Sugar for the Holidays

December 22, 2014

It's the week of Christmas, and I'm ever aware that while this is a time of relaxation and easeful family togetherness for many, it's also a really hard time of year for many others. The holidays unearth buried (or not so buried) family baggage and personal struggles. There's a lot of pressure to overextend and spend money you don't have and put on a good face. A lot of you have recently lost loved ones, or are still watching them struggle with illnesses. I'm so sorry. Unsurprisingly, I have no magic elixir for smoothing over the rough edges and making hard times easier. I do think it's a good time to practice lots of self care-- read that comforting book, take time for yourself, see the people that you feel best with.

I was pretty excited to discover that Sugar, the ultimate advice columnist, has a new podcast. (Actually, there were two Sugars-- Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond-- and they share the podcast.) The first episode was a mix of background information on how the column came to be and the two Sugars dishing out advice on some pretty tough human dilemmas. I love how Strayed and Almond treat these requests for advice as sacred. They don't pretend that the questions have overly succinct answers-- they're dilemmas, after all. There is an equal admission that life is wonderfully painful and terribly beautiful; this paradox is completely valid. 

I started reading Sugar during a really hard time when there were few people I felt comfortable sharing my personal struggles with. The gift of Sugar was realizing that other people were walking around with terrible/wonderful struggles of their own, and that this didn't mean that there was something wrong with them. Maybe that sounds strange, confusing circumstance and the goodness of a person, but that's how I felt: my hard times led to a shame spiral. Tiny Beautiful Things (the compilation of Cheryl Strayed's columns) felt like a dose of grace and an affirmation of strength: you're doing great and things will get better, but for now own this story. And that's a pretty huge gift. Thanks, Sugar. 

What does that have to do with the holidays? Though I have no solution for hard, painful times, I wish you the ability to give yourself some grace and take time for your own end-of-year rituals-- whatever feels right. Comparing yourself to the family/person next to you that appears a beacon of easy circumstance is a personal disservice. Reaching out to others that are having a hard time is a gift. Trust me that there are many of these people. We're all so good at hiding our scars, but they're there. Take care of yourself. Read (or listen to) some Sugar, and eat your feelings if you need to. I hope your holidays have at least a bit of exactly what you need.

You can listen to the first episode of the Dear Sugar podcast over here

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