Glimmers of Joy

By Katheryn Howell, Senior Director of Community Programs

The last bit of color starts to fade here in the Pacific Northwest, and the early morning frost and shorter days tell us the holiday season is upon us. The transition in retail from fall décor to holiday décor seems to happen overnight. Commercials and seasonal music in the stores encourage us to be happy, joyful and to look forward to spending time with our families. But for some families, the holidays bring feelings of sadness, anxiety, and other negative feelings. It’s important to strategize beforehand to be prepared if family dynamics and circumstances disrupt festivities.

As someone who, for the last decade, spent countless days in the hospital supporting family members hospitalized over the holidays, I start to prepare early in the fall for the coming months. My middle brother is “my person.”  We begin to share notes early on about how we are doing. How busy work is and what our holiday plans are. I’ve learned to ask him for what I need when we talk, like when I need a listening ear rather than advice, when I’m just looking to bounce ideas, or when I need someone else in the family to step in because I’m too close to something.  *Mudita Rastogi, a clinical professor and licensed marriage and family therapist with the Family Institute at Northwestern University, encourages clients to designate a support person. Having a plan makes me feel more prepared when things don’t go as expected and positions my brother as my “wingman.”

Resiliency and being prepared for the unexpected can include anticipating that we can only change the way we react to the unexpected. When someone close is insensitive to our needs, the best thing sometimes is to approach with a bit of humor or walk away. Getting fresh air and doing mindful exercises are excellent relief from small slights that can trigger a negative response. Intentionally, looking for slight glimmers, or short periods of happiness, around the holidays puts one in a position to be delighted rather than disappointed. 

We wish our Island County community the warmest of holidays. May you be on the lookout for little glimmers of joy as you enjoy the rest of 2023.

Happy Holidays!