One of the things I’ve been historically prone to do during the holidays is shove things down. Between the stress of finding just the right gift for the right people and having the right dress for the right occasion and looking the right way when I get there…well, sometimes it turns me into a bit of a lunatic. For years, I’ve not let this show. I suck it up so I don’t ruin anyone’s party, I laugh at all the jokes and I stay because oh, how can I leave NOW when all the fun is just getting started?!?
When, in reality, I’d really rather be at home watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and cooking dinner.
One of the biggest secrets about me (well, until right this second) is that I’m actually quite introverted when it comes to social events. I like people for the most part, I really do. But when I’m standing there in rooms filled with them and I have to be “on,” I find it exhausting and I’m silently plotting my escape route. I’m pulling a Susanna Hoffs: my eyes may look sultry, but I’m looking for the exit:
This is Susanna Hoffs, the former lead singer of the 80’s band, The Bangles. This is her famous eye move. Sadly, I think I have to explain this because I’m old . I’ll just put my teeth back in now.
I love the holidays, I just wish there weren’t so many people attached.
But for years, I’ve never said anything. I’ve just socialized and kept myself silent by shoving food into my mouth when I’m not trying to make small talk. I can’t tell you how many hors d’oeuvres it takes to keep me from snapping into my own conflict flashback at a party, but historically it’s been a lot. The reason for many of my holiday weight gains have nothing to do with frivolity: it’s the suppression of the desire to run screaming or to tell someone the Truth and Nothing But the Truth So Help Me, God. Neither of which are particularly pleasant.
This year, I’m taking a different tactic and it appears to be working. I don’t let thing build to that point. I either don’t go and send a gift or I stay for the requisite hour and I leave. I’ve attending exactly one social event per evening, and when I feel overwhelmed, I start making my way to the door. I’ve been happier, my hosts have been thrilled because I’m engaged and unstressed and my appetite stays in check. I socialize for a while and it’s fine. But when something isn’t fine this holiday season, I’m not sticking around to ignore my gut instincts or to silence it with plates of holiday goodies: I’m leaving.
I’m also allowed to take naps, not send holiday cards, sleep in late and tell people who get really aggressive at events that I’m not comfortable being around them. It’s not rude to take care of yourself. It’s smart.
I don’t say “I’m fine” if it’s not fine anymore. If it’s not fine, I change the situation until everything really is fine.
Try it. Really, it’s totally fine if you do.