How to survive the holidays if you’re depressed, grieving, or just a misanthrope

survive holidays depression grief

Every year it’s the same: The holidays approach and I internally seize up. OK, the next few months are gonna suck, I warn myself. My mom died around the holidays (in case the title of this post not warn you, this post is gonna be a li’l dark), effectively leaching varying amounts of holiday delight from a formerly favorite season. A decade into grief, I’m a little less self-absorbed and know that the holidays are tough for LOTS of folks. So here’s a survival guide for me, you, anyone curmudgeonly or grieving or vitamin D deficient (heh).

Lots and lots of SELF-CARE.

I read somewhere that “self-care” can be an excuse to be an asshole (“Sorry, I can’t fulfill XYZ obligation because SELF-CARE”), but honestly that seems to be confusing self-care with selfish. You can be kind to yourself without hurting other people and/or being a narcissist. Prioritizing your needs (sleep, healthy food, activity, social contact, creative expression, etc.) is not the same as disrespecting other people. This time of year, when I’m feeling more rundown and grumpier than usual (which is saying something), it’s good to remember, Oh yeah, I need to be extra-gentle with myself right now. If I feel like a gross lumpy slob, would I feel better if I went to the gym? Or try to lovingly accept said slobness in the moment and curl up on the couch, determined to do better tomorrow? Point is, it’s more effective (and feels better) to take the hate-y red laserbeams I WANT to shoot out my eyeballs at strangers and turn them into loving glittery sauna rays gyrating inside my soul. Or whatever. You know what I mean.

Miscellaneous ideas for self-care: Take 5 minutes to stretch. Take a brief walk around the block (fresh air is amazing). See what’s trending on YouTube and watch a quick video. Look at kittens or puppies online, or a site that makes you laugh (it’s Clickhole for me). Buy yourself something tiny and sweet like a flavored chapstick or seasonal herbal tea. Read a favorite book–somehow knowing the ending makes it reassuring. Tell someone you love you’re down and ask them for some encouragement!

sleeping woman in bed

Music.

There’s a time and place for sitting alone with your thoughts and staring out the train window/hotel window/whatever, but sometimes silence gives way to a familiar chorus of negative self-talk that you just can’t deal with. Top 40 holiday tunez sometimes jumpstart my mood due to their sheer cheesiness–I mean, who can resist NSYNC’s “Kiss Me at Midnight“? There’s also this Britney gem and, for a more relaxing vibe, Ariana Grande’s Christmas + Chill. Or on the flipside, try more soothing holiday music like George Winston’s December or Sufjan Stevens’ mass of Christmas songs.

Of course, you can shun Christmas music altogether! Make a special playlist of your most calming songs–mine is called “Ubersoothe” and it’s helped me fend off many a panic attack (that and the yoga child pose). Doesn’t matter what’s on it (Enya? NO JUDGMENT!) as long as you feel all safe & cocooned when you listen to it.

Make decisions slowly.

Take a sec to pause and get in touch with your gut/intuition before saying yes or no to holiday invitations. I considered spending Thanksgiving alone as a sort of “fuck you” but realized I’d just be kind of miserable sitting on the couch binge-watching Netflix yet again while other peeps were with their families. So instead of a) being alone b) hanging with uber-conservative immediate family, a third surprising choice revealed itself: c) hang out with OTHER relatives a bit farther away who share my Trump hate. Ding ding ding! You’ll know in your gut when you find the right decision, even if it’s elusive at first. You don’t have to sit back and unhappily go along with the way things always are (my therapist calls this bringing your locus of control internal instead of external). You can invent a new way to do things that meets your needs and helps you get through a tough time!

just a li'l pep talk
just a li’l pep talk

Find safe people to confide in.

Whether it’s a close friend, favorite coworker, or far-flung sibling with Skype, identify your go-to people who are willing and able to share your holiday misery (therapists are PERFECT for this too!). I probably don’t need to tell the CEO at work why I’m frowny in the kitchen, but if someone I’m not close to asks, a simple “The holidays are a tough time of year for me” suffices quite nicely. Then lean on your Inner Circle/girl squad/whathaveyou for cathartic full-body sobs, lonely 10pm texts, and all those other superfun parts of holiday sadness.

Try new things.

Attempting a new task and even partially succeeding is great for self-esteem and can shake up the Christmas doldrums in the best sort of disruptive way. I always kind of scorned baking (which my sister rules at), thinking of myself as The Undomestic Sister. Turns out, Karlie Kloss and Taylor Swift are right–it’s oddly satisfying (and smells fucking amazing to boot). Take a new class, try rockclimbing, I dunno–do something outside your usual routine and watch yourself flourish. It feels great.

Watch your finances.

I know, I feel like a buzzkill-y old aunt here, but the holidays are stressful and the last thing you need is more stress in the form of huge credit card bills and budget-related regret. Who says you have to spend loads of money on everyone you’ve ever met? Pick your closest handful of peeps and get them each ONE nice gift. Bam, you’re done! No January wallet hangover necessary. (You can even just make people gifts, if that’s your thing.)

***

Hang in there–the season will pass (it always does). Soon enough we’ll be approaching the next holiday to hate: Valentine’s Day! 😉

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Style inspo: Joan Watson (or how to dress like an adult)

I know, I know. Part of being a Rebel Gurl TM Dot Com is not giving a shit, wearing old greasy potato chip bags stapled together, etc. etc. But sometimes you want to Command Ruh-SPEKT and, like, not read as 25 anymore. Problem: fugly old-lady clothes that look joyless and unfashionable. I don’t want to look like a sorority girl turned lawyer (no offense, Elle Woods) because I’m too lazy and comfort-driven to wear heels, BUT I don’t want to look like I’ve completely given up, either.

Solution? WWJW, or “What Would Joan Wear?”

I’ve been binge-watching Elementary and Lucy Liu (aka Joan Watson)’s wardrobe is ON. POINT. It’s basically all fall style goals:

joan-watson-elementary-outfits-fashion

Here are some Dressin’ Like a Grown-Ass Woman tipz I’ve absorbed from Elementary:

joan watson elementary fashion style neckties

Neckties, tie-neck blouses, etc. are a good way to say “YO, I’m official.” (Plus you never know when you’ll need to tie someone up, right? Assuming you’re out of zipties.)

joan watson elementary fashion style

I gravitate toward tons of splotchy bright abstract colors, but Joan is the opposite: geometrics, hard lines, dark colors, neutrals BUT with some drapy (drapey?) fabrics to soften things up. (Plus her hair is always perfectly wavy as a feminine balance to what could be a cold, masculine look.)

joan watson elementary fashion style layers

Let’s return to DRAPY: Joan piles on the effortless asymmetrical moto jackets, long cardigans, and belted tunics to play with proportions and length. My wardrobe is almost babylike in its simplicity: shirt + pants, whereas hers has plenty of layers to add interest. “The eye has to travel,” as Diana Vreeland famously said, and a polo and khakis gives those poor ole eyes no destination!

joan watson elementary fashion style shoes

Two words: ANKLE. BOOTS. Joan (or the show’s fashion stylist, rather) is fond of chunky heeled ankle boots, and for good reason: They’re killer with black tights/leggings and flippy skirts, or just leggings and a tunic. Pass on the heel, personally, but you can get the same effect with a good chelsea boot or even loafers for that matter. No sneakers!

And if you want to straight-up steal her style, there’s always WornonTV.com, a blessing/curse (and from whence many of these pics came). Stay classy, Watson!

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Everyone ISN’T beautiful

Have you heard Alessia Cara’s new radio single “Scars To Your Beautiful”?

Some lyrics:

You should know you’re beautiful just the way you are
And you don’t have to change a thing
The world could change its heart
No scars to your beautiful, we’re stars and we’re beautiful

She told Cosmo, “It was important to put that in my own words and remind people that they are beautiful no matter what.” That is sweet and I’m sure her heart is in the right place, but…CRINGE. Another “Everyone is beautiful!!!!!1” anthem meant to be empowering but totally missing the point.

I am ALL for self-acceptance. 1,000% percent. But saying everyone is beautiful is just bullshit.

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WHY MAXIMALISM RULES

yay maximalism!

There are soooo many minimalist blogs. Have white walls! Have a capsule wardrobe! Declutter! Have a uniform! Scan your important documents and get rid of everything!

I heard the siren song. Boy, did I hear it. I rushed to Goodwill with overflowing bags like I was purging the evil from my dark, dark soul.

There was only one problem.

I’m not a minimalist.

I’M A MAXIMALIST! I love bright colors and tons of chintzy vintage bracelets and layers of scarves and posters on top of wallpaper on top of a collage. Once I read that a style blogger (Arabelle Sicardi? Tavi?) liked to sleep in her closet on a huge pile of clothes and was like Mmm, word. Sounds awesome. Grey Gardens is rad. OK, hoarders kind of make me anxious, but maximalism itself deserves better than the bad rap it gets. HERE IS WHY.

1. Simplicity is boring.

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In defense of being girly

Which one of these is socially unacceptable?
Which one of these is socially unacceptable?

Remember Sk8r Boi by Avril Lavigne? (If you were a teenager in 2002, you feel me.) The gist is that a pretty girl who did ballet had the hots for the eponymous male, but she turned up her nose. She ends up at home feeding her baby. What an idiot, right? How dare she be pretty, like ballet, and have a kid? It’s not enough that she’s a snob; Avril has to make her uber-feminine. Avril even wears a tie in her videos, as if to say, “Don’t worry, I’m punk and aggro and have all these traits traditionally associated with dudes while simultaneously being nonthreatening and conventionally attractive and fuckable.”

For a while, that was my M.O. too. I thought being an empowered badass feminist meant taking a shit on everything girly. I hated blonde sorority girls, fake tanning, early education majors, and anything “prissy.” For some reason Legally Blonde and Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion were fine, great even (probably because they valued friendship over dudes). But I rejected all other aspects of femininity. (Fake nails? Are you a stupid vapid bimbo?) I thought an integral part of feminism was Daria and Angela Chase in My So-Called Life, wearing shapeless flannel and scowling and refusing to learn how to cook.

Turns out hating other women isn’t very feminist at all.

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Aussies are crushing it

Do you ever just wanna move to a different continent? Say Australia?

I keep seeing brands and artists from there that just make my heart burst. Common themes: happy bright colors, a healthy sprinkling of zaniness and/or humor, and a lack of pretension. Something to do with the sun and vibrant wildlife?

Castle & Things

Gorgeous cut-out letters and shapes on art, bedding, and more. From their site: “CASTLE loves having a bit of fun. We love color and whimsy…We love spots and fluro and pink and yellow and orange and grey and love hearts and flowers and paint and felt and everything that POPS around in our studio. If it’s fun we love it.” Can I please be friends with them (and do the bla-bla)? OK COOL

castle & things
You be perfection on two sexy legs. via castle & things

Gorman

Clothing and accessories in quirky prints with lotsa pink, yellow, and baby blue. I want to buy ALL THE THINGS.

Gorman Australia
via gormanshop.com.au
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How to avoid being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl

manic pixie dream girl zooey deschanel
Zooey D photo via Flickr

Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer. Natalie Portman in Garden State. Any quirky girl who wears Modcloth dresses and serenades pigeons with Carly Simon before cartwheeling into the distance. This is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a sexist trope coined in 2007 by Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club. The MPDG is whimsical and zany and helps the male main character along on his journey like a pastel Disney forest animal. Unfortunately, she’s one-dimensional and only exists in service to the dude’s self-discovery.

The internet chomped onto the Manic Pixie Dream Girl concept and didn’t let go. Something about it struck a chord (on the ole vintage ukelele, of course). On days when I’m not feeling badass and empowered and driven, it seems easy, tempting even, to find a floral thrift-store dress and be someone’s sidekick. After all, there’s nothing wrong with hula music, Mama Cass, or rollerskating through life (trust me, I would if I wouldn’t immediate break my neck). Needless to say, same for equal partnership where both people support and encourage each other. But letting a dude subsume your agency and identity out of fear and/or laziness is different; that’s what I don’t want to do.

So why is being a manic pixie dream girl sometimes so appealing?

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Friday inspo: Carl Jung

carl jung quote i would rather be whole than good

THX CARL

As my therapist explained it, it’s less about spying the dark shadowy parts of yourself and frantically digging them out with a scalpel…and more about having compassion and self-awareness about your Darth Vader Dark Syde without indulging it. Trying or pretending to be ONLY good is futile and untrue. (Whew! Which is a relief, right?)

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