It’s that time of year where the whole country is rushing around, making plans to spend the holidays in a traditional fashion with their blood relations. Not me. For the past several years, I’ve chosen to break that cycle. Not because I have anything wrong with spending time off with family. It’s because I want the holiday to be voluntary, something people do only if that’s what they really, truly want to do.
Think for a moment about how most people conduct their holidays. There’s an event set in stone from the very beginning of the year. Depending on your level of participation, you have to, at a minimum, show up and be cordial, all the way up to planning, executing, and financing a perfectionist feast while performing the role of chief diplomat at an intimate gathering of mortal enemies. For some very few of us, everything works out perfectly: you all live close by, get along, have the same schedule, food tastes, interests, and genuinely like and get along with each other. The holiday itself doesn’t matter, since you would be doing the exact same thing anyway, even without a festive excuse.
But for most of the country, there’s a certain degree of stress involved: hellish airport travel, juggling schedules and vacation time, stressful meal planning, and the constant threat of conflict with family and friends. Fights over politics, awkward moments with people you haven’t seen in forever, and just generally being trapped in a house doing things you might not have wanted to do. Yet so many of us feel we have to participate. Millions make their holiday plans out of a sense of obligation rather than out of their own personal desire. To me, that feeling of being trapped in an uncomfortable situation because you have to be, especially at a moment which is supposed to be a joyous occasion, is absolutely heart-wrenching.
That’s why, for the fourth year in a row, I’m doing a “voluntary holiday.” I have severed any and all commitments to do anything. I can just sit home under a blanket all day if I want, and no one I care about will get mad at me. Now, everything I’ll be doing this season is exactly what I want to be doing. Everyone I spend time with knows that if I would rather be someplace else, I would be. To me, that’s beautiful.
You may have spent your whole life basing your decisions around relationships that constrain and attempt to control you. That doesn’t have to continue. You can start practicing voluntary relationships at any time. Does that new mindset do absolutely nothing to change your holiday traditions? Wonderful. Does it give way to a new and happier way of being in place of past discontentment? Even better. Either way, here’s wishing you a holiday that’s exactly what you want. No more, no less. That’s true happiness.