal and trans-personal awareness - never without a sprinkle of humor and laughter.
Sacred Grief - Shauna Janz
550-2950 Douglas Street
Victoria BC V8T 4N4
(Upper level, above Lifestyles Market)