Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we talk about issues affecting veterans after they get out of the military.
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I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. And now, let’s get on with the show.
Hey everyone. It's Christmas Eve and I wanted to change things up a bit in this episode. 20 of the last 21 episodes were interview style episodes with me as the host interviewing a guest. That's almost 5 months worth of guests, which to be perfectly honest I didn't really know whether or not I'd be able to sustain over a long period of time. But with the episodes I've already recorded, I have episodes with guests scheduled out through the middle of February, which is amazing to me.
What I wanted to do with this episode, since it is Christmas Eve, is to talk a little about dealing with holidays in general. Not just Christmas, but Thanksgiving, birthdays, and other significant events like anniversaries. They're not always happy times for everyone.
Honestly I actually like this time of year. I'm the guy who starts listening to Christmas music at the beginning of November. But I've been there where I really didn't look forward to Christmas, or any holiday for that matter. The year after my brother died was horrible for this. All of the firsts were hard. The first Thanksgiving without him, the first Christmas, his first birthday, and so on. When he was born I was just 3 years old, so I didn't really remember these holidays without him.
If you're still grieving the loss of a loved one or the loss of a relationship, I guess just know that it's normal to not feel super happy and joyful. Give yourself time to grieve. Not only did you lose the person, but you're also losing the traditions that you once shared, and the opportunity to make new memories with them. It's OK to give yourself some space during these times.
Just don't isolate yourself and refuse to be around other people. Your family or friends are likely grieving the same loss and what I found to help is to share memories of the person you lost. Laugh at the old jokes, or remember the goofy things you did together. Chances are if you're grieving the loss there was some good times that you can reflect back on.
There is also the overwhelming stress of the holidays. I know people who go overboard with the decorations, or committing to parties, or trying to find the perfect gift for someone. Then we make things worse by going on social media and seeing how so and so has their perfect Christmas tree, or whatever. Then we look at our Charlie Brown Christmas tree and feel like we're not good enough.
Look, let me give you a little help here. Unless you're entering some Christmas decoration contest in your neighborhood, no one but you cares what your house is decorated like. The neighbors are not talking about how that one strand of lights keeps going out on the bush over on the side of your house. Your parents aren't wondering why the wreath isn't perfectly centered on the door. No one cares.
Imagine the enormous amount of stress that would be taken off your shoulders if you didn't care about these things either? I'm not saying don't decorate your house if that's what makes you happy, but don't do it to make someone else happy while creating misery for yourself.
If you have kids, one way to reduce the stress you have about decorating is to have them help. Some people just passed out at that thought. Maybe I should wait a sec for them to come back to. Seriously though have them cut out snowflakes or whatever and hang them up around the house. It'll look like Buddy the Elf dropped by for a visit. Make Christmas cookies with them, be silly and decorate with them with no expectations that it'll be perfect. Because damn it just won't be perfect at all. This year my daughter really wanted to help decorate, so her and I strung all the lights around the outside of the house. When we decided we needed a new tree topper I took her to the store and we got this funny as hell Santa head. It looks like, ok just picture a deer head mounted on the wall after hunting. It's that just Santa. It's got the hat, the beard, everything. It doesn't even stay on the tree all that well. When the dog goes and scratches herself under the tree the head is usually flung across the room. It's like that scene in the Godfather when there is a horse head in the bed.
It's not the classiest tree topper, I guess is my point. But I don't care. My wife doesn't care. My kids think it's fucking awesome. The neighbors might think it's a little weird, but again I don't care. It's my tree not theirs.
You don't have to be perfect. There's actually some fun to be had by not being perfect.
Let's talk about presents for a minute. I have a study here that I looked up, and it says this year the average American will spend $920 per person on holiday gifts. I think that means each person spends $920 in total on all the gifts they buy, and not that they spend $920 on everyone they buy gifts for. Still that's almost $1,000 in gifts. For some people that's just over the top expensive. Sure, there are some people who can afford that without a problem, but I would guess there are a good number of people struggle to come up with that kind of money.
Here's a tip, that is way too late for this Christmas, but it's a good tip to give regardless. Keep it in mind for other holidays or next Christmas. Alright, here it is. Work out a budget that goes over all the things you spend money on each month. List out everything. The best way I've found to do this is to actually go back into your bank statements or credit card statements and see what you spend money on each month. Rent or your mortgage, utilities, food, Netflix, going out to eat, clothes, gas and car maintenance, medical bills, retirement and other investments. List everything. Then add all that up and subtract that number from the amount of money you earn each month. That should give you a good idea of how much money you have left over to spend on gifts.
Now let's say you have $75 left over. That doesn't mean you can't buy $900 worth of gifts for Christmas if you really want to. It just means you have to start saving. Right now. $75 times 12 months is $900. If you start saving that left over money now, and are consistent about it each month you'll have $900 to spend on gifts next Christmas. Imagine finding an extra $900 in your bank account that you could spend freely on those gifts. That would surely take a bunch of stress out of the equation, wouldn't it?
An even better approach is to look at all those expenses that you tallied up and figure out which of them you can cut out or at least reduce. Then not only would you have that $75 left over, but you might be able to get a little bit more. Then you would have some breathing room at the end of the year.
That's not what we typically do though is it? We end up using our credit card and gift ourselves the gift of starting off the new year with $900 in debt at 20% interest. So that stress carries into the new year. If we're lucky we've paid it off before next Christmas, when the cycle repeats itself again.
It's no wonder that people get stressed out around Christmas.
A few weeks ago, my wife was feeling stressed with all the things that were going on in the month of December for us. It was getting to be really overwhelming to her to keep track of where she needed to be, where the kids needed to be, who needed what outfit, or what dish she was going to prepare for a certain event. Now, none of the things we had on our plates this month were, or are, really that big of a deal by themselves. But when you look at the whole month and try to plan everything out at once, it does get a bit overwhelming.
When my wife came to me telling me that she was feeling overwhelmed, I suggested to her to stop trying to figure everything out on a high level, and look at each individual day, or each event on that day if there were multiple things going on.
There's a saying How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Obviously, no one is suggesting that you eat an elephant. I think you can replace an elephant with any other bizarre, large task you want. How to you build a skyscraper? One brick at a time. How do you run across the country? One step at a time. The point is that you have a big daunting task in front of you, and you can't possibly do it all at once. Instead figure out what each step is going to be in order to get that task done. For our family, that required us to lay out a calendar with everything we had going on, and figure out who needed to be where and when. One day in particular we needed to be in three places at once, which obviously wasn't possible, but we made it work by enlisting the help of my parents. If for some reason they weren't available to help, we would have just chosen what we were going to do and stuck with our decision.
And finally, try not to spend too much time alone. If you don't have family or friends around that are available, try volunteering somewhere that you can help out. Maybe it's not the same as having Christmas dinner with your family, but it can be a rewarding experience too.
Oh, and one other thing I wanted to mention. Last thing, I promise. I put up a new page on the website with resources for veterans. If you go to the website DriveOnPodcast.com, you'll see a link at the top of the page for Veteran Resources. If you're on a smartphone or a tablet you might see three lines next to the logo. Tap on that and it'll open up the menu where you'll find the Veteran Resources link.
If you or someone you know is struggling with any number of things, substance abuse, homelessness, thoughts of suicide, or just looking for resources to get outside, get into the arts, or what have you, there are a bunch of links on that page to all the resources. I've tried to link all the resources we talk about in the show in the show notes for each episode, but I've also added them to this resources page so you'll have one central location to find all the books, and other resources we talk about in each episode.
That's all I have for this week. I'll be back next week with another solo episode where I'll be taking a look back at the first six months or so of the podcast, and talk about the plans for the new year.
Have a Merry Christmas everyone.
Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website, DriveOnPodcast.com we're on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @DriveOnPodcast.