Dr. Robin Dilley, Author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey With Breast Cancer and a licensed psychologist.
The HOLIDAY season comes at the best time of the year, starting in fall and finishing in the heart of winter. It is the best time of the year, because it is my favorite time. The weather changes and the colors of fall dance in the crispness of evening dusk and then snow falls and purifies the debris of hot summer months. From Halloween until Valentine’s Day there is a HOLIDAY to look forward to with opportunity for plenty of hallmark moments.
However, the HOLIDAY season can be marred with ghosts from times past that you need to clear out in order to celebrate and take every opportunity to be fully alive in the HOLIDAY season. One good way to do this is to write journal letters to the people or memories that have scarred your HOLIDAY mood. Write a letter to the people or memories that haunt you and burn those letters in a fall bond fire. But don’t stop there. Write a new letter to yourself for every letter that you just burned. This new letter is a letter of declaration. Declare to take back the joy, mystery, and excitement of this time of the year and describe in detail in the letter how you are setting yourself free and specifically celebrating the HOLIDAY season this year. This letter of declaration is your bill of rights to enjoy your life without the haunting of past memories. This is most important for us as cancer survivors. If you are currently challenged with a certain cancer and are wrestling with treatment and recovery the HOLIDAY season can be shadowed with fear and life and death thoughts. It is very important that you rally to claim this time of year for yourself and your family. HOLIDAY’s can be the best memory making times of your life. In order for that to happen you must drop the “should and have-to” demands of society and simply enjoy the presence of festivity and connection that this time of the year provides.
So, cancer survivor’s and current patients get out your pen and paper and write your letter of independence today. Do not let cancer shadow or shatter your HOLIDAY this year. You may not have control of the outcome of your current cancer story, but you can control the way you celebrate this time of the year just because you are still here and this is an opportunity to enjoy.
Hallmark and commercialism have over-burdened and over stimulated many of you with all of the commercial glitz of consumerism. HOLIDAY’S can becoming burdensome surrounded by clouds of should and have-to. Do not allow commercialism to ruin the enjoyment and zest that can be yours during this magical time of the year. Learn to own what your HOLIDAY thoughts and dreams are and execute the HOLIDAY the way you want to do it. For instance, choose the HOLIDAY you enjoy the most and celebrate it fully the way you that brings you the most enjoyment. If Halloween is your favorite HOLIDAY then full celebrate it. Give HALLOWEEN gifts if you want and put it in the card: “Happy Halloween. I just love this holiday and since I can’t do both Christmas and Halloween I am gifting you now and hope you will enjoy this just as much if you were opening it on Christmas morning.” It is okay to have boundaries and not have to do all of everything for the HOLIDAY. If you are overwhelmed with other people’s expectations, you are the only one that can change that. I promise you they won’t change it for you.
Then for the rest of the HOLIDAYS choose one part of the HOLIDAY to truly participate in. For instance if you live near family and have to do HOLIDAY meals on Christmas morning, afternoon, and evening as well as a big celebration on Christmas eve, you know that already. So rather than resist it, pre-plan and prepare what you are going to take, organize it and have it off of your to do list. As a result of these obligations, trim down on other HOLIDAY have-to obligations and learn to say no to the cookie exchange and last-minute wrapping and gift buying. Sometimes, you can be your own worse enemy. Family expectations are tricky and you do not have to take an all or nothing stance. Resisting your mother-in-law’s expectations is a waste of your mental and emotional energy. Just pre-plan around her expectation and do your family obligation with a joyful attitude and the have-to becomes an act of love and service. That is the true spirit of the HOLIDAY season. It becomes your Christmas gift to her even if she is too busy to notice. You know and that is all that matters.
It is up to you as to how you choose to celebrate this HOLIDAY season and if you take ownership you can actually have the best HOLIDAY ever, regardless of HOLIDAY ghosts or your physical health at this time. You are more than your cancer. Do not let cancer define you or your HOLIDAY this year. If you need help taking ownership of this festive time, then seek out the help of a mental health professional that values living in the midst of any situation. May you look forward to the opportunities of mystery and magic during this awesome time of the year.
Dr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.