Holidaze & Happiness: More on Post-Breakup Holidays

Dec 19, 2019 | breakup, featured, Getting Past Your Breakup, healthy relationships, holidays

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Author, Attorney, Podcaster, Media Commentator, Motivational Speaker, and Creator of the World's Most Successful Breakup Program. 

  • Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You (Hachette Book Group 2009)
  • Getting Back Out There: Secrets to Successful Dating and Finding Real Love After the Big Breakup (Hachette Book Group 2015)
  • Getting Past Your Past Workbook: The Definitive Workbook to Emotional Healing, Health and Happiness (La Bella Vita Publishing 2012)
  • GPYP Power! Affirmations (La Bella Vita Publishing 2019) 

More on Post-Breakup Holidays

“If we’d stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time.” – Edith Wharton

The holidays tend to push someone else’s idea of happiness upon us. We are told this is the “most wonderful time of the year” and half the time we can’t figure out why that is.

What we are told and what we feel about it are often two different things. We feel stressed, hurried, broke and on edge.How is this the “most wonderful time of the year?”

What makes it so?

And if we are not happy now, when everyone keeps telling us we should be, when will we be happy? Well HAPPY is not something we are just when the mighty “THEY” tell us to be. Happiness comes from “having a pretty good time” all of the time by knowing how to accept life on life’s terms.

The key to being happy is to accept life as it comes along and to finish our unfinished business.

That’s pretty much it.

When we follow the GPYB program (see below if you’re not sure what the GPYB program is), we tackle things that happened in the past while doing positive things in the present and making goals for the future. It’s not about “this is the season to…” That’s nonsense. It’s the same way Valentine’s Day is crap. It says THIS IS THE DAY you show your love for each other. What? You show your love for each other every day with love, respect, caring and commitment, not one day a year with flowers, candies and a night out. If you need someone to tell you to have a night out, then you are in sorry shape and so is your relationship. 

It is the same with the “season.” No one should be forced to have a good time, go to holiday parties (I worked for a law firm where attendance at the black tie holiday party was MANDATORY.) I worked about 80 hours a week and loved my co-workers but hated the partners and every holiday party included those aholes patting themselves on the back with a slideshow or some such crap about how wonderful the name partners and the firm was.  Our Christmas party was actually the horrible partners of the firm patting themselves on the back. There was little to no recognition of associates or staff. The associates carried the firm on their very tired backs and we would sit at tables making gagging noises or the “bullshit” sneeze from Animal House as the “video” of wonderfulness played.

The partners of the firm, for the most part, were so clueless. They were so busy falling in love with themselves that the fact that they were abusing their associates and demanding face time and giving us ridiculous assignments was totally lost on them.

One time the same partners made us to go on a mandatory retreat weekend and the name partner was telling a story about how he was dealing with a ridiculous client and he had to force laughter when the guy made a joke even though the guy was an asshole. All the associates laughed out loud in a very exaggerated way and we all looked at each other and were just dying over this. The partner had NO IDEA that we were laughing AT HIM, not WITH HIM.  After hearing all of our exaggerated laughter, the partner chimed in with laughter thinking we were thinking he was so funny.  No, our laughter was about the fact that he was an asshole. To get HIM to chime into the laughter tickled us all so very much. He was so clueless it was priceless. 

So every holiday season we had some bullshit thing to attend and we hated it. Don’t force this crap on us. I went from there to another law firm where our holiday party was not mandatory but I went and it was nice (not black tie and pretentious.)

However, a senior associate gave me a bottle of whiskey as a thank you gift. I didn’t drink and gave it to a client and, when she found out, she hit the roof. For the next two years she never spoke to me. It was better than throwing it out because no one in my circle of friends and family drank it. I suppose I should have just thanked her and thrown it out but that didn’t seem right to me. I realize that some people are just assholes. She wound up in that column. Others told me she had the right to be angry at me. Okay, I get that but for TWO years?

She told me that I had ruined her holiday “cheer.” I said WTF is that? You give me a bottle of whiskey without knowing if I drink or not and I politely say this is wonderful, but I don’t drink so I’m going to it to client X who is coming for a meeting that week.

I told her what I had done with the whiskey (looking back on it, I didn’t have to but up until that point, she seemed nice, but she turned on me) and she was HORRIFIED and told me I RUINED her holiday CHEER.

I was totally unprepared for that response.

Cheer this. I ruined your CHEER?  Seriously?  I ruined your cheer?  What the hell is that anyway?

Everyone turns into Angela from The Office at this time of year. Please check your inner Angela at the door. Thank you.  (sorry for the dated reference but when I saw The Office holiday episodes, I damn near sprang off my sofa…”I HATE THESE KINDS OF PEOPLE!!!!” Here’s ONE Angela party planning video for your perusal. 

No idea WTF is wrong with people at this time of year but I try to avoid as many as I can and wait until January when they all come to their senses again.

Don’t push your psychotic, sheep-like idea of “holiday cheer” onto me.

Don’t insist I’m hap-hap-happy.

Don’t ask why I don’t have a Christmas tree.

Don’t ask why I’m not sending Christmas cards or whatever the hell else.

I hate Christmas.

I hate the whole nine and want to sleep until January 2nd so if you have a brain, go force holiday cheer on someone else.

If I see one more commercial for a clapper or Chia pet, I’m going to hurl my television into the yard.

The commercials insisting we be happy and/or buy a Lexus for a loved one. Sure I’ll take 5, just put them in the back of my SUV.

It’s about how ridiculous it is. Don’t tell me to be happy. There is no such thing as a winter wonderland, no sleigh rides, no chestnuts roasting on an open fire.  The only time I ever saw chestnuts roasting was in Rome outside of the Coliseum. My late husband was 100 percent Italian descent and his grandfather roasted chestnuts when he was a kid.  We were in Rome and he smelled the chestnuts and he took off in the direction of the smell.  I had to chase his crazy Italian ass down the street as I had no idea what was going on. He was just yelling “CHESTNUTS!” and running in the general direction of the smell. So that was my one and only chestnut experience. And that had nothing to do with Christmas. 

All these images and fantasies have nothing, zero, nada,  zippity-do-dah to do with real life.

Real life is people trampling each other at Walmart…peace on Earth and good will to each other? 

Really? Is the trampling part of good will? What craziness.

Cognitive dissonance. The holidays are one of the best examples of it. How does “walking in a winter wonderland” comport with “being trampled at Walmart?” Someone tell me. In the meantime I’ll be hyperventilating into this paper bag.


Many people love Christmas. I get that. But many people are also insane.

Take my mother for example.  She epitomized Christmas. She also epitomized insanity.

We had so many lights on our house it looked like it was about to take off for outer space and I’m pretty sure it could be seen from another galaxy.  We live in the Bronx and, granted, many people decorated their houses and terraces but we had a huge (by Bx standards) house and she put up Christmas lights on top of the 2nd story eaves as well as around every door and window (and we had 2 enclosed porches with 11 windows a piece and every single window had lights around it as well as a lighted candle in it). I remember having trouble sleeping at night what with all the blinking going on. I’m surprised I’m still sane. 

Not only was each window individually decorated even though the back windows looked out onto our yard which no one could see,  we also had snow on each window and cardboard cutouts of Santa etc.  We had a roof on our front porch and, of course, Santa and reindeer were prancing around up there. 

Inside we had garland WITH LIGHTS strung everywhere and two Christmas trees..one in the living room and one on the enclosed porch so people outside could see it.

My mother sent Christmas cards to about 100 people, most of whom I’d never met nor heard a word about the rest of the year.  We took the Christmas cards we received and we made a HUGE Christmas tree shape on one of the living room walls with them all as well as stringing them all along the ceilings and other walls.  We had Christmas cards all over the damn house.

My mother had an old fashioned address book. It was filled to the brim. I remember helping her address Christmas cards and the leather bound book was tattered and worn but there were so many names in there she couldn’t change it. She also had loose names and addresses and so there were several rubber bands around it to keep it together.  There was one lady who lived on Hastings-on-the-Hudson. I always thought that a beautiful name and imagined (for a reason I’ll get to shortly…) that it was an alluring place. Every year I looked forward to addressing the lady who lived in Hastings-on-the Hudson. I knew her no other way except for the Christmas cards. I had no idea who she was or how my mother knew her.  But we got a card from her and she got one from us. And one day I imagined moving to one of the “on-the-Hudson” towns and in 2013 I did….(as I recall in GBOT)  But I digress…..

We had a HUGE manger. My favorite thing was sneaking Fisher Price people and extra cows and stuff into the manger. We had very serious cows in the manager. Very expensive plaster ones. I put in plastic ones that smiled. Drove my mother crazy. Lectures on being a good Catholic. I also liked to open the Advent calendar before the day. Who did that? Not me.

We had trains under the tree. We had snow globes everywhere. We had angels and all that stuff. You couldn’t swing a cat without hitting an angel.

Winter wonderland was the theme. She played Christmas music from the day after Thanksgiving until “Little Christmas” (January 6th.)  Bah rumpa bump pah.

We had stockings with our names in glitter. Our presents were wrapped perfectly. Unless you had your presents wrapped at a store or by a professional wrapper, you never saw such perfectly wrapped packages and on Christmas Eve they were stacked under the tree is such a symmetrical fashion (according to size, wrapping etc.) that we routinely took photos of it. Setting it up took a ridiculous amount of time.

We had eggnog, hot chocolate and went ice-skating at Rockefeller Center and Wollman Rink. We sold Christmas cards and wrapping paper for our school. My favorite Christmas cards were the little angel ones. I liked filling them out for my classmates. We went caroling. We brought treats to the elderly and the sick.

We were one magical fandamily.

Everyone saw our Christmas decorations and celebrations….people were FASCINATED by my mother’s “all out” Christmas-y decorations.  People came over and MARVELED at our amazingly decorated house.  How perfectly magical and wonderful it all looked…

…but what no one saw was my mother freak out on an almost every day – INCLUDING CHRISTMAS DAY – over nothing. For one Christmas story about how insane my then-foster mother was, I give you this POST. that I just reposted the other day detailing the story of coming home from Mass to see Huckleberry sticking out of the garbage can. It was the most ludicrous and heartbreaking sight.

WTF? It was as if the Ghost of Dysfunctional Christmas Present (Past and Future) was waving to me in the form of Huckleberry Hound sticking out of a metal garbage can.

I was mortified.

I was 5 and I was mortified.  All the other kids could see – my mother was crazy AF.

I was also a foster child rooting for the orphanage. Can I please be returned? I know you returned other foster children…please return me.

How screwed up is THAT thinking?

Not to be outdone by herself, after my mother chucked Huck, she raged around the kitchen making bacon and eggs for us. As usual, we sat down to eat terrified as she was slamming things around and we never knew when it would go from spatulas being thrown to children being flung about.  You kids do not know how to behave on Christmas and you’re ALL going to get it. We weren’t quite sure why we were getting it, but we were. 

Yes, here in the land of Merry F-ing Christmas, lights, camera and action.

What bullshit that all is. We were still a hap-hap-happy ignorant lot the very next year when a Thanksgiving (threw the turkey at my father) or Christmas (one year she threw over the Christmas tree – she copped to throwing the turkey but – over the years – she denied ever toppling the Christmas tree…sorry Ma, but we know you did it…you so did) would happen yet again. YAY!

Like Charlie Brown, we fell for the damn football every year.  We played our Christmas tunes…we BLARED the music as people came over to nestle in our warmth and good cheer. We handed out cards and presents and everyone got a Christmas tip from the milkman to the mailman to the pretzel guy (if you’re not from NYC, you probably have no idea what a pretzel guy is).

Well, Charlie Brown fans, It’s time to stop falling for the football. It’s time to stop thinking that a house full of lights and presents is “happy.”

It’s time to stop thinking Norman Rockwell when the reality is Norman Bates.

Happiness truly is an inside job. And not dictated by commercial bullshit. There is no such thing as a war on Christmas because if there was, I would truly be signed up for it.

The GPYB program is designed to heal the losses, change our thinking and behavior of today, and plan for the future.

But it can be personalized to you and to We don’t talk about being extraordinarily happy but when we focus on our STUFF in the past, change our thinking in the present and make plans for the future, having a “pretty good time” is the result.

When we are whole and we are healed of all the pain and loss that we have experienced, we can wake up each day and not TRY to be happy…we will take what comes along. We will stop trying to control people places and things…we will have good boundaries and a positive outlook, we will do the right thing and our emotions will be appropriate.

If a day is wonderful we will recognize that, appreciate it and bask in it.  We know we are okay no matter what. 

If a day is terrible, we will deal with it without going off the deep end, go to bed knowing that tomorrow is another day.  We know we are okay no matter what. 

When we string a bunch of days together, just taking them as they come, for 24 hours, and accepting what they are and what they bring and not trying to will them to be what we want, we will eventually realize we are happy.

Because when we accept each day as it comes along and appreciate it for what it is or is not, we wind up having a pretty good time.

Copyright Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed. 


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