Karen’s Blog – Tis the Season

by Karen Johnson, PhD.

When I’m asked what holiday character I most identify with, my answer is always The Grinch. The holidays give me anxiety. I fixate on the traffic clogging the streets heading to and from the mall, the urgent need to decorate my house and my yard, the rush to order cards and buy presents, the back-to-back holiday parties, and the expectation that everyone must be merry and bright. The thought of it all makes me tired and stressed.

But when I pause, take a few deep breaths, and try to refocus my thoughts, I am flooded with how much joy the holidays brought to me when I was a kid growing up. I remember the delight of seeing all the decorations carefully taken from their boxes by my father and hung on the tree by my mother. I think about the time my brother and I tried to “find” where Santa hid the presents in our house before the big morning (we didn’t have a fireplace so there was no chimney for him to come down). I can never forget the excitement of unwrapping my first bicycle or the year we got tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters. I can smell the cookies baking and the trickle of egg nog going down my throat. Mostly, I am reminded that the holidays are never about stuff—they are always about people. Reconnecting with family and friends, trying your new toys out with siblings and neighbors, enjoying your favorite foods and once-a-year treats around a big table full of people you love.

So, if the holidays get too much for you, just close your eyes and remember all the magic of the season. Think about all the people you want to connect with, and use the holidays as the reason to reach out and find opportunities to get together. Savor reading the annual update that your long-lost cousins sent in their holiday card. Find the joy in giving to others and seeing the smiles on the faces of people you love. Take time out for yourself and give yourself the grace of not having to do anything “perfect.” Your presence and your love are the greatest gifts of all.

On behalf of all of us at New Pathways for Youth, we wish you the happiest of holidays, and we look forward to seeing you again in the New Year!