Hurting for the Holidays: Black Sheep Holiday by Heather Annais

photo by Jennifer Upton

For the 2013 holiday season, I am hosting a blog series called Hurting for the Holidays.  Twenty-six amazing guest writers are sharing their hearts, hurts, and helps to help those of us who carry an internal ache to navigate this celebratory season.  Find all posts in the series here, and participate via social media through the hashtag #HurtingfortheHolidays.

by the time this post goes out - thanksgiving will be over. and I will be able to breathe. just a bit lighter. it wasn’t always like this for me. the triggers didn’t used to feel like books piled high on my chest.

panic attacks?
they weren’t real.

that was then. this is now.

as the black sheep of the family,
the one that went astray, extended family gatherings no longer feel magical.

the twinkling lights dimmed and pumpkin pie left a sour aftertaste.

until I learned how to manage the things that triggered me.

here are three things that get me through the holidays as a black sheep

  1. set boundaries for yourself.

it’s okay to say no. it’s also okay to say yes. sometimes, I just can’t manage a the holiday hooplah. and that’s okay.

with relatives coming into town I know (for myself) I can’t be there more than one evening. I take the kids to play with their cousins. anything more than one night steals my energy.

  1. you have permission to leave whenever you want to.

I go into this house full of people knowing that if at any point I feel like I’m being attacked by a den of lions I have permission to leave. I even tell my husband and kids to be ready when I say it’s time to go.

if we are heading to the husbands parent’s I make sure he’s on board with leaving whenever I feel ready. this permission leaves me feeling more relaxed.

  1. be the example.

in my case, extended family, they just don’t know what to do with me - the rebel. so I show them. I walk in, embracing them all one by one, I want to show them how even though we are totally different and even though they want nothing to do with me when it’s not the holidays - I still adore them.

my love is not conditional on us believing the same. or worshiping the same. I have hopes that one day my actions might become contagious.

Do you see yourself as a "black sheep" (or are you seen/treated as one)?  What are some of your strategies for dealing with related triggers?  Also, I love Annais' advice to "be the example."  What are ways that you practice this strategy, or would like to?

* * *

Annais spent many years being good. Repenting. Walking on her knees through the desert. Until she realized there was truth in Mary Oliver's words:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Annais sojourned into the wilderness of soul and began learning how to listen to her own intuition. She embraced both yes and no as a complete sentence and evolved into a woman who was/is unapologetically {her}self. She dig into each chapter of her being with poetry, art journaling, and photography as she searches for meaning and inspiration.

She has a gift: she sees the good in others and encourages each person to see themselves as she sees them :: magical, powerful, beautiful, and gifted. Annais believes we can take all the hard and broken shards of our past and put them together - (re)creating ourselves as luminous mosaics . She invites women to look into their own eyes and see beauty in the midst of chaos. This is her passion for all women.

Annais shares her self portraiture and notes on returning to oneself at

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