The Holidays Are Hard

It seems like every year advertisers and our social media newsfeeds inundate us all with images of perfect family holidays, exciting engagements, and fun vacations.  

Reality is very different for most of us. 

With my job, I rarely get to spend holidays with the people I love. I spend them sitting alone in hotel rooms, eating takeout (if I'm lucky) and FaceTiming with the folks back home, which often makes me even MORE homesick. 
Over the past few years I've spent Thanksgivings and Christmases waiting for the phone to ring, alone in strange cities, and wracked with heartache. 

No matter your job, holidays can be fraught with hard emotions. 

Financial crisis. 
A devastating health diagnosis. 
Family discord.

At this time of year it somehow feels like there's more pressure than ever to be living a perfect life, free of heartbreak, conflict, or hard times.

We're "supposed" to be full of holiday cheer and joy but often it can be incredibly difficult to feel the tingle of magic through the sadness of our real-life burdens. 

So for those of you struggling this holiday season, honestly, I'm right there with ya. 

Here are a few of my tips for coping:

1. Remember that a lot of people are having a harder season of life than you are. 
Yes, this is tough, but take a few moments to consider how it could be worse. 
I try to remember that even though I can't be with my family this time, at least I have all of them still and I can see them next week. 

2. Consider how people celebrated holidays historically.
You have indoor plumbing to use on Thanksgiving? Not too shabby. 
You aren't battling bears on your homestead in the wilderness? Good. 

3. Do routine things you would do on any other day.
Get your cup of coffee. Read your book. 
Remember tiny things that you like to do on a normal day, and do those things. 

4. Lower your expectations. 
WHY do we think that a holiday should be a day full of flawless and majestic happiness? 
They're just days, and we're just humans. 

5. Find tiny ways to celebrate for yourself. 
Last Christmas I was alone in Las Vegas for 30 hours. I made my own tiny celebration by doing things I love- eating delicious food and going to a Christmas Eve service at the local Unitarian Universalist church. I was friendly, so I made new friends. I like to sing, so I sang carols. 
It was a little lonely, but I also kind of loved it. 

#MeToo: For The Gentlemen

This post is for the men out there who want to be part of the solution, instead of being part of the problem. 

Every single woman I know has been sexually harassed and/or assaulted.

Every woman I know grips her keys or her phone a little tighter when walking somewhere at night. 

No matter what we wear, what we do, or how we exist in the world, being female automatically makes us targets for harassment and violence. 

The first time I remember being the target of unwanted advances from a male person was when I was nine years old.
(I actually hadn't thought about this incident for YEARS until yesterday when #MeToo started popping up all over social media.)

I was on a camping trip with my mom, grandma, and brother at Acadia National Park in Maine. 
I went to use one of the toilets, and I was harassed by a teenaged boy going in and coming out. 
It's been 18 years since then, so I can't remember exactly what he said to me, but I remember being really creeped out and scared to the point that I wouldn't go back to the spigot near the bathroom to get water for our campsite.  
I felt so....icky. 

The worst part about this story is that it's just not that bad when it comes to the spectrum of abuse that girls and women face every day. 

Some of the women whom I am closest to have experienced far, far, far worse. 
Their stories aren't mine to share, but they are mine to believe. 

Gentlemen, here's where you come in.

Look, we know not all men are rapists, but it is an absolute fact that most rapists are men. 

I am KEENLY aware that men can absolutely be survivors of sexual assault and many have experienced sexual harassment, but this post is directed at men who want to understand how to support the women around them and help end Rape Culture. Harassment and assault are never acceptable, no matter who the target is or who the perpetrators are. Ending the culture of rape will help ALL of us. 

If you're a truly good man, like so many I know, you want to help but you don't know what to do to help combat Rape Culture, so here are my tips for the good guys out there:

1. Believe her.
When a woman in your life shares an experience about harassment or assault with you, believe what she is telling you. 
Believe me when I tell you every. single. woman. has been harassed or assaulted. 

2. Educate yourself.
If, in your head, you quietly think something like "Yeah, but she is really hot, and that guy was just trying to compliment her. She probably secretly liked it." or "I bet she was wearing something that gave him the impression she was interested.", YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.

Bro, check yourself.

Take the time to read articles like this one: Men, It's Our Moral Responsibility to Combat Rape Culture
Then spend a few minutes really thinking about it and the implications it has for your life. 

3. Speak up. 
This is probably going to be the hardest step, guys. 
Remaining silent means you agree with what's happening. 

Look, I know it's scary to put yourself out there and say something. Some guys might look at you funny. Some men might make you the butt of a joke. Some dude might even yell at you or threaten you physically. 
But wait.
Those things are what women experience literally just walking down the street every single day. 
Put on your grown up pants and be as brave as ALL of the women in your life are every day. 

So read up and most importantly, speak up. 
You'll make the world a better place for everyone. 

But You're Supposed To...

When it comes to wedding planning, one of the things that I am most frustrated by is that so many people have opinions about what you're "supposed" to do. 

You're supposed to wear a white dress, it's traditional.
You're supposed to serve alcohol, otherwise no one will have fun.
You're supposed to invite your parent's neighbor's niece, because she invited your parents to HER wedding. 
You're supposed to have dancing. 
You're supposed to have a cake.
You're supposed to have the kind of ceremony that everyone expects you to.

And on and on and on. 

If you've ever planned a wedding, you know how easy it can be to become overwhelmed by the expectations that other people have for your wedding. 

Too often it seems like weddings become about everyone EXCEPT the bride and groom. 
It becomes more about the party right now and less about the joining of two lives for always. 

Today I want to let you know that it's ok to make your wedding as weird, as wacky, or as basic as you want to. 

If there's something you hate, don't do it. 
If there's a "tradition" that doesn't feel right, tweak it or get rid of it. 
If you want to break every rule in the book, go for it. 
This is YOUR wedding.

No matter WHAT choices you make in life, you're always going to have people who are going to be critical of them.
You can't please everyone, and some people are just impossible to please, so go ahead and stick to your guns!

That said, you need to be aware that your choices have consequences. 

When you're making your unusual choices, keep in mind the manifesto of the Awesome Etiquette podcast from The Emily Post Institute: focus on the principles of consideration, respect, and honesty.

Great-Aunt Mildred might be hurt if you abruptly refuse to wear the family wedding veil, so break it to her kindly and explain your choice to her respectfully.
Your dad will probably be disappointed if you tell him you'd rather walk down the aisle alone, so be honest with him and considerate when you talk to him about it.
You're going to have to be ok with hurting a few feelings, but make sure you're polite about it.

If you need validation or a professional opinion, you can hit me up via A Professional Bridesmaid.