Dec 11 2013

Tracey Jackson

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Faith, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Hanging In There, Happiness

I’M DREAMING OF A CALM CHRISTMAS

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 2.24.14 PM

Paulie and I decided we would tag team blog this week and both write about the holiday season; the woes that come along with the cheer.

Paul wrote….
To compare is to despair. Whether your celebrating Christmas or Hanukah let the spirit of the event be the raft you cling to when the tidings of discomfort and “Oy vey” rise within you. Remember why we gather together in the first place.

He touches on two big things in this paragraph that are worth exploring further.

I love the to “compare is to despair” – how succinctly this captures what we all do, from the parties we may or may not be invited to, the gifts we may or may not be giving or getting, the fun it looks like Sam and Sandra are having over at their light covered, Santa Shrine house across the street: While we’re over here fighting about the cost of an X-Box or why we have to include Uncle Arnold despite the fact every year he gets drunk and starts abusing Aunt Helen under the mistletoe instead of kissing her and on and on.

First off – that look over yonder to where the supposed good times are rolling in a way they might not be rolling at your house – Nobody knows what goes on inside of someone else’s life. Time mixed with constant observation has taught me, nothing is what is seems. And most people present their A-Game to the public while their Y-Game is going on behind locked doors. So take Paulie’s words to heart, don’t compare. Instead focus on what is going on in your world, your family, your holiday. Make it the best you can. Remembering anything that involves others is often out of our hands.

The other big thing is, “Remember why we gather together.”  Of course this is the essence of holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. “We gather together….”

We might gather, and we might not. And if we gather how often is there strife? Show me a family and I will show you a dad who is slipping out while the presents are being opened to call his mistress, a kid who feels rejected and might be upstairs cutting himself. A mom who suffers from depression and is putting as much rum down her gullet as she is in the egg nog; A sister who feels marginalized because her sibling is the favorite.

This list too, is endless. And somehow on the holidays when we are all forced together in the name of merriment and good tidings, everybody’s worst side has a way of making itself known.

Insecurities appear where the shield of false confidence is usually in place. Numbing ones feelings sometimes becomes preferable to owning them. And what with all those holiday drinks being poured it’s pretty darn easy.  None of these things lend themselves to the perfect holiday card looking holiday experience. This is what sends so many down the depression highway.

This is not true  for all families. But I fear it’s more than we think or know.

I am the product of a divorced home. That puts me right up there with half the country. For those of you who fall into that camp with me, or have gotten a divorce yourself, (I am in that group too) gathering together is not always possible. Families are being sliced and diced like vegetables.

My childhood Christmases were spent divided in two. I would be with my mom on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. And then go over to my dad’s on Christmas Day; to a house where I never felt like one of the gang. I was that odd kid who was never really part of their family. And then I would worry about my mom home alone. And I would fret about why my father seemed to love his wife’s kids more than me. This certainly did not lead to a lifetime love of the holidays. It still leads to covering my ears when I hear certain carols. Sense memory is a powerful thing.

There would be years when I didn’t speak to my dad, and I don’t think he ever cared if I was there or not, his wife certainly never wanted me around. Those years we would go to my grandparents. There was love there, but like with most families there were fights too. Mostly between my mother and her father, who did not like the holidays at all.

My grandmother, trying to compensate, would always pile on the gift. So gifts took over for harmony. Gifts stood in for the absentee father. Gifts became the love and the joy and the meaning of the holiday.
I don’t think this is isolated to my family experience. How else did gifts become the symbol for affection?

And of course we all know that things do give us a quick dopamine rush that quickly dissipates unless it’s immediately refueled. Then, the sadness and emptiness returns. And we are left feeling like “oh here we are taking part in another sucky holiday. ”

In the name of gratitude and trust one should say, count your blessings; think about people in shelters, fighting wars, dying, etc. And of course we should and many do. But that does not always take the place for desiring a calm, happy holiday. We work hard, this is the time of year to rejoice for religious reasons and others. And that is not easy if your obnoxious cousin spends the entire holiday reminding you it’s another year you are still single.
Oy, we haven’t even gotten to that topic yet.

We are all human. We have needs, desires and dreams.
Nobody exists in a snow globe or a Hallmark card. We all have loved ones who didn’t deliver, wishes that are not always realized, people who like to make us feel less than we are, families who are more dysfunctional than functional, it’s part of life. And when we are being sung to for weeks on end, and told “it’s the happiest time of the year” it only makes those realities worse.

At the end of the day, the essence of Christmas is unconditional love. Certainly if you are Christian it is. And even if you are not the holiday should be.
So try and tap into that gratitude and trust. Replace love for fear. Empathy for jealousy. Know that real happiness is spontaneous and comes from deep inside. Love that broken part of you. If nobody else will give it hug – you do it. Don’t be upset with people for who they are not. Pity them and hope that maybe by next year they might see the light. And know that if you trust it does all work out in the end, even if in the moment it doesn’t feel like it.

Tracey Jackson

Tracey Jackson is a screenwriter and blogger at traceyjacksononline.com. Her book Gratitude and Trust; Recovery is Not Just For Addicts will be released in 2014.

  • michele

    Well said and too true, the Christmas tree is not always greener in someone else’s bay window. This holiday season, I am grateful for my girls, the love and compassion of my friends and family and the wisdom I always find in the blog of Gratitude and Trust. Other than that, I hope to muddle through these holidays as quickly and with as little emotional pain/drama as possible. Here’s to a joyous, joyful, blessed and hopefully CALM New Year for all!

    • http://www.traceyjacksononline.com/ Tracey Jackson

      I love that ” The Christmas tree is not always greener in someone else’s bay window.” I may have to stick that one in a g and t box.

  • Margaret Garone

    “At the end of the day, the essence of Christmas is unconditional love.
    Certainly if you are Christian it is. And even if you are not the
    holiday should be.” I love that… Keeping it’s intent pure, even if we aren’t feeling it ourselves. Even if nobody at the party likes each other, Christmas is still about God’s pure love. If we respect that, we just might pass a nativity somewhere and notice that its light penetrated our own darkness. Thank you so much, Tracey.

    • http://www.traceyjacksononline.com/ Tracey Jackson

      It’s sometimes easer said than done. We get all wrapped up in the dynamics of the moment and we often go to that pace we know too well. The auto-response from years gone by. But, indeed, if we can pull overselves back to that place of purity, we are so much better off. And we are honoring the intent of the day. Blessings to you Margaret.

  • Michael Gullickson

    It seems that Chistmas puts too much pressure on all of us. For several years I was a “Santa” for second graders, in an impoverished area of Las Vegas. Quite a learning experience. Gift donations had been made by an optimisses group. (not sure about the spelling here-a ladies division of the optimists club.)I was decked out in an homemade Santa Costume which was unbearably hot in the 80 degree December days. The children were overwhelmed by the gifts and the roly poly gift giver.
    It was an opportunity to give love that was accepted eagerly.
    “Love that broken part of you”. I’ve even learned to love the super glue that holds it together. I have gratitude that it does. I trust it will continue to.

    • http://www.traceyjacksononline.com/ Tracey Jackson

      “I’ve even learned to love the super glue that holds it together.” You get a cyber hug for that one.

      • Michael Gullickson

        All hugs are welcome. I am sending you and Paul one in return.

  • Sharon Markwell

    I think I need to stop worrying that my responses to your and Paul’s posts on this blog will be compared to other great responses and have my say more. If someone compares a person to another, its like taking away a piece of that person’s individuality, and who they are. It dims the light of that persons spirit.

    The time leading up to Christmas in 1999, I was still pursuing my degree in Veterinary technology and working part-time, paying my own college tuition. My Mom totally went off on me one day a couple weeks before Christmas. She had learned that my sister had bought my nephew (her son) a new laptop. He was 7 years old at the time. “What can you get him too Sharon?” Well as a student and just working part-time, I could only afford so much.

    And Christmas is a lot more than just gift-giving anyway, or at least to me it is. To make a long story short, she was still pissed off at me the next day. I went to school in tears knowing that I could never measure up.
    After all, I was a starving student and my sister a well-to-do registered nurse and her husband a manager of a major newspaper. So both are pretty well off where as myself, sometimes even now, am struggling. What hurt the most is it was something that would never bother my sister and she’d be very hurt if she found out. It was just my Mom. Of course, I did shopping of my own, but things like gift certificates or food gifts of food I know they love–and way less costly too! I gave her 2 days to calm down as with Mother, things usually would blow over. The 2nd day, she was blabbing on the phone about me to an uncle and cousins in Saskatchewan, who never seemed to like me and always made fun of me, and then talking to me in such a way that when I looked in the mirror I expected a 3-year old to stare back, instead of the grown woman I was.

    The next day after school, I had had enough. I was feeling physically sick from the pressure and instead of going home that evening, I checked into a hotel and stayed there for 2 nights. I thought about not returning home at all.

    When I did return home, I had the last laugh as I could see in my Mom’s eyes she had been crying for those 2 days, worrying about me. I gave her a hug and told her I was sorry for worrying her, not knowing if I was dead or alive. I told her Mom, I am going to do the best I can, but lets forget about the formalities and just enjoy the season. Stop turning it into a “formal” occasion or who gets what or the most expensive gift and just enjoy it. I’d rather serve soup at the homeless shelter to people who I know are going to appreciate it than having a useless “compare fest.”

    Since my mom’s passing in 2008, I have spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my sister. We are very close in age as well as close personally. We grew up together and she never compares. She sends her husband to pick me up from my apartment and we drive to her home together. We have a gift exchange, nothing major, just nice little practical things that we can use, have a sing-along with Christmas CD’s that she always puts on (tell Paul that I make sure she pays her ASCAP license), and I think we all enjoy that the most. (only she always says I sing better than her..hmmm. Isnt that also comparing? :) ) O and I make wonderful sweet-and-sour meatballs that I bring over to her place and everyone just loves them. And along with several very good lifelong friends, we just have a good time and socialize. I think with the small, informal gathering at my sister’s, Christmas has become a lot more special for me. I look forward to doing that again with her this year.

    Here’s wishing a joyous holiday season to you and yours Tracey.

    • http://www.traceyjacksononline.com/ Tracey Jackson

      Nobody has a way of pushing our buttons quite like our parents. And then they push and we pull back and we find ourselves apologizing to them. Yes. I know that one only too well.
      And the comparing too. I was always compared to my step siblings and halves and I never, ever measured up. They were prettier, more athletic, not sure smatter, but I’m sure that got tossed in. They were much thinner….
      I am writing a gratitude and trust blog here, so I won’t enter the territory of who got a version of the last laugh. But shall we say that comparing has a way of sticking to us, to our souls, so we end up doing it either outwardly or silently. Or sometimes we wait for others to do it to us. Not a good situation.
      I’m happy you have found peace and family tradition with your sister and you now look forward to those days as opposed to dreading them.
      Enjoy your holiday and those meatballs sound good!

  • Sharon Markwell

    I think I need to stop worrying that my responses to your and Paul’s posts on this blog will be compared to other great responses and have my say more. If someone compares a person to another, its like taking away a piece of that person’s individuality, and who they are. It dims the light of that persons spirit.

    The time leading up to Christmas in 1999, I was still pursuing my degree in Veterinary technology and working part-time, paying my own college tuition. My Mom totally went off on me one day a couple weeks before Christmas. She had learned that my sister had bought my nephew (her son) a new laptop. He was 7 years old at the time. “What can you get him too Sharon?” Well as a student and just working part-time, I could only afford so much.

    And Christmas is a lot more than just gift-giving anyway, or at least to me it is. She was still pissed off at me the next day and over such a stupid reason I thought. I went to school in tears knowing that I could never measure up.
    After all, I was a starving student and my sister a well-to-do registered nurse and her husband a manager of a major newspaper. So both are pretty well off where as myself, sometimes even now, am struggling. Of course, I did shopping of my own, but things like gift certificates or food gifts of food I know they love–and way less costly too! I gave her 2 days to calm down as with Mother, things usually would blow over. The 2nd day, she was blabbing over the phone about me to relatives, who never seemed to like me and always made fun of me, and then talking to me in such a way, that when I looked in the mirror, I expected a 3-year old to stare back, instead of the grown woman I was.

    The next day after school, I had had enough. I was feeling physically sick from the pressure and instead of going home that evening, I checked into a hotel and stayed there for 2 nights. I thought about not returning home at all.

    When I did return home, I felt terrible as I could see in my Mom’s eyes she had been crying for those 2 days, worrying about me. I gave her a hug and told her I was sorry for worrying her, not knowing if I was dead or alive. I told her Mom, I am going to do the best I can, but lets forget about the formalities and just enjoy the season. Stop turning it into a “formal” occasion or who gets what or the most expensive gift and just enjoy it. I’d rather serve soup at the homeless shelter to people who I know are going to appreciate it than having a useless “compare fest.”

    Since my mom’s passing in 2008, I have spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my sister. We are very close in age as well as close personally. We grew up together and she NEVER compares. She sends her husband to pick me up from my apartment and we drive to her home together. We have a gift exchange, nothing major, just nice little practical things that we can use, have a sing-along with Christmas CD’s that she always puts on (tell Paul that I make sure she pays her ASCAP license), and I think we all enjoy that the most. (only she always says I sing better than her..hmmm. Isnt that also comparing? :) ) O and I make wonderful sweet-and-sour meatballs that I bring over to her place and everyone just loves them. And along with several very good lifelong friends, we just have a good time and socialize. I look forward to doing that again with her this year.

    Here’s wishing a joyous holiday season to you and yours Tracey.

  • Steppie Royes

    I’m going to be a smart-ass about this but you have all the time in the
    world to dream of a ‘”calm” Christmas because you don’t need to waste your time dreaming of one that’ll be white! Bless all of you going through those
    snow storms!
    Now back to the blog; my parents sent my siblings and I on an
    airplane to Florida for Christmas one year. They figured that after driving from
    GA to Canada and back again in a beat-up van with no AC, that we were ready for
    a new experience. And we were! It was a first time for us country kids to ride
    an airplane. Mom and Dad took the opportunity to drive down in their 77 Stingray
    (2 seater) and met up with us down there the next day. We, as kids got to visit
    with aunts, uncles and grandparents. When our parents arrived, all was merrier
    and brighter. When the holiday was over, mom and dad had to drive back before we
    could fly, so they could be there to pick us up from the airport. My aunt
    decided, after they left, that she was going to take her holiday disappointments
    out on us. She yelled and cursed us out while driving us back to her house. The
    stress of the season must’ve been too hard on her and sadly it ended our Florida
    Christmas trips. I do hope people read and pass along your blog. The holidays
    aren’t being celebrated right if someone is not being treated like one of the
    family. Your dad made more stress for the family, not wanting to deal with you rather than making everyone feel comfortable and celebrating the real meaning of the season. Personally, I think it takes a lot more effort to spread hate than it does to spread love. Sometimes the world doesn’t see it that way. Great blog, Tracey! Merry Christmas to you and
    yours. Oh, and stay warm!