This post is for the fellow holiday shoppers.
We plan. We order. We unbox. We rebox. We wrap. All in order to make sure that those we love have a good holiday. All to make sure others are happy. All to make sure that we can be happy, too, once they are all happy.
All to make sure that we can be happy, too, once they are all happy.
This conditional form of happiness is something we all do. We look to our charges and say, who is the most unhappy? I am with that one. We do these because we are tenders, caretakers, and lovers, but I have begun to wonder if we are doing anyone a service by creating a conditional sort of happiness in our lives.
Here was my experiment. I decided to be happy no matter the emotional state of those I love. I decided that I was going to have a great Christmas even if they had a so-so one. I decided that I was going to lead by example and not make my happiness dependent on any other human.
My experiment started with a week, which bled into a month, which turned in a way of living. I began to see my housemates as fully functioning humans who could decide for themselves what sort of mood they wanted to be in. I decided that they were equally capable of making choices, changing their thinking, and creating new ideas, if they wanted to. I decided that my own good opinion of me was going to matter more than what they thought of me.
This shift, which I made over the course of several years, freed me from worry about those I love. It also freed me to own, and process, my own emotions, which were often neglected as I tended to others. This shift, which was something I saw as an experiment of last resort, gave me the confidence to say, you are no longer responsible for how I feel.
Those I love might be surprised by this because they never once thought it was my responsibility to tend to their emotional state. They never once expected that I would be miserable simply because they were miserable. The never once voiced a worry that they needed to curb their emotional state in order to meet mine.
We caretakers have a lot going for us. We are lovers at heart. This year, I am making sure that the person I love first is me. That the mood I emanate is one that I am embracing because it makes me feel good. That the feelings I savor and enjoy are ones that matter to me.
If you, like me, enjoy seeing your loved ones happy, then start today noticing every moment where they are happy. If you, like me, enjoy seeing your loved ones succeeding, then start today by counting the moments that they are succeeding. And if you, like me, want to establish some boundaries around whether you let others control you emotionally, then start today by saying, I am in charge of how I feel; I am not in charge of how you feel.
My own personal experience leaves me with much to celebrate. My children are healthy, happy, and finding their own way through life. I give credit to my decision to separate myself, from their emotional state, and reclaim my responsibility over my own emotional state.
We all wait for that pinnacle moment during the holidays when everyone is overfed, over gifted, and over the hump of the holiday season. We imagine that that day will be filled with joy, glee, and happiness. We each have a chance, today, to bring some of that joy into today by capturing the small moments where we find it, rather than trying to create one moment where we have it.