The holidays are always hard for me, as I know they are for many of us. There are so many expectations, longings, memories, disappointments, and things to grieve. At the same time when the days are shorter and seasonal depression kicks in, there are additional demands on our time and emotional capacity. There are broken boundaries and boundary violations. Family conflicts and forced happiness. Over-consumption, over-indulgence, and over-exhaustion. Loneliness, disconnection, and disruption of routines. The list goes on with so many things to elevate stress.
Add to this how holidays are mired in the same systems of oppression as everyday life. State violence continues, as we witness Rittenhouse’s acquittal and ache for accountability. Microaggressions are everyday and enacted within our families and by our closest people. And by us, too. It hurts to drive across the country where signs of hate fly along interstates. The normalization of Christian celebration reinforces what Audre Lorde called “the mythical norm.” And myths abound in the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday: a day rooted in settler colonialism and white supremacy.
For students and educators, this time is also the end of fall semester, which means EXTRA: extra responsibilities, extra emotions, and extra exhaustion. There is a deep need for rest, but so much needs to be accomplished before and then during winter break. Each day feels extra precious and, therefore, set up for extra disappointment.
And I haven’t yet mentioned the ongoing pandemic. We’re still living in a collective trauma experience that’s resulting in so many personal traumas as well. We have lost people. We have lost relationships. We have lost communities. We have lost trust. We have lost sense of self, or at least of who we were. In the midst of this loss, gaslighting happens through denials, dismissals, and damaging policy decisions.
I remember a meme circulating this fall with a Venn diagram. The left circle was labeled “apocalypse,” and the right circle was labeled “having to go to work.” An arrow pointed to the middle, where the circles overlapped, and read “somehow we ended up here.” And somehow we’ve ended up here: in another holiday season with worn-down energy, thread-bare emotions, and deep longing for change.
This longing is where I find hope in the midst of all that I’ve named—and so much more not named. When I tap into the longings for truth-telling, connection, and justice, then I allow myself to feel and to move toward possibilities. This starts by saying explicitly to myself: “The holidays are hard. And I want some support.”
So, with recognition of this holiday time—and the many, many things that make it hard—let me share some means of support:
1. This Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving), the recharge and recommit gathering will meet at 1pm ET via Zoom. If you feel so called, take a break from family gatherings or not-gatherings to check in with yourself and your commitments. During the 90 minutes, we’ll have time for guided meditation, freewriting, and conversation.
2. For continued unlearning, engage with Adrienne Keene’s SpeakOut Ed Talk “Moving Beyond Land Acknowledgements & Token Representations” and Rethinking Solidarity Network’s “Rethinking ‘Thanksgiving’ Toolkit.” These are two of my favorite resources this fall.
3. Throughout December and January, I’ll be offering more writing retreats. Currently seven dates are open for registration, and I’ll be opening more in early and mid-January (when many people have winter break). Consider retreats if you’d like to connect with others, make space for reflection, and check in one-with-one.
4. I’ll be offering end-of-the-year workshops on writing and living out commitment statements. These will be included with Patreon subscriptions, and I’ll share more about these soon.
5. If you’re feeling out of sorts with your current career path or wanting to re-align with the purpose and priorities that brought you to this work, consider the course “Career Discernment for Academics: Aligning Career with Commitments.”
6. This past blog post on “7 Strategies for Soothing Aches and Pains During the Pandemic“ may offer support if you, like me, need extra tending to the physical body.
7. And anytime you want personalized, tailored support, I’m available for one-with-one coaching. Together, we can think BIG (e.g., about how you’re acting on commitments and understanding personal and collective responsibilities), or we can get into the details (e.g., processing difficult conversations and changing habits).
Heading into this holiday time, may we each treat ourselves with care. May we recognize what is now, while holding visions of what ought to be. May we check in regularly with our commitments, noticing when we’re out alignment and re-aligning. May we embrace the attitude of “try-try again” with a lot of curiosity and compassion, humor and humility.
Toward learning and unlearning through these hard days,
This post is written by Beth Godbee, Ph.D. for Heart-Head-Hands.com. Consider subscribing to the newsletter for additional resources and announcements.
For more posts like this one, check out “Interrupting Thanksgiving: Three Responses to Disrupt What’s Normalized on This National Holiday” and “When Speaking Up at the Holidays Means “Complaining” and Being the Killjoy.”