Friday, December 14, 2007

Holidays and Should-isms

Often during the holidays we are torn between doing things that we'd like to do for others, and those things for which we feel obliged to do. There's a tendency to use the auxillary verb should to reflect both of these ideas. We'd like to send a holiday card to far-off friends and family, but time constraints keep us from doing so. We might not want to attend a work holiday party, but the idea that bosses look more favorably on employees who attend work social events keeps us from doing what we want to do.

Should-isms can lend a heightened sense of anxiety in an already busy season. In order to keep should-istic anxiety in its place, ask yourself what are the most important activities that reflect what the season means to you and your loved ones? What activities have I engaged in during previous holidays that no longer reflect my preferred meaning of the holiday? Are there activities that I've engaged in that I still value but I could more richly express if moved to a different time? For example, could I send New Year's, summer solstice, or Peace Day (Sept. 21) cards to show connection with far-off loved ones? Would it be just as (or possibly even more) fun to deliver homemade Groundhog Day cookies as Christmas ones? Could I skip my work holiday party, but offer to organize a summer picnic instead? What if instead of giving physical gifts, I gave my friends and family experiences to have at a later date (e.g. taking Grandpa fishing in the spring, taking a friend out to a mid-winter dinner and a movie, or going to a theme park with kids over the summer)?

Untangling the holiday activites we look forward to doing from those which we feel compelled to do can help make the holidays feel more manageable, more enjoyable, and less anxiety-provoking.

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