The holidays are a turning point in our lives every year.
We often learn about the trainings, possible deployments and even potential PCS moves every December. That makes the holidays that much more stressful, combining much-needed rest with the need to see and connect with relatives and friends not in our current area as the coming year brings unpredictable schedules.
Family and friends often ask difficult questions and expect forthright, complete answers when we often don’t even have the information yet.
While I usually vow that things will be different, this year I’ve taken a more proactive approach. Instead of the usual holiday hustle between families, friends and travel across the country, we are spending a little less time (and money) traveling and more time focusing on what really matters: spending quality time with the important people and letting the rest fall to the wayside.
It isn’t that our extended list of friends and family from home isn’t important. There is a reason we try to visit when we travel, but we have to draw the line. We have to preserve some of our sanity and energies to enjoy the season instead of scheduling and rushing from place to place without reverence for our own needs.
Especially for service members, the hustle and bustle during the holidays, combined with the plethora of hugs, questions and togetherness, can become overwhelming at the end of a stressful year full of trainings and deployments.
While you (and the little ones) may be ready for the onslaught of Aunt Suzie’s lipstick kisses and shoulder squeezes, remember to frequently check in with each other and take a breath, or a moment away, to prevent stress from taking over.
It is an ongoing joke in our family that we too often say to each other, “Take a breath,” when the stress seems a little too much to bear. But that is my mantra going into this crazy season of events, visits and travel.
Taking a breath, or a beat, could mean we get some fresh air at the park or even take advantage of the extra family and sneak in a nap.
The other major change this year is that we are going to question our obligations. Those “shoulds” — the ones that mean long drives and short visits to check the box or fulfill an expectation that we are inclined to overlook — are going to be skipped. Sure, visiting with second cousins and favorite great-aunts can be fun on the best of days, but if the timing isn’t right and life just seems to be getting in the way, those extra visits are quickly going to be cut.
How’d we break the news? First, we shortened our time available for visits — no more 10-day trips with flexible departure dates. Then, we chatted with the key family members, our mothers, and told them of the plans, preparing them for a series of ,“No,” and, “Not today,” responses that surely will follow many questions that pop up over the holiday.
It isn’t a surefire recipe for success, but they are a few small steps that hopefully lead to a more relaxed, rejuvenating holiday vacation.
Hewlett is a military wife living in Richmond Hill.