Holiday Series Part 3: Check Your Holiday Fantasies

Back by popular demand, our holiday series is designed to help you navigate the messiness of the holidays. Please join us in making the holidays marvelous this year and always.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones we use to know…..

Have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heartbe light, from now on our troubles will be out of sight………

Can’t you just see it? Your holiday fantasy is coming true. The tree is tall and proud, lights twinkling and all the favorite ornaments aglow, backlit in their light. The presents are artfully wrapped, and the ones you have carefully kept as a surprise, there they are, waiting for the right moment to be opened. The refrigerator is full of all the favorite food, the standing rib roast already seasoned and waiting to be roasted to perfection. And the house has that smell, you know, the one that comes from grandma’s cookies being baked and the fireplace being lit. The music you save for just this time of year, the Christmas album that will never get old, is filling the the air. Your loved ones will be arriving so soon, and you are tingling with excitement of seeing them again, of having the perfect Christmas. You will wait up while watching White Christmas and singing along with Bing Crosby. The holiday fantasies await.

christmas-1And then your alarm clock goes off and you wonder what is happening. The cat is kneading your chest, a signal to go, out and your ten-year old has just crawled into bed with the words, “My tummy hurts,” which are followed with the first round of throwing up. A text arrives, telling you that the plane carrying your loved ones was cancelled due to the snow storm and that they can’t get a flight out until after Christmas day. You go to the kitchen to get the little one some ginger ale, and when you open the refrigerator you realize the light is not on and all the food is warm. It is two days before Christmas and you know no one will service your refrigerator. Your friend dies. It wasn’t suppose to happen this soon. Your husband comes in from stringing some extra lights and his hand is wrapped in a blood soaked rag. He is going to need stitches.  The only gift you really wanted was not under the tree. The day after Christmas you are in pain like you have never been and you end up in the ER and then in the hospital overnight with a bizarre infection in your stomach. You find out your mother has just a few weeks to live.

The let-down, if you are too attached to your holiday fantasy, can be really tough.

Don’t panic. These things did not happen to me all at once. But they have all have actually happened to me one holiday or another, and several of them have happened together. What I know is that I am not the only one who has holidays like this. I know you have, too. We are all swept into the romance and sentiment of the holidays. The fun. The food. The parties. The cute kids or grandkids. The love. The anticipation. It can all be so wonderful. And yet, the let-down, if you are too attached to your holiday fantasy, can be really tough.

Here’s how to check your holiday fantasies and navigate the messiness of the holidays:

Be aware of what you are feeling. Maybe even write it down. The more conscious you are of your feelings, the better. Are you anxious? Excited? Overwhelmed? Cynical? Ambivalent? Note it.

Share your expectations. What is most important to you? Share it with the other people it might impact. Better for people to know what’s most important and what you are expecting.

Ask others what is most important to them. Be curious. This can be an excellent opportunity to get to know your family and friends on a deeper level. Knowing where the sensitive spots are can be very helpful.

Keep a sense of humor. Seriously. Sometimes the irony of the holidays is overwhelmingly funny. Absurd. It’s ok to laugh. It might be very helpful to laugh.

Remind your friends and loved ones about what is really important. What is it we are valuing during these special times?

Attach loosely. It’s easier to let go if you don’t have a death grip on those holiday fantasies.

It's easier to let go if you don't have a death grip on those holiday fantasies. Click To Tweet

Look for the silver linings. In my life, no matter what the circumstances were, something good and blessed always came out of what seemed like a disaster. Be on the lookout for where the Holy Spirit might be moving during this holiday season of Love and Light. A client of mine recently said, when I asked him what he was learning in therapy, “There is a difference between a disappointment and a tragedy.”

There is a difference between a disappointment and a tragedy.

It’s hard to keep a toe in reality during this time of the year. christmas-2I get so easily swept into the energy of the holiday. The joy. The giving spirit. The anticipation of the Christmas Eve service. Shopping for the perfect gift. Wrapping presents. Filling stockings. Baking cookies and cakes. I love it all. And I usually want it all. And I expect you do, too. So check your holiday fantasies. Be aware of what you are hoping for. Share it. Hold it lightly.

I sure hope you get it. I hope your Christmas, and mine, will be more marvelous than messy. But if reality is not the same thing as your holiday fantasy, remember what will be will be, and have yourself a merry little Christmas anyway.


Amy Sander Montanez, D. Min., LPC, LMFT has a private practice of individual psychotherapy and marriage counseling in Columbia, SC. Her book, Moment to Moment: The Transformative Power of Everyday Life, won Spirituality and Health’s top 100 books of the year.  Amy is passionate about many things in life, but especially about psychology, spirituality, dancing, cooking, marriage, family, friends, traveling, and learning.

1 thought on “Holiday Series Part 3: Check Your Holiday Fantasies”

  1. Thanks for bringing a balanced perspective to the holidays. I’ve already had a dose of reality that is making me take life & the holidays day by day. The guy I have been in a relationship with for 6 months is re-evaluating his life and his capacity to be in a relationship. We had made Christmas plans together, I was going to spend Christmas Day at his parents with him and his kids and this was going to start to integrate that part of his life with our relationship and now this is up in the air and the good news is it doesn’t feel tragic but will be disappointing if he decides he no longer wants to continue our relationship at this point. I am pretty cynical about there being a reason for everything. I am confident that we can come up with at least 3 or more reasons for everything that does happen and that it is up to me whether to look at life events from a view of lack and wanting or from a view of abundance and curiosity. I prefer the second perspective but I naturally slide to the first perspective I listed. Strong emotions and early childhood trauma pull me to view life through a lens of lack and it takes a lot of work and persistent self-reflection to maintain a view of abundance, especially with my strong feelings that can be triggered so easily and sometimes without warning. The good news is that I know I do not need shiny and bright for Christmas to be lovely. I’ll appreciate every loved one I get to see and hug.
    Thanks for sharing your wisdom, insight & experience Amy & Rhea!
    Happy Holidays to you & yours!

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