Think about your overall holiday experience last year. Give it a rating on a 10-point scale, with 1 being miserable and 10 being the best possible holiday experience. Got a number in mind? Now, a challenge for you: What would it take to make this year's holiday experience just one point better?
There may be a part of this that's actually within your control. You might be able to make some changes this year. The commitments and relationships and obligations you pursue over the next several weeks will in part determine whether the holidays will a better experience for you this time around.
Here's a journaling exercise to help you take control of Holidays 2010:
Find a quiet place before you're already in the "thick" of holiday activities. In the morning is good, while the house is still quiet and before the day has started. Take out a journal or other blank paper and make a list of great holiday memories. These could be from last year or 20 years ago. We're talking here about the big memories as well as the tiny little things that made the holidays great for you. See how many memories you can come up with in 15 minutes or so.
Now, identify the one single moment that captures that holiday memory for you. The "click," the sound of a camera shutter catching what was the best about that experience. Try to drill down to the one moment in each of your holiday memories on that list.
Next, identify what you were feeling in that single moment - really try to identify where you were feeling that in your body. If you try to recreate that feeling now, can you "find it" in your belly or chest or around your eyes? What exactly does it feel like?
If you've done this with a list of 15-20 holiday memories then you've identified a number of really great feelings that you have associated with the holidays over the years. And you want more of those feelings, and less of the stress or obligation or whatever might be the negatives that have become attached to the holidays for you. As you consider activities and invitations and commitments over the next month or so you might ask yourself "with which of my core preferred feelings does this connect?"
You might need to be firm and decisive to manage the universe of holiday possibilities and carve out just those experiences that make the holidays great for you.
Hope you feel great this holiday season!