Unhappy Holidays

Warning: If you are triggered by stories of family trauma, mental health issues, addiction, and death around the holidays I would kindly encourage you to skip over this blog post.

sad-woman

I’m supposed to be writing emails and social media posts to showcase all the amazing products I’ve been creating and itching to release this weekend. I was gearing up to launch a great big beautiful program for the first time to teach other women the tools I use to help them connect with themselves over the course of the next 12 months to create the most magical 2018 ever.

I’m supposed to be talking about spreading holiday cheer and making way for mistletoe. About shopping for friends and family and considering buying them meaningful, handmade gifts. Shop small! Support local! Yada yada.

I’m supposed to be talking about gratitude and how life changing it is during Thanksgiving week. “Reflect on what you’re thankful for.” “Write a gratitude list.” “Tell someone you’re thankful for them.” You’re probably seeing a lot of that these days, and while I do appreciate how powerful a gratitude practice is, it’s also ok to not feel very grateful at all if that’s how you're honestly feeling.

I’m supposed to be decorating my home for the holidays while listening to Christmas music, drinking hot cocoa with extra whipped cream, making a dessert for Thanksgiving dinner, picking out the perfect gifts for those I love, and feeling the anticipation and excitement of watching my son open presents for the first time (he was too little last year).

But today I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do. I can’t pretend that the holidays have always been amazing for me, because they haven’t been for years. And this year takes the icing on the cake.

10 years ago my life changed because of mental illness and alcoholism in my family. I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty of those details at this time, but it made the holidays a time to brace myself for. To know that while everyone else thought this was the most wonderful time of the year, and that I had to put on a pretty face and pretend it was, too, has always crushed me.

I felt utter disdain for those six weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, and spent a good amount of time crying in my car while listening to Christmas music, reflecting on my fond memories of what once was during childhood and feeling deeply saddened by how dramatically things have changed.

Over the last several years, I’ve begun to work through the dismay and disappointment I felt about no longer having a traditional holiday, and started creating my own traditions. I realized I had the choice to see things differently, especially after having a child who I wanted to grow up with feeling the warmth of love and family, and celebrate the Spirit of the season. I have wonderful family and friends who’ve helped to ease my heart around this time and make it more magical again, and I’m truly grateful for that because it was a total keystone in my ability to change my outlook.

After having deep, meaningful conversations with several wonderful friends this week, I’ve discovered that I’m not as isolated in dreading the holidays as I imaged I was. There are a lot of us who have a hard time during this season but we bottle it up because it’s not PC to talk about; we don’t want to bring others down during their celebrations.

Many of us hide behind the haze of too much eggnog and mulled cider and numb out the unhappiness we feel about forced gatherings and family drama, loss of a loved one, or lack of a family presence at all. It sucks, but it’s ok to not have a “normal” outlook and experience. And if this is your experience, you are SO not alone.

Just last weekend I was chatting with a friend who experienced the loss of her dad during Thanksgiving week 5 years ago, and how we both connected on the fact that the holidays are so difficult for so many but we simply don’t talk about it. I tried to give her hope that it can get better with time, and that it’s what you make of it that matters.

I was telling this same friend that this was the first year I was really looking forward to Christmas because my son would be able to open gifts. I love the sheer joy and excitement he exhibits on an everyday basis, never mind a day as magical as December 25th. I had already been listening to Christmas music non-stop and thinking about Yankee swap gifts to be purchased, holiday markets I’m participating in, and what I was going to make for my work potlucks.

And then I got a phone call this week that broke me. My little sister was dead. My heart shattered in a million pieces in a matter of seconds. All of my to-dos and holiday prep came to a screeching halt and nothing else mattered. Nothing still matters. I've never experienced a loss like this before and am completely devastated. Every waking moment I feel like I'm in a nightmare.

I’m taking the time to write this because I can’t not. I can’t sit back and hide this huge tragedy that has struck me and my family and go on with business as usual. I am going to keep my shop open because it’s nice to have a bit of a distraction now and again, but I’m also taking a lot of time off to cry and scream and allow myself to be held by the unconditional love of the support system I have around me.

For once, I’m going to accept their offerings of big hugs, watching my son so I can worry about myself first, driving for hours to lend a shoulder to cry on, and bringing me food without worrying about inconveniencing them - because I need it. Grieving a loss like this is a long process filled with complicated, irrational thoughts and emotions, and asking for and receiving help is what will fuel me to be there for others who are suffering even worse than I am right now, especially my dad.

While I know that how I’m feeling in this moment will dim over time, it’s really raw right now. This is the biggest open wound my heart has ever felt and I know it’s only the beginning; I haven’t even started picking up the shards of glass yet. My sister and I had our fair share of challenges, but she was truly a kind, generous, loving person who was dealt a really shitty deck of cards in life. Nikki was such a beautiful person doing the best she could with what she had, but ultimately wasn’t able to get past the immense pain and suffering she was experiencing.

I’ve realized that I push back so hard on the things that are uncomfortable when it comes to this really difficult stuff. I can talk about shadow feelings all day long and how you need to deal with them to live a better, more full life, but this was a wake up call to me that I haven’t been dealing with my own fully.

I’m not taking on the responsibility to save everyone, but I am cracked wide open now and more deeply understand what true compassion is. I still have Dementors that need to be taken care of because I don’t want them to overshadow the rest of my time here on earth and suck all of the peace, hope, and happiness out of me like they did my sister.

I need you to know that if you feel utter disdain for the holidays and are hurting - I SEE YOU. I deeply feel your pain. And I’m holding so much space for you during this difficult time. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for me if you need someone to talk to, or seek consult from someone you trust to help get you through the next month and a half.

If you know someone who struggles with the holidays, or struggles with mental health and addiction in general, please consider holding space and/or lending an ear, or encouraging them to get help. At the end of the day the choice is theirs weather they open up or contract into themselves, but sometimes people don’t know how to ask and accept help and a little encouragement can go a long way.

This week, I hope that you take care of yourself and find joy in some subtlety of gratitude and holiday magic if the entirety of the holiday season leaves you feeling overwhelmed and upset.

I’m not sure if I’ll be in touch again about new products or running any fancy sales this weekend, but I’m going to participate in the Good Karma Sale again.

“A Good Karma sale is a chance for biz owners big and small to consciously redefine our relationship to the holidays. Together, we’re reclaiming the language and purpose around Black/Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday. We’re making the holidays meaningful again… To us, our customers, and the world. Good karma feels good.”

This year, for all sales made from today (November 22nd) through Monday, November 27th at 11:59pm I’m donating 5% of all sales to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

This foundation “is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. It is the nation's largest nonprofit treatment provider, with a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center. With 17 sites in California, Minnesota, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Florida, Massachusetts, Colorado and Texas, the Foundation offers prevention and recovery solutions nationwide and across the entire continuum of care for youth and adults.”

If you shop on Cyber Monday, you’ll see some new items available in my shop and can use the coupon code “hope” for 10% off from midnight until 11:59pm on November 27th.

I’m not looking for sympathy, but any and all love and prayers are beyond welcome. I hope that wherever you are and whatever you’re dealing with you have a beautiful Thanksgiving week. Squeeze your loved ones a little tighter, even if it’s uncomfortable to reach your arms out and go in for the embrace.

In love, gratitude, + light,

Kendalyn

Kendalyn BanksComment