I’M DREAMING OF A CALM CHRISTMAS
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.
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.