I think that many of us go through holidays with a casserole of expectations, wishes, hopes, mixed with memories of holidays, past, which sometimes include, disappointment. And sometimes, out and out, dread.
I don’t know any Hallmark families. Even families, who first appeared to be “perfect”, are not.
This time of year, questionable feelings come close to the surface, and some, explode.
Families are families. There are family members who don’t talk, some who talk to much, those who think the world should revolve around them.
Love and holidays are weird. They aren’t easy. Families aren’t easy. We hear so much about, “family is everything” and that sounds so nice and simple.
Frankly, I don’t like that statement. I don’t think family is “Everything.”
Why? Because it makes some people feel badly. Not everyone is blessed with being the Waltons.
I could say, that for me, family is the most important. That is true. But they aren’t “Everything.”
I think of the “neighbors” I served at St. Paul’s Soup Kitchen. To say “Family is everything,” to them, might discount their existence. Some people don’t have families. Some people have families that are so dysfunctional that the word, “family” is synonymous with hurt.
The holidays make that harder.
Holidays can bring back feelings of loss of loved ones, some, having left this earth during the season. There are empty seats at the table.
Holidays can also be times when, instead of feeling loved, the absence of love, is intensified. There are people, whose pain is so deep, and they feel so lonely, that they decide the pain of the holidays, life, is too much, and they decide that they can’t take it anymore, and end their life.
We cookie it up, cake it out, chocolate ourselves into catatonic states. We stress ourselves over buying or making Christmas gifts. We feel the pecking order of families going to this person’s house for this much time and feel like we are getting the raw end of the deal. We feel that, that division of time, has deep meaning in terms of our relationship and how important or unimportant we are.
We are barraged by commercials with smiling faces, standing at someone’s door, cheery as a goose living in a country where fois gras is banned. When, in reality, those at the door, are not certain, at all, how this whole hoopty-mobile of a time, will turn out.
Will Uncle Will, get drunk? Will Jack and John, talk or give each other the stink-eye? Will the kids break one of grandma’s special plates? The question, “How long do we have to stay,” will be asked.
The whole month, year, culminates in acid reflux.
And none of this has one thing to do with why we celebrate this day. Christmas is about the economy … stupid.
At least, that is what it seems.
Perhaps, the meaning of Christmas, will be mentioned in a prayer, but the Incense, Frankincense and, Myrrh, have given way to Technology and Batteries Or Us.
Having said all of the above, I am in as good of place about Christmas, as I can be. I don’t have a lot of expectations. I will get to see people who I love. We will spend time together, and laugh. I have had my fair share of angst about Christmas, and some of the things that I mentioned, above. Some have been resolved, and others, I adjusted my mindset, which, I have found is much easier than changing others.
What has made this Christmas season work better, for me, is that I have made it about giving to others. What I am giving is small. Cake and cookies. Those are my calling cards. Acknowledging a person’s importance, existence, is the gift I am trying to give. I plan to continue giving like this, for as long as I can.
What I am doing has a lot to do with Jesus and his birth and his meaning in my life. People matter. People beyond my family, matter. Strangers matter. Those with hard lives, matter. People with addictions matter. The lonely matter. People who can’t say, “Family is Everything”, matter. Friends matter.
And so do you.