“There are no rules…sort of”
I have a confession, I like ketchup on my French Toast. No, not the thick cut French bread soaked in a sweet egg mixture and dusted with powdered sugar kind. But the white bread soaked in a plain egg mixture, just bread and eggs.
My dad introduced me to it when I was young. I thought it was gross and remember telling him he wasn’t supposed to put ketchup on his French Toast, it was supposed to be syrup. He looked at me as he put a bite in his mouth and said, “Nah, there are no rules, try it”. I did, and loved it!
“I’m not naïve enough to think that each year isn’t going to come with its own bucket of challenges, but I feel that each year is going to teach me something about myself and prepare me for handling hard times with a little more patience and grace.”
Those were words I typed in my blog last December about Holiday Traditions After Loss. Well, I think it’s safe to say that 2020 was certainly full of buckets and buckets of challenges for most everyone.
Here we are in the last month of this crazy year. The holiday season can already be stressful or challenging for many, even before you throw in the stress of a global pandemic.
The first Christmas after my divorce I just didn’t want to do it. I wanted to skip the holidays all together. I was grieving and, in my grief, I didn’t have the energy to “follow the rules” or do all of the things I was “supposed” to do.
The “rules” said I was supposed to:
- Get a Christmas tree
- Decorate my house
- Bake cookies
- Buy or make gifts for everyone important in my life
- Adopt a family or two
- Send out holiday cards like I used to
After I neglected to do the things listed above…life still went on. The guilt that I thought I would feel from not following the “rules” was actually nonexistent. There was actually stress that diminished because I did what was best for my mental health, not what I was “supposed” to do.
If it’s hard for you to get into the holiday spirit this year because (on top of COVID-19) you have been dealt a crap hand this year that is ok! There are no “rules” on what you are supposed to do this holiday season, or any season for that matter.
I read a very profound article this week by Kate Scott that has gone viral. This article really hit home for me and I think a lot of people can relate, maybe more because of this crazy year:
When I was at one of my lowest (mental) points in life, I couldn’t get out of bed some days. I had no energy or motivation and was barely getting by.
I had therapy once per week, and on this particular week I didn’t have much to ‘bring’ to the session. He asked how my week was and I really had nothing to say.
“What are you struggling with?” he asked.
I gestured around me and said “I dunno man. Life.”
Not satisfied with my answer, he said “No, what exactly are you worried about right now? What feels overwhelming? When you go home after this session, what issue will be staring at you?”
I knew the answer, but it was so ridiculous that I didn’t want to say it.
I wanted to have something more substantial.
Something more profound.
But I didn’t.
So I told him, “Honestly? The dishes. It’s stupid, I know, but the more I look at them the more I CAN’T do them because I’ll have to scrub them before I put them in the dishwasher, because the dishwasher sucks, and I just can’t stand and scrub the dishes.”
I felt like an idiot even saying it.
What kind of grown ass woman is undone by a stack of dishes? There are people out there with *actual* problems, and I’m whining to my therapist about dishes?
But he nodded in understanding and then said:
“Run the dishwasher twice.”
I began to tell him that you’re not supposed to, but he stopped me.
“Why the hell aren’t you supposed to? If you don’t want to scrub the dishes and your dishwasher sucks, run it twice. Run it three times, who cares?! Rules do not exist.”
It blew my mind in a way that I don’t think I can properly express.
That day, I went home and tossed my smelly dishes haphazardly into the dishwasher and ran it three times.
I felt like I had conquered a dragon.
The next day, I took a shower lying down.
A few days later. I folded my laundry and put them wherever the F$!# they fit.
There were no longer arbitrary rules I had to follow, and it gave me the freedom to make accomplishments again.
Now that I’m in a healthier place, I rinse off my dishes and put them in the dishwasher properly. I shower standing up. I sort my laundry.
But at a time when living was a struggle instead of a blessing, I learned an incredibly important lesson:
There are no rules.
Run the dishwasher twice.
This article touched me in more ways than one because as I have struggled through so many challenging transitions in my life, I have been Katie.
Not only having to sit down to shower (when I had the energy to shower) but I can actually recall the exact same scenario with the dishwasher. Then throw in the holidays, on top of grief, and the “rules” we are supposed to follow with the holidays.
The truth is, there are no rules (well most of the time; yes there are rules in games and you still have to follow the law, but rules in life…that’s a different story).
If COVID-19 is causing you to want to change up your usual holiday plans or traditions this year, that is totally fine! If you want to honor your traditions and try to keep things as close to “normal” as possible, that is cool too!
Perhaps on top of this global pandemic we are all going through together, you are facing a divorce, the loss of a loved one, or another challenging life transition. There are no set of rules you have to follow while you are figuring out what is best for you. You get to make your own!
Last year I shared my top 7 tips on getting through pain around the holidays for those navigating a challenging life transition.
That was of course written prior to a global pandemic,
but I think they are still great tips!
However, this year I would add an 8th. Give yourself grace. Don’t feel like you HAVE to do anything specific this year.
It might seem like straightforward advice, but it can be difficult to adhere to when you feel as if you are “supposed” to be following the “rules” or feeling, acting and doing things a certain way.
Giving yourself grace is certainly relevant during a pandemic because none of us knew how to prepare for this, but it’s also applicable any time you’re struggling with grief, your mental health or just life.
So, go ahead and put ketchup on your French Toast, there are no rules.
Remember, You Got This!