It’s lasted about a decade, but we’re finally heading in to the home stretch of 2020. The end of this year, like every other, has a number of hurdles and checklist items. One is the never-ending pressure to get together with family, friends, and co-workers as you celebrate the various holidays. Whether you like them or not, it can get exhausting to keep up with the schedule, especially as you try to do your own holiday shopping and other chores, not to mention that many people’s jobs get busier towards year-end. Sometimes it’s a matter of figuring out how to cram in all of the parties and dinners that you want to get to; others, it’s trying to find a graceful way to say no or to limit your time among folks you don’t really like all that much anyway. This year, the pandemic has added an extra level of complexity to those gatherings. In-person events might be canceled even though you want to see the people who might have been there, or you might not want to go because of the risk of illness. How do you balance all of these priorities?
This year, start by deciding who it’s most important for you to see and spend time with. Slotting them in first might seem obvious, but how many times have you failed to do the obvious because you were sure it wouldn’t be a problem later, and the narrator of life proved you wrong? Consider it extra-important this year since you’ve likely missed many opportunities to see these same people due to quarantine-related restrictions. After you figure out who these folks are, decide if you’re going to go virtual this year. There’s nothing quite like a real hug, but it might not be wise or even possible because your specific circumstances. If that’s the case, this could be a good time to schedule a video or regular phone call, to make sure you get to catch up and hang out. I already plan on doing the Zoom thing this year with at least one set of friends, and am actually excited about it since we normally wouldn’t be able to spend any holiday time together. Cutting out the travel is turning out to be not so bad after all since we can squeeze in multiples of these gatherings even on the same day, even with people all over the country and the world. I’m hoping we can make it the start of a new tradition. Either way, get these folks on the calendar first. Everything and everyone else will fall into place behind them.
You don’t have to actually ink in that lunch or dinner during the holiday season by the way. Just because you remember to make those plans now doesn’t mean they have to be right now. While we know the dangers of planning too far ahead because of the fast-moving restrictions last spring, it’s all about setting that time aside in an effort to make it work when you get closer to the date. Likewise, maybe don’t decide what you’re going to do together. Just agree that that’s when you’re going to do …something. You can see what looks interesting and available later on. Sure, it can be fun to make reservations at your favorite restaurant or plan a dream friend-cation far in advance, but it’s also fun to just see what pops up when you get a reminder a week in advance that you need to pick a place to go. If it’s not November or December, that’s okay too. I’ve been at plenty of company “winter celebration” events in January and there’s no reason you can’t do the same with the people you care about. Use this time of year as a reminder to get together, not a mandate to do it right now.
Even if it turns out that you have a command performance at another event that conflicts with what you really want to do, having a commitment with a loved one already set up will help remind you to shuffle them back in at an another date and time instead of letting them slip your mind or your schedule entirely. Before you do that, though, think about whether you really need to go even if you’re getting a lot of pressure to show up. There may be no better year to make your excuses but here’s the thing. Those excuses only are more convenient right now; they’re not necessary. It may be difficult, even painful, to say no. You might have to pay a cost in professional opportunities or family harmony. But you have permission to nope right out of somewhere you truly do not want to be or is truly somewhere dangerous to your physical or mental health. You and I all know that some of these gatherings end up being cover for creepers, abusers, and similar people who should have no part of your life. If the consequences of not showing up are too dire, then I understand that too. In those cases, you also have permission to stick with trusted friends and to leave early. While you’re at it, perhaps use physical distancing requirements as a reason to stay far away and limit your contact with potentially dangerous people.
So…what are your holiday plans? Family? Friends? Friends-who-are-family? Family-who-are-friends? Professional or work-related events? Something else? And more importantly, what parties are you going to skip, to save yourself some headaches and stress?