Home for the Holidays

Tips for handling post-pandemic festivities (Part 1)

Over the past few weeks of not writing, I have followed the news and watched global and national events unfold. Everything from the right’s new punchline to the Supreme Court hearing challenges to Roe v Wade. Needless to say, the news cycle has been a wild ride.

One thing that has been on my mind during all this is that I wanted to spend time addressing some of these issues in a story here on Medium, but also struggling with the fact that this blog is simply not the platform for those sorts of pieces. I have jumped into topics like Critical Race Theory and even our country’s frustrating relationship with guns, but it has been more to discuss the more important heart matters that create those controversies.

But as we shift from summer and fall to the winter holiday season, one thing has prevented me from diving headfirst into that fray: we are likely going to be visiting our families this year. For some of us, this will be the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. And heart matters do not tend to make it to the dinner table.

What does crop up are the overarching political ideas that, more often than not, divide us. The heated versions of those discussions that are fueled by media rhetoric. The nuances of why we feel like we do are lost to the fact that we feel like we do.

So, instead of talking about hot-button issues, I want to create for you a framework for discussing those hot-button issues. More than that, I want to give you the tools to navigate one of the first post-pandemic holiday seasons in person with our families that many of us have had.

One of the first things we need to acknowledge about this year’s holiday season is that, just like last year, it is going to be unlike anything many of us have experienced, although for different reasons. The big one being that the supply chain is severely backed up.

The short version is that, during last year’s pandemic shutdown, the places we buy stuff from dramatically switched gears to producing PPE and other such items for pandemic relief. And people quit buying things. Companies ramped down production of non-essential items. Then, things started opening back up again and people started buying things again. The problem is, people’s demand began very quickly to exceed supply, not only of items but also of containers to ship the items. Coupled with employment struggles, this caused major blockages at our ports. Now we find ourselves stumbling into the holiday shopping season and the fear that we may not be able to get the things that we want in time, if at all.

This has pushed prices up, on literally everything. Merge rising prices with a fairly large employment problem and things are not looking great from a consumer standpoint for the holidays.

Not helping matters is the push by major retailers to get people shopping for their Christmas presents earlier than normal due to the supply chain disruptions. Because, they say, it is going to take longer to get the things that you want.

As if the holidays do not bring enough stress and anxiety-producing scenarios all their own, now we are under the added pressure to shop earlier while we have a chance. Otherwise, we may not be able to give our families the holiday we feel that they deserve. Alice in Chains may have inadvertently written the theme song for this holiday:

I’m the man in the box
Buried in my shit
Won’t you come and save me?
Save me

Believe it or not, there are practical ways to avoid this year’s holiday shopping stress. Below, I lay out three fundamental tools, in no particular order.

First, shop small. I do not necessarily mean buy tiny gifts. After all, that can be just as hard as buying big ones. Rather, I mean do not worry about giving those around you the biggest, most memorable presents of all time. Take the time to listen and take note of what is of interest to your family and give gifts that have lasting meaning.

Second, be present. Keep in mind that many of us have likely not seen our relatives in a while. As silly as it sounds, let your presence be the present. If you can, and are comfortable doing so, show up. And actually be there. Ignore the work calls and social media notifications.

Lastly, wait. The stores and the media may be begging you to come out right now and shop, but do not succumb to their marketing. If too many people run out to the store all at once in a panic, then we will just find ourselves with more shortages and more entrenched supply issues. Not to mention the rising costs associated with low supply and high demand. Which all ends up being counter-productive when it comes to trying to reduce our holiday stress. Rather, be patient. Wait it out. This will not last forever.