One of the greatest challenges I face as a military spouse is being separated from family and friends during the holiday season. It was tough during those first years and deployment but now that we are empty nesters – with children too many miles away – it’s even worse. You see my definition of a real holiday season is to host and attend many different types of parties where we come together with those we love and celebrate the good (and hug out the bad) times we’ve had throughout the year. It’s a time to reminisce and re-connect, and most of all create new memories.
Whether it was days of prep for the ultimate Thanksgiving feast or hours of planning, baking and decorating so that anyone who walked through the door felt welcome, my goal was to make sure that every guest felt like they had come home. I loved the hustle and bustle of juggling a full social calendar, dressing up for my husbands corporate events and watching my loved ones open their gifts knowing that I got it just right. But when you live far away and your family is spread out across the country the vision and the reality are very different. Since we became a military family – 8 years ago – I’ve had to change my thoughts and re-define what a real holiday means for me. And honestly I haven’t been able to figure that out yet.
If I’m completely honest, my attitude over the last few weeks is to skip it all together. The kids won’t be able to get here this year, and we made the conscious decision to not take any more leave – so here we will stay. I tell myself it’s a good thing because the other soldiers with little ones will be able to create memories like the one’s I cherish, but there is a part of me that just longs to be surrounded by family and friends who know me well. Don’t get me wrong my military peeps rock and I have some incredible battle buddies, but for my entire life the holidays were filled with LOTs of family, love and laughter.
So I let myself have my moment, and woke up today bound and determined to figure out some strategies that will help me get through the season without bumming myself out (or killing my husband 😉 ) in the process. Here are some of the strategies I’ll be using:
- Change my focus/actions: Being a military family sometimes means things like the holidays aren’t the same as they’ve always been. And I have a choice. I can sit in my house and focus on how unfair and sad I am or I can create a moment that works. I choose to create a moment that works. Maybe it will be baking, building a holiday puzzle, cuddled up with my new found obsession (adult coloring books} or taking time to read, I vow to spend the holidays differently than I do my every days.
- Control my Expectations: As I write this I realize that I have unrealistic expectations of what the holidays are supposed to be. Sure I have many years of fond memories, but my life is very different now. By holding on to the thought that there is only one way to experience joy at Christmas I’m preventing myself from being in the moment and having fun.
- Be A Santa’s Helper: This year it’s going to be all about making the holidays better for someone else. I’ll be seeking and finding ways to spread the Christmas cheer in fun and unique ways. The thought of all I can do is already making me all warm and tingly. Boy oh boy will those gate guards love me :)!
- View The Time As An Opportunity: This year has been a whirlwind, and while I’m absolutely thrilled that my businesses are really taking off I could use some down time to recharge and get ready for 2016. I have been in overdrive for months and maybe just maybe the fact that it will be just the two of us is a good thing – ripe with opportunities for long bubble baths and some much needed me time.
What about you? Are your holidays going to be different this year? What strategies could you add to the list?
~Judy Davis, the Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, author and lifestyle blogger as well as a military life and teen suicide prevention expert. Co-founder of DASIUM, Judy’s books Right Side Up and Warning Signs: Is Your Teen at Riskare go to resources for families and her websites are filled with tips, inspiration and resources for those looking for direction. Connect with Judy at TheDirectionDiva.com