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WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Psychotherapist Dr. Barton Goldsmith says that while it may be hard to be in the spirit of the season when you encounter people on the testy side in stores and driving to and from them. During this time of peace and joy, WE get to choose how to celebrate as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.
It’s the holidays, and some things are almost normal. Bing still sings “White Christmas” like no one else, Brittany put up her tree in October to add some light to her life, and many people seem more than ready for a good holiday season. But this year it also feels surreal.
We are still in a pandemic, and while this country has made progress, many states are seeing winter surges. Meanwhile, so much of the rest of the world is struggling far more. All this means that the holiday spirit may be a bit elusive for those trying their best to survive and get through this difficult time.
When you feel trapped, you naturally want to get out. It can also raise your anger levels. And many of us are still feeling the negative effects of living in the new normal that is “life with COVID-19 in America.” Life is harder now. Everything is more expensive, and many things take more time. Millions are not ready to get back out there again, and that’s OK. There is nothing wrong with a low-key holiday.
It may be hard to be in the spirit of the season when you encounter people on the testy side in stores and driving to and from them. I don’t understand aggression during what is supposed to be a time of peace and joy. You get to choose how you want to celebrate as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. That being said, people are holding grudges like never before, and that’s going to make a lot of gatherings awkward, to say the least.
All I really want for the holidays is for people to start being kinder to each other.
Every religious holiday this time of year encourages human kindness. This year it makes sense to protect ourselves, to be safe and smart enough to keep up the protocols for staying healthy. As many of the new cases are breakthrough infections of fully vaccinated people, now is not the time to get cocky. But staying healthy is compatible with being kind.
Vaccinated or not, let’s spend this holiday taking care of not just ourselves but also those less fortunate. Our holiday will be spent in our home with people we have never met, because they cannot afford to celebrate, and giving them a holiday with all the trimmings will be a gift for us as well. I know this is not for everybody, but the feelings we will share are what these occasions are really all about.
Adopting other families for the holidays turns me into a skinny, bald Santa for the day, but the good feelings last much longer. Kindness is its own reward and comes back to you tenfold. It’s been such a rough time for so many that all I can do is do all that I can to add a little joy and touch the lives of a few people at this special time of year.
Honestly, if you just up-level the kindness factor in your own environment with those you are close to, then you are doing more than enough. Whatever that looks like and feels like to you is the right thing. Consider yourself an unofficial holiday-spirit guide and do what you can to make someone else smile. That’s what this time of year is really all about.
(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.”)
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