It is so easy to get caught up in the nostalgia and hype of Christmas. This time of year we are bombarded with movies promoting happy family experiences. Whatever struggle our movie protagonist seems to have endured, they always seem to resolve their conflict and make it home for Christmas. Fade out to Silent Night – we see the happy family seated around the table enjoying their turkey dinner.
For many, holiday gatherings can be stressful. With the idealized family picture in our heads we are forced to connect and reconnect with family members we rarely see. It is a time when old grudges can resurface, old stories can get repeated, and unresolved family dynamics get replayed.
How can we cope and not be defeated by the high expectations of the season?
The recipe, lower your expectations. Embrace a simple fact that most families range from being idiosyncratic to being down right dysfunctional. Just coming to terms with this simple concept can release a tremendous amount of pressure and allow us to relax a little. Sit back, observe, and enjoy the quirkiness of your family. Think of your family as a sitcom and relish the fact that your family isn’t dull or boring.
Let go of resentments. Does it really matter what your sister said to your husband last Christmas. You haven’t’ seen her since then; yet, you’ve been stewing over her snide remarks for the past year and your ready to “zing” her if she starts in on him again. Just let it go. Think of all the negative energy you’ve wasted holding on to all that resentment. Be the bigger and better person – Just let it go.
Take some time out for yourself, where you can to just “chill” and relax. I’m reminded of my best friend Beth, when I called to wish her Merry Christmas last year, she couldn’t stop to talk because she had put the turkey in the oven and was on her way to the YMCA for a quick swim; before, as she put it, the “bedlam of the family descended upon her for dinner. “ Talking with her later that night, she said it was the best Christmas she ever had. Going for that swim, had allowed her to relax and take care of herself and rendered her better able to mange her stress and cope with some of her crazier family members. Think about when and where you can take some time out to be by yourself this Christmas even if it is just going for a walk.
By the way, others may need some time out too. It’s ok if someone does not want to participate in an activity, watch the same TV show etc. Everyone needs a little space and too much family togetherness can be wearisome for some people. Just remember we all need our own space from time to time.
Remember things don’t have to be perfect and “Murphy’s Law” will often surface on these occasions. You have three turkeys, no ham, and no roast beef as you planned. Why can’t your sisters cooperate and get things right? After all you meticulously told them what to bring. Don’t panic. Adaptability, Creativity, Flexibility, Patience and Tolerance, are the skills required here. It’s not the end of the world. Three months from now none of this will be important or matter.
Remember the Christmas story. What do you do with a pregnant wife, just about to give birth, and there are no rooms left to rent in the city. You don’t panic. Well maybe you do! Regardless, Adaptability, Creativity, Flexibility, Patience, and Tolerance are the skills required.
It’s important to appreciate the family that we have, such as it may be. There are many people who for many reasons, do not have the benefit and joy of sharing their Christmas with a family at this time of year. Let’s remember that it is the Season of Good Will and Good Will starts with our immediate family.