DEAR NATALIE: I have no interest in celebrating Christmas this year. I have been wanting to “cancel” this holiday for years now, but this is the year. I am depressed and annoyed by all things holiday. Normally, I send out cards, cookies, gifts, party invites ... but I have no interest. I lost my husband of 30-plus years recently to an illness and am just feeling sad and uninspired. Everyone is getting on me about not being in the “spirit,” but I just don’t have it in me. How do I avoid the holiday shaming and just be a Scrooge without apology? -- BAH, HUMBUG
DEAR BAH, HUMBUG: First, I am so sorry for your loss. The holidays can be incredibly difficult for anyone, let alone someone who is grieving. You are allowed to give yourself permission to do whatever it is that you need to do to get through this time of year. I don’t blame you for wanting to ignore the holidays this year. Or any year, for that matter. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Stick to your vision of having a quiet season free of the stresses of the holidays. Allow yourself space to grieve and allow yourself time for self-care. Instead of spending the money on holiday decor, food, presents and cards, why not take yourself on an overnight trip? Stay at a hotel in your city and pamper yourself for a day at a spa. If that isn’t feasible, buy your favorite foods and make a meal for yourself while you watch a favorite (non-holiday) movie while you do a facemask. Whatever it is that you decide, make it about finding a little joy for yourself. I’m sure your family and friends just feel sad for you and think they are being helpful. Our society is not structured to deal with emotions, especially grief. We hide our fear of death, we don’t discuss much when someone dies, and we try to “move on.” You don’t have to play into any of that. Take care of yourself this season. If anyone has a problem with it, show them the door.
DEAR NATALIE: I’m invited to so many events over the next several weeks I feel as though I am going to go broke bringing hostess gifts. Any suggestions on how to still show appreciation without breaking the bank? —GRATEFUL BUT BROKE
DEAR GRATEFUL BUT BROKE: ’Tis the season to be jolly ... and spend a lot of money. But fear not! You don’t have to break the bank to show appreciation. There is nothing wrong with making a few batches of holiday-inspired cookies and wrapping them in pretty tissue paper for hostess gifts. My grandmother used to do this as part of our Christmas gifts. I knew the start of the season began when we received colorful tins in the mail from Iowa filled with delicious cookies of all kinds. With apps like Pinterest, the possibilities of recipes are endless. Check out how to make peppermint bark, red velvet crinkle cookies or classic gingerbread men. You can freeze the dough to use throughout the month and have plenty of holiday cheer to share!
Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: The end of the year is a great time to update your contact list, circle back with new contacts that you would like to connect with in the upcoming year, and make a list of goals for 2020 to help start your new year of networking off on the right foot.
Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci
(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)