Holidays: So What Is YOUR Normal?

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Holidays So What’s YOUR Normal

UPDATE!  As we head into the thick of the 2016 holiday season, I invite you to take an honest look at what this season means to YOU.  Not what you think it SHOULD mean …

The holidays are almost here.  Despite the hubbub and flurry of activity, it can be a time of introspection for some, whether they’re in the middle of all the activity or not.

You may have heard that higher levels of depression, anxiety and suicide are somehow linked to the holidays.  The media brings up the “holiday blues” each year.  But they’re mistaken.  Experts from the Harvard Medical School find no such link.  In fact, they report research findings from various sources that prove that such statistics actually drop during the winter months.

But that doesn’t mean we’re not tempted to compare and contrast this season with other ones in the past.  And the comparison may be positive or negative.

If this season compares positively, bravo!  But if it compares negatively, here are just a few of the reasons we hear:

  • “Times are tough, not quite what they used to be, and gifting will be pretty skimpy this year.”
  • “We’ll go through the paces of all the trappings, the extravagant gourmet meals and piles of presents under the tree … while we dread the January credit card statements.”
  • “Christmases weren’t so great when we were kids, maybe even a time of tremendous stress, and we’d rather ignore them altogether.”
  • “We’ve moved and aren’t near all the people who made the holidays so special.”
  • “Someone we shared the holidays with is no longer with us” (whether a loved one who’s gone or kids who are grown).
  • “Holidays have just become too commercial and have lost much of their meaning.”

And so on.

Regardless what anyone else thinks or says, I believe we owe it to ourselves to find a few quiet moments and get honest.  What are the emotions that the holidays are bringing up?  Whatever they are, instead of stuffing them down and pretending everything’s perfect … let them rise and welcome them.

And once you’re real clear about what’s going on inside you, identify that as YOUR “normal.”  Everyone’s expectations of the holidays are different.  Everyone’s memories are different.  Everyone’s everyday reality is different.

How you decide to play out that normal is up to you.  Whether you decide to conform to the wishes of the majority, or buck expectations, or create brand new traditions … whatever you choose to do, there is no right or wrong.

Just be sure to give yourself the gift of honesty and clarity.  However you play it on the outside, make sure to play it with integrity on the inside.  Acknowledge your feelings.  Remember, whatever it is … it’s YOUR normal.

Happy holidays!



Bio: Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. Yet she did! Since then, with her finances completely turned around, Sharon has gone on to interview countless women. She’s done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her “Over Fifty and Financially Free” coaching programs. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial  peace of mind they so deserve.

  • Thanks so much for this Sharon:) I was just thinking about all of this today and last night even. In all honesty it’s been about 5 years since I’ve had a really good Christmas. Our family has been through a lot during that time and we’re still getting our legs back. Definitely time to create some new traditions.

    • Anonymous

      Tiffany, as we go through life and things change … “traditions” need to change too.  Or else we’re always chasing the non-existent!  Here’s to finding peace and contentment in your new traditions!

  • Thank you Sharon…the gifts of honesty, clarity and integrity with ourselves are great gifts which enables us then to share with our families, communities and this beautiful world! …Thanks, Hughie 🙂

    • Anonymous

      Hughie, the more I write and the more I reflect, the more the words “integrity” and “personal responsibility” take on a principal role in what leads to long-term peace of mind.  Here’s to plenty of that for you!

  • Jen

    Great article and reminder for us all Sharon. I love how you state that no matter what we choose, choose to live with integrity. Being that this year I decided to leave my full-time job and instead, pursue my passion, there has been a “simplifying” tradition in the Bennett household going on and quite honestly, it feels good!  Thanks for this encouragement today! 

    • Anonymous

      Jen, “simple” is good!  You might ask who worked so hard to convince you (and everyone else, BTW) of the contrary.  😉  Here’s to a wonderfully (and simply) rich 2012 in the Bennett household!

  • Ginger_Pugliese

    Great article, Sharon.  I think most women’s expectations are so high that everything should be ‘perfect’ that it destroys any meaningful chance of a peaceful and loving connection with family and friends.  I got off that merry-go-round a few years ago, when I was just too tired to care.  That’s when I realized how much I enjoyed the peacefulness of not over extending myself or my pocketbook. Integrity is definitely the word.

    • Anonymous

      It’s true, isn’t it Ginger, that we think we’re “losing” something when we let go of things … only to realize we gained something so much more precious:  peace of mind!  Happy, happy holidays!

  • Funny word “normal”…giving ourselves permission to create our own version is so freeing. I wish that for everyone, that they are happy in their skin! Thanks as always your articles give me food for thought!:)

    • Anonymous

      Denny, the minute we realize that we have the power to define our OWN “normal” … and that it doesn’t have to be defined from the outside … we’re way ahead of the game!

  • Great article. A reminder of celebrating our own way and don’t have to keep up with the Joneses.

    • Anonymous

      Claudia, and the question is whether people are keeping up with the Joneses as we see them from the outside … or as they truly are, behind the façade.

  • Fortyplusandfab

    …”the gift of honesty and clarity.” What a wonderful article Sharon and a very timely one for me indeed. My husband’s father passed this month after a 35 day hospitalization. I find myself this week running around like a total train wreck trying to piece together something that resembles a “normal” Christmas. But this year requires a new “normal” and so I move in peace into that new direction. Thank you!

    • Anonymous

      I’m thrilled, Sondra, that you’re redefining things that fit with your present reality.  Imagine how much we could lower the overall adrenaline level if we could get that message out more broadly!  Have a wonderful “newfangled” Christmas!  😉

  • Wonderful article Sharon. I’ve come to realise that this time of year is probably one of the most stressful due to all of the expectations put upon us. I’ve also come to realise that I don’t really like traditions, and in fact will go out of my way to be spontaneous and different. Gosh, perhaps I have already been creating my own ‘normal’ all these years? Hmm, very liberating! Hope you have a wonderful Christmas Sharon!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Annemarie!  I’ll do Christmas “my way,” which some people would consider heresy.  But I’ve been doing that for years … celebrating it in different countries, turning it into an adventure instead of allowing myself to get caught up in other people’s definition of “what it ought to be.”  Glad to see you’re doing the same!  May it be fabulously freeing!

  • Sharon, I kept seeing the words “self examination” come before me.  I have learned to embrace the day and not just the holiday with presents that make others happy.  Actually I am probably the rare breed that doesn’t embrace all the present giving, the hours of watching families open up theirs like my son’s in laws do.  Honesty and clarity are “areas” I dive into. I want to be honest with myself and people see me as “real.” To me normal — like at this holiday season — is taking a drive seeing others beautiful efforts of decorating the outside of their house and me taking pictures. Happy holidays Sharon.

    • Carol, as life seems to get more and more complicated all around us, isn’t it great to make ours more and more simple … and meaningful?  Here’s to living each minute … “being” rather than “doing.”

  • This ties into a talk we were having with our 6 year old last week.  His presentation on badgers didn’t go exactly as he had planned when a classmate started asking him questions, and in order to answer them, he covered his material in little spurts and out of order.

    We talked about how sometimes life goes just like you planned, and sometimes life is about rolling with what happens outside your expectations.  And how it’s always good TO plan, but not get too attached to the outcome.

    So I love what you say about our expectations around the holidays. Find your “normal” and embrace it – no matter where it takes you 🙂  

    • “…no matter where it takes you.”  Hmmmm, sounds like someone sees life as an adventure, as I do!  When things change (as indeed they will), part of “staying present” is to be honest about what’s what and do the best with it while you either accept it into your life because it’s good … or change it.

  • Sharon, this is an interesting and timely post.  We have a tradition in our family when we hang some of our ornaments.  my wife and I have been married 30 years and we take turns giving each other a special ornament each year.  Nine years ago the special ornament was Lady and the Tramp in honor of our two puppies that year, a German Shepard named Colvin, and my Doberman named Hannah.  Hannah passed away last year and Colvin this year.  As I hung that special ornament, it brought back all the memories of the year we got the ornament.  All the happiness and memories of how they acted exactly like Lady and the Tramp.  Unfortunately, it also brought back all the memories of loss that we’ve gone through in the last year and a half.  Even as I write this I find myself holding back the tears.  However, I am thankful for all the joy they brought to that special Christmas and all the ones afterwards.  May they rest in peace and they’re memories always bring thoughts of joy.

    Anyway, this post makes me realize that even if we had not presents it really wouldn’t matter.  We have so many rich traditions that point us to the true meaning of Christmas.  Thanks for another one of your practical and thought provoking articles!

    • Robert, I honor you for allowing yourself the vulnerability of finding and feeling what makes this season so special.  Merry, merry Christmas to you and yours!

  • Bonnie Squires

    Sharon I just love this post. This year we have
    a grand daughter for Christmas and I’ve decided
    to make some crafts for me and the kids when they
    are older. Not the normal thing od going out and buying
    present but some thing that will come from my heart for

    To last year I started with our youngest son watching
    Frosty and all the old Christmas shows from when I
    was little on the computer and I’ll keep that going to.
    They grow up to fast now a days.

    Thanks Bonnie

    • Bonnie, I hope you are able to repeat all these wonderful ideas for celebrating the Christmas season with your little ones this year. Besides starting family traditions, things made with one’s hands and heart carry so much more good energy than something someone fought their way to the cash register to pay for and drag home! Warmest Christmas wishes to you and yours!

  • Terri Lind Davis

    Great post! Sometimes people have unrealistic expectations of the holiday and it is freeing to just accept where you are and enjoy the ride, however bumpy it may be.

    • “Bumpy” is good, Terri, because it’s real. Especially when something deviates from how others do/think/believe, I feel that getting real with ourselves is the first step in finding a way to make that difference work for us,, not against us. Besides, it helps keep things in perspective! Warmest wishes to you, Terri!

  • Carmen

    Thank you for the reminder. Xx

    • You’re so very welcome, Carmen. Here’s to a wonderful time, however you spend it! 😉

  • Lorna Tedder

    Thank you, Sharon. You nailed it on unrealistic expectations. I think I attach a lot of my nostalgia and comparison to a time when I had certain people around me. I still feel like their presence in my life (physically) is the correct normal, so without them here, the season is somewhat lacking.

    • Lorna, I lost both parents in my very early 20s. So I’ve struggled with what you’re describing. It has meant I’ve been out of step with most people’s idea of Christmas because “something/someone” was missing. So I redefined how I celebrated … to a way that makes ME feel happy and fulfilled. That’s what I wish for you!

  • Lynn O’Connell

    I love Christmas, but this year we’re going low key, so I’ve channeled my Christmas obsession into finding Christmas music videos to post and playing GPLus Santa. We’re still cleaning up after fostering kittens and it seemed crazy to put up decorations when the crazy kitties were still here. And, for the first time in a long time, my husband and I have decided to stay home and celebrate by ourselves instead of hosting a big dinner or going to family. Planning to have a relaxing day as our gift to ourselves!

    • Love that you’re honoring and living YOUR normal, Lynn. ( At least that’s it for this year. Next year you might decide differently.) It just pains me to watch people move lock-step through the paces of holiday celebrations they’d rather not be part of … because of what someone else thinks or expects or demands. My warmest Christmas wishes to you both!

  • Tereza

    Wonderful post! Time to define our ‘normal’ then!

    • Absolutely, Tereza! Here’s to enjoying your normal to the fullest! 😉

  • Kung Phoo

    With the way the holidays worked out this year, there is no time for “me” but after there will be… just need to get through it!

    • If that’s the case, then the “me” time will taste that much sweeter, Rob! Warmest wishes to you and yours!

  • robindavidman

    I’m always able to take some quality time off from work this time of the year so to me that is my much anticipated normal. That along with spending time with family who I am only able to see at holiday time. I wouldn’t want to deviate from this as it just feels right! Happy Holidays! And thank you for your wonderful articles and insight this year.

    • If something isn’t broken, don’t fix it! If what you’re doing over the holidays brings you (and others) joy, hurray! 😉

  • Simona R.

    I do spend more in December, on gifts, while watching my spending. I think it is really good if I can afford to spend, and not a hard time. Hard may be to make sure I match everyone with a good gift, but if I can give, that’s a very good year!

    • There is great joy in being able to spend on those we care for, Simona. And, as you say, to be in a position to give means it’s a very good year! Relish it with pride.

  • Meryl Beck

    good points. This is the third Christmas since my son died and each year I am totally surprised how sad I feel (because we didn’t celebrate Christmas), but it’s seeing happy families together that brings up the grief). I guess it’s time to accept this as my new normal for the holiday season.

    • Some things we cannot change, Meryl. Although watching other families celebrating joyously certainly brings to mind anyone who is missing from our own celebration, it’s up to us to figure out how our new “normal” can be the best it can be …

  • Tina Ashburn

    I love the idea of giving oneself permission to be “normal”. Merry Christmas!

    • It’s all in how we define “normal,” Tina! I simply believe that we have the right to define things that don’t hurt others in that definition. How we spend our holidays CAN fit that situation if we’re careful and conscientious about how our decision affects other family members.

  • MeliLovesCards

    What’s normal is different for everyone. I don’t compare the holiday season. I enjoy it for what it is and am grateful.

    • Glad to hear that you take the holiday season at face value, Meli, come what may!

  • Carele Belanger

    Holidays seasons is great and make me take more time for me but I still keep everything simple.

    • As complex as our lives have become these days, Carele, keeping the holiday season simple makes all the sense in the world!

  • Amy Robertson

    Thanks for sharing this Sharon. You made some really good points. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    • Thanks, Amy, for stopping by. Hope your Christmas was wonderful and that you closed out one year and opened another with great joy and anticipation!

  • Bernard Loo

    I’m glad I found your YouTube channel because I’m more of a listener than a reader. At this time of the year, while most people are focused on enjoying themselves, I tend to think about the past year and what has been accomplished. And I think about what are my goals for the coming year.

    • I’m glad you like the little audio, Bernard. I know lots of people prefer to listen because we do so much reading online. In reviewing last year, I hope you found your accomplishments to be impressive … and have set equally impressive goals for 2014!

  • I dread this moment of high expectations in family life – Christmas – and the fast approaching end of another year. The gilded childhood memories (it was not less stressful than today) of huge family gatherings and watching all those Christmas movies make me wish for fairytale endings.
    What a beautiful post, Sharon, I am free to define my own version of normal and this will consist in looking back at 2013 and find all those precious moments of gratitude and glimpses of beauty around us. Thank you and here’s to a glorious 2014!

    • All the memories of those family gatherings sometimes do feel like flickering movies … especially with the drastic changes that we’ve all undergone in our present lives. The world has changed. Yet by finding the important nuggets and cherishing them, holidays can feel just as “right.”

  • Susan Schiller

    This article, Sharon, is very assuring to me. I’ve had to create a “new normal” and sort of reinvent Christmas for myself. It helps to know it’s really okay!!! I wish you the best in 2014 – thank you for another valuable year in coaching us to grow in financial health – you are a priceless gem, Sharon!

    • I know you’ve had to reinvent yourself a few times, so it doesn’t surprise me that you’ve had to reinvent Christmas, too, Sue. Hopefully you’ve now found some peace and stability where, no matter how you choose to celebrate it, it’s fulfilling and perfect!

  • Honesty and Clarity – such important things to remember. As I reflect on the year, I’ve seen glimmers of both that I hope to carry into 2014. I want next year to be one of full and intentional living. Part of that means being real and honest with life as it is and choosing to move forward in hope. We all need to remember we are unique and unlike any other. Our “normal” won’t look like anyone else’s normal. Enjoyed this post.

    • So good to see you, Marvia. And seeing that you want 2014 to be a year “of full and intentional living” warms my heart. We each have so much more control over things than we realize, if we’ll just grab it!

  • Gillian ~ Gilly

    A very interesting article Sharon. Christmas is very nostalgic and brings up feelings of love and closeness for my family. I found when my Dad passed away 2 years ago, Christmas took on a new meaning of closeness, the people here and gone no matter what, still remained in our celebration.

    • Glad you’ve found a way to celebrate that works with your family dynamic, Gilly!