I have always been a fan of the hit 90’s show “Seinfeld,” and my favorite episode is the one honoring “Festivus.” It is a fictional holiday created by George's father, Frank Costanza, celebrated on December 23rd. It starts off with my favorite Costanza family tradition, the “airing of grievances,” which occurs around the dinner table. Frank describes this as, "gather your family around, and tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year!" Basically every family therapist’s nightmare comes to life. But if you love Frank Costanza like I do, it is endearing in the strangest way.
Aside from my love of Festivus, I am annoyingly jolly this time of year. I have had to make a pact with my husband to not listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving to honor his mental health. However, this year has been different. I have felt a little Frank Costanza-y because many of my celebrations are being disrupted by COVID. And while there is so much I have to be grateful for, I still feel a loss of tradition, and a sense of grief.
It has been a disappointing year in so many ways. I am not going to wash over it with positivity and say things like, "every cloud has a silver lining" or "good vibes only." I've been a therapist for long enough to recognize that everyone suffers, and the acknowledgement of suffering is the only way through it. So here it is—I’m going “full Frank!” I'm airing my grievances with 2020. I miss my old life! I yearn for connection through holiday celebrations, New Years’ Eve gatherings, and my yearly flight out of the dark and cold to catch some sunshine. I have been tempted to try and negate this sense of grief because others have suffered so much more than me with challenges to their family’s physical, emotional, and economic health this year. Yet I know it isn’t healthy to invalidate my own grief because someone else is grieving harder— Just as I would be unwilling to negate my joy because others are more joyful.
And now, with my grievances aired, I'm moving on to accept what is. I will play Christmas music (sorry husband), make Hungarian cookies to honor my late grandmother, spend time with my family, take copious amounts of vitamin D, crank up my happy light, and count down to a new year with gratitude in my heart for what’s in front of me.
With the holidays upon us and the new year ahead, I suggest you give it a try:
air your grievances with the year and validate the shit out of yourself! Extra points if you can do this with someone else and validate each other. This has been a rough year for many. And then, once you have honored your inner Frank Costanza, I hope you can accept what is, and find a way to celebrate whatever, wherever, and whenever you can in this world.