Life Health

PROULX: Navigating Christmas drama

Well, most family Christmases don't end in tears of joy like it did for Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life. Instead, Shaun Proulx has some hints to help you navigate often difficult waters.

Well, most family Christmases don't end in tears of joy like it did for Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life. Instead, Shaun Proulx has some hints to help you navigate often difficult waters.

SHAUN PROULX/ 24 HOURS

From November 1st through January 15th, there are approximately 29 holidays observed by seven of the world's major religions, which for many equals an emotional, complicated, stressful and costly time.

I celebrate Christmas, and while I've enjoyed many, I have a complicated relationship with the holiday. Growing up, I was sensitive to the unfair pressure my mother was under every December, watching her worry as the excitement of my two younger brothers intersected with the drinking of an alcoholic husband whose disease saw him drown their money. Like most LGBT people, I also have cringe-inducing holiday war stories like demeaned relationships, while other Christmases arrived at the worst time for me financially. Until recently, I allowed controlling family members with kids to use them as leverage to ensure their own holiday needs were top priority.

In other words, my Christmases have often been the picture Norman Rockwell forgot to paint. Which is why I now take control of my holiday to make sure it contains personal meaning and feels authentic.

Here's my "Joy To My World" strategy:

Decide Now What's Important To You: For most of us, there's time still to reflect on what matters most to you about the holidays. Does the social aspect mean anything? Or is it the religious or spiritual side you want to focus on? Or perhaps helping others less fortunate is your kind of priority? (Folding hundreds of pairs of underwear as part of gifting to clients at a Montreal men's shelter helped make one of the best Christmases I ever had.)

Use That Decision To Inform Your Plans: If invitations or pressure to be places and do things do not match the decision you've made about what's important to you, send your regrets and stand firm. Don't let others - family, friends, retailers - impose their agendas on you. And when the going gets tough, bring yourself back to what's important with this question: Will (fill in the blank) bring me joy?

Say F-U To False Guilt: False guilt abounds right now. It's a learned response, triggered by something external like a demand you didn't meet. If you feel stuck or trapped; if a situation is out of your control yet you still blame yourself; if you are protecting someone else's feelings; if you apologize and make amends but still feel guilty, chances are you're experiencing false guilt. Just because you feel guilty, doesn't mean you are.

Find Authentic Meaning: As someone who applies the Law of Attraction to his life, in my search to find meaning within Christmas, I came to realize that Jesus was a profound example of what lies at the heart of what I study and teach: he lived in alignment, in the flow of the universe's space for him. Rather than celebrate what religions I'm not part of say I should, I celebrate that aspect, something significant to me. What could there be in the holidays that holds deep meaning for you? In taking time to look for significance I found it, making Christmas feel truly authentic.

Avoid Holiday Debt: Ask those you gave gifts to last year (especially your kids) what you gave them. Odds are stupidly high they won't remember. Then ask yourself if that's good enough reason to go into debt, because one-third of Canadians have said they bought gifts they knew they couldn't afford, while more than one-quarter financed them with credit cards or by cashing in investments, according to one holiday spending survey (done in 2010 by TD Canada Trust). Once just like those surveyed, I now use only cash - no credit or debit - when buying gifts to create stronger spending awareness within myself. I work off a dramatically trimmed-back shopping list, buy gifts that have meaning, and send greeting cards only to family and friends outside Canada.

Pick Your Battles: This time of year means annoyances everywhere, so don't let something you won't remember six months from now ruin your holiday happiness. So what if someone spelled Christmas "Xmas" or wished you a Merry Christmas when you don't celebrate, or put their holiday decor up before Remembrance Day? Are any of those reasons truly justification enough for you to rant like a loon on Facebook? This holiday ask yourself: Would I rather be right, or would I rather have joy in my world?

Shaun Proulx hosts The Shaun Proulx Show on SiriusXM Canada Talks channel 167. He is the publisher of TheGayGuideNetwork.com and leads a #ThoughtRevolution on ShaunProulx.com.