With Thanksgiving in the US tomorrow, the holiday season is upon us! This is the last post by Leigh Kramer, our Pilgrim in Residence for the month of November. Every journey offers an invitation to deeper self-awareness, and as our Pilgrim in Residence this month, Leigh is sharing stories of her ongoing journey of self-discovery each week here at A Sacred Journey. Learn more about Leigh and read the rest of the posts in the series here. -Lacy
For the first 30 years of my life, I didn’t have to be strategic about Christmas plans.
I stayed in my hometown after graduate school, about 10 minutes away from my parents and one set of grandparents and 45 minutes away from the other set of grandparents. I worked in jobs which did not give me time off Christmas Eve day and because my family doesn’t travel for the holidays, I didn’t need to take time off after Christmas either.
Christmas remained the same whirlwind of celebrating it always was.
Christmas Eve is spent with my dad’s side of the family, followed by Christmas morning with my parents and brother (my sister-in-law joined the mix a couple of years ago), and then we head out out to be with my mom’s side of the family by noon and spend the afternoon there. By the time we get back, I’m spent.
When I still lived in my hometown, this was no big deal. I’d return to my apartment to recharge and then it would be back to my usual routine.
I moved out of state 4 years ago. The first Christmas home, I made a tactical error and scheduled coffee dates and dinners for nearly every spare minute I was in town. I made the even bigger tactical error of not spending much time with my parents apart from the Christmas celebrations. And I was staying at their house! Oof.
It was quite the learning curve. After that first Christmas, I returned to Nashville exhausted. I swore I’d figure out a better balance next time.
I’m an INFJ, the most extroverted of the introverts. A good one-on-one talk with a friend can keep me flying high for hours but in the end, I need alone time to recharge. I go back home a few times a year and I can’t help but want to see everyone while I’m there. Yet I’ve learned if I don’t care for my introversion along the way, I’ll be depleted before I even leave town.
It gets complicated when I factor in 30 years worth of relationships in my hometown against however many days I get to be there. Each year I’ve tweaked my schedule to figure out what works best and last Christmas seemed to be my sweet spot.
(Part of the secret to my success is having my own vehicle when I’m back home. I flew the first year. I hated packing presents, dealing with flight delays, the fact that it took my parents an hour just to get to Arrivals at Midway, and relying on rides from other people. It’s a seven and a half hour drive and while there’s a chance I could encounter snow or ice along the way, I wouldn’t trade the freedom for anything.)
Here’s how I have an introverted Christmas:
1. Set expectations from the beginning
My friends recognize I’m in town for only so many days and I’m there for the holidays. I talk to my parents about any plans they’d like to make. My mom likes to have an idea of my schedule so I make sure to communicate with her when I’ll be home for family meals and when I’ll be gone. They know I’ll be in and out but there when they need me to be.
2. Don’t overbook
I’m a planner. A few weeks before I get into town, I email friends with my availability. If they’re in town when I am, great. If not, I’ll catch them next time. If I only have a few days, then I prioritize who I want to see (my family, my best friend) and anyone else is a bonus. Either way, just because I’m home doesn’t mean I have to see everyone I’ve ever known. As I look at everyone’s availability I try to make sure I…
3. Schedule alone time
I always bring plenty of books with me, as reading is one of the best ways I recharge. Whether or not I’m traveling, I read every night before I go to bed. I also try to leave pockets of time either in the morning or evening free to read or watch TV. Sometimes my parents will be in the room doing their own thing, sometimes I’ll be by myself. Sometimes it’s as simple as the hour-long drive to see a friend. However I do it, there needs to be space for me to process all I’ve been doing, seeing, hearing. This time is sacred.
4. Remember why you’re there
Inevitably, I’ll start to drag at some point while I’m home. As great as it is to be in my childhood home and staying over at other friends’ houses, I’ll start craving my own house and routine and way of doing things. I’ll want to be alone alone. But I remind myself of why I’m in town. Christmas is about celebrating the Savior’s birth but it is also about time with family and friends. It is a true treat to be with the ones who have loved me longest. All too soon, I’ll be back in Nashville. A little discomfort is worth it.
if you’re an introvert, how do you take care of yourself during the holidays? How do you balance introvert time with family and friends time? If you’re an extrovert, what about the holidays fills you up? Share your response to the question or the post in the comments.