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Tidings of ... Anger and Joy?

Woman sitting in silence drinking coffee by window in contemplation during holiday season

Getty/Choreograph

Own your anger this holiday season as you go forth into 2021 prepared to transform those emotions into positive, practical solutions for the new year.

A seemingly never-ending global pandemic ... the most contentious election season in recent memory ... the lack of sun as the Northern Hemisphere heads towards winter ... an upcoming holiday season sans the usual festive events and other trimmings. Any one of these factors can easily make us annoyed, at best. Combine all of these components and you have a seemingly perfect storm for rage and resentment.

As we enter this holiday season how do we deal with our feelings so that anger does not consume us? The Rev. Kurt Neilson, a Portland, Oregon based hospital chaplain and author of Urban Iona, suggests we take this time to learn to embrace our feelings. “Give yourself the gift of anger this holiday season and lament all that has been lost.”

Neilson muses, “When we talk about anger, my own personal struggle is not to be ashamed or guilty of my own anger. Let the anger be the anger and realize I have a right to it.”

Owning our anger can give us back a sense of control over our lives. Armed with this awareness, we can tune into the source of these irritations and respond accordingly.

For all those who mourn the lack of familial connections, holiday parties, and other rituals that mark the holiday season, reflect on all the stressors that these connections bring into your life. Remind yourself that this is one year you’re spared from trying to navigate tricky situations with relatives, coworkers, and others in your social circles.

For many of us, social media has become the medium through which we remain connected to those we cannot see in person. However, in recent years, social media has become increasingly polarized.

Here Neilson offers this sage advice, “Give yourself the gift of silence this holiday season.” Acknowledge that you feel passionate (and rightly so) over issues that matter to you, but seek to avoid those postings that seem to cause your outrage to transform you into a rageaholic. Learn to titrate your social media by unfollowing those in your life who consistently deliver messaging that’s toxic to you. As Neilson reflects, “What’s most important is to get through this as intact as we can.”

Amy Laura Hall, who teaches at Duke University and most recently authored the book Laughing at the Devil, shared how she dealt with her holiday resentment over being unable to spend Christmas with her mother:

During a phone conversation with my mother who is struggling to speak after a stroke, I just told her we would be like the Australians and celebrate Christmas in July. I have no idea if people in Australia actually celebrate Christmas in July. But that was the best I had. We cannot figure out a way to be together safely during the pandemic of 2020. They are in Texas, I am in North Carolina. But, at the same time, two things. I will not be dealing with family drama, worrying about how to fix both the right turkey and the best hearty, nut-free vegan dish. No hosting. I will not clean my house. I am not tempted by the Boden catalog displays of glittering sweaters. I have nowhere to wear them.
A stranger asked me how I was doing a few months ago. I was coming out of the grocery store. He said, “Hey, how you doing?” Not really a question. Just a comment while passing. I am lonely, so I answered honestly. “I miss my parents. I can't visit them right now.” He stopped and said. “I would give anything to have my parents back so that I could miss them that way.” Truth.

For those whose feelings of anger stem from coping with losses in one’s life, Pacific Northwest artist Shae Uisna offers this reflection.

I love to celebrate the Winter Solstice; the fact that the days grow shorter and darker leading up to Dec. 21st and then start getting longer is a really great metaphor for descending into the “dark night of the soul” and then the return into light and hope. This year, my divorce will be final by Solstice, so I hired one of my Life-Cycle Celebrant colleagues to help me create and lead an online “Ceremony of Renewal” on Zoom on the evening of the Solstice. While I will be burning things then that “no longer serve me,” I will also be writing down the qualities and things I want to “encourage” in my life on seed paper (paper that has viable seeds embedded in it) and then planting these “seed wishes” in the ground so they might grow into flowers in the spring.

As we head into a new year, consider saying goodbye to 2020 by writing down those things in 2020 that really ticked you off. Then on New Year’s Eve, light a candle and slowly burn each page. While you watch the pages burn, reflect on how you can transform your feelings into practical and positive solutions in 2021.



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HolidaysWinter SolsticeChristmasFamily

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