Taco ‘Bout It: Humility for the Holidays
by Taco Olmstead
It’s easy to get caught up in my own head, especially this time of year. As a parent, I’ve been feeling the pressures of this season for eighteen years and counting. It’s easy for me to lose sight of the big picture under the weight of my own self perceived, scrutinizing eye. The air is crisp, the month is full of holidays and celebrations, fellowship is abundant, and I’m shaking in my boots and fighting depression with every step. Is it really that bad?
No, it really isn’t, or at least that’s what I tell myself. I repeat that logical bit of reason and hope it manifests itself somewhere in my heart and mind. I tell myself this because honestly, I have it pretty easy. I have a wonderful life and an amazing wife! I have two great kids, my daughter is now “adulting” and my son is growing into himself. Our dog cuddles me endlessly and I’m part of an amazing, vibrant community, bristling with creativity and culture! Who could ask for more?
Well, evidently, this time of year, I seem to. The other day I received a phone call from a friend and the conversation shifted to depression and anxiety, and I admitted my own susceptibility to both. He kind of chuckled and said, “You? Depressed? You’re always smiling and laughing?”
I am always smiling and laughing, it is my own built in defense mechanism. I fake it until I make it into a real smile, a real laugh, a real happy. Growing up in a small Vermont town not only as a distinct minority, but the ONLY minority, I learned how to laugh things off. The reaction has seemingly stuck with me throughout my life, and I’m glad it has, because a smile can soothe and lift up someone who might be feeling as off as I am. I have come to realize there are a lot of people feeling as off as I do, especially this time of year.
Some call it Seasonal Affect Disorder, some of it is the increased parental or social stress. While many of us believe that this time of year sees an increase in depression and suicide, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, both are at a low in December. So what do I do, other than smile to get through these trying times?
First of all, I have a great support system to make sure I don’t hide away. It takes some prodding, but my friends make sure I get out and see some music and art. It really helps! Not only does live music allow me to keep in touch with friends, which always brings a smile to my face, but dancing gets the endorphins up as well.
Secondly, I make sure to count my blessings. It sounds a bit trite but it really does work! Take the time to realize all that you have that is good in your life, take the time to appreciate it, it’ll help make that smile a lot more real.
Thirdly, I make sure to check my expectations more often. I’m never going to have the “perfect” Christmas for my children, but I’ll definitely have a holiday full of love. I don’t even have to be festive all of the time. I’m pretty sure my kids enjoy “poking the bear” plenty because of that, which in turn makes me laugh as well!
Finally, I’m no longer afraid to ask for help. I never used to reach out, but that’s what friends are for. I often think about how upset I’d be if a friend of mine was going through hard times and didn’t let me help. Helping others out often is a form of therapy for people so you might be doing your friend a service as well.
In this community of ours, we pride ourselves on our caring ways. Make sure this shines through in the coming months. For a lot of us, the winter is a very challenging time. Make sure to check in with each other, take the time to tell each other you care, that you love them. It’s amazing how far a thoughtful word can go and how strong that medicine can be for a hurting heart.