Have a Noble Holiday

Don’t feel ambivalent: focus on what’s really important

When the holidays are upon us, they bring their emotional mix of anticipation, tension, joy and disappointment. Single people without traditional family obligations — and especially women — often feel very ambivalent about this time of year. On the one hand, they may miss being needed, miss the familiar duties that for so long anchored their lives. On the other hand, they may feel liberated from the family tensions and the work that are part of the package.

More and more people make plans to go away during this stressful period, hoping to avoid the whole thing. In lieu of trying to recapture the elusive wonder of the holidays, they opt for a vacation in Hawaii. But running away is seldom truly satisfactory. We lose so much — and so do those around us. For me, the true message of the season has always rested in ennobling values, such as kindness, generosity and love. Facing reality means finding a way to honor those values and our obligations to others.

Like it or not, women remain the central protagonists in family life; consequently, the responsibility for all the good things that are supposed to take place around the holidays continues to fall on our shoulders. We are the nurturers, the protectors and the leaders, whether within a nuclear family or in a new-style family arrangement. With or without a partner, there is true power in this.

We simply need to figure out a better way to do it, a way not to fall prey to commercial propaganda about what the holidays are. Not to become victims of standards foisted upon us by the media and magazines that bombard us with holiday advertising and catalogs designed to sell more products and pageantry that promise “the best Christmas ever.” We should know better by now.

As mature women, though, I believe that we should not abdicate our role as the center of family life. We can modify it, adapt it, revise it, as we’ve been doing since the 1960s. But we must have enough hope to put up yet another Christmas tree or light another menorah, to share the learning of our lives with family or friends or someone less fortunate. Share your holidays.

This essay is from Look for the Moon in the Morning, a collection of Leda Sanford’s inspirational essays written especially for mature women.

Leda Sanford, grandmother of Monica and Miles, is known as a pioneer in the ’70s advance of women in the magazine business, which she writes about in her spicy memoir, Pure Moxie.

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