Have you ever thought about the staggering set of expectations that surround our “ideal” holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas?
In the US, we grew up learning about the colonists and Indians simply celebrating the harvest together, in what has become a major national holiday, Thanksgiving.
This traditional holiday has grown to include football games, shopping frenzies before and after Thanksgiving and of course there is the feasting with family, all sharing happily in the day - at least according to the media and Hallmark cards and stories that weave our ideas of an ideal Thanksgiving.
Often before Thanksgiving has even passed, the promotions, music and decorations can be seen to bring in the religious holy day of Christmas, celebrated by a multitude of Christians and others worldwide.
The holy day has become a holiday filled with gifts, decorations, traditional foods, bakery, special carols, movies, tv specials and the gathering of family and friends for feasting and celebrating. Christmas has grown to include holiday office parties and celebrating with friends for the entire month of December.
November and December are also heralded as big economic generators and so the “ideal” holiday gatherings have become more elaborate, expensive and pressure filled as holiday planning and invitations are often the pre-eminent conversation for two months, with the advertisers hyping every detail of the holiday.
If you don’t have big plans or lots of invitations or stories of frequent partying, then you are somehow ‘out of the societal holiday loop’.
I have been among the fortunate, who celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas with abundance and mostly good cheer. There are many who are not as fortunate.
It is also a time of sad memories for many who have lost loved ones or had hurtful holiday experiences.
My dad and brother are no longer alive, and my brother especially loved celebrating and giving fabulous gifts on Christmas. I miss them both, but for me, I do not miss them more at Christmas. My mom, however, does miss them more at Christmas, and the holidays for her have been sad for many years.
This year, I experienced some of my own sadness, as it was the first year in more than 30 that I did not have either of my kids with me for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
What I now share with you is that I approached this sadness very differently than I would have in the past. I didn’t consciously plan an approach, but nonetheless I processed my sadness.
I felt it fully, and I shared with my kids and pretty much everyone, that I was sad.
I also easily expressed my happiness for my kids and grand babies to be among other family members and friends this Christmas, who loved them very much. I truly was happy for this, while I was sad for myself.
I didn’t pretend that it was no big deal, as I would have if I were still trying to be the “perfect mom”, who didn’t share her negative feelings much. I would have said “I miss you” once or maybe twice and then figured that if I said anymore, it might be perceived as pressure on my kids, and in turn drive them away.
“Perfect moms” in my mind were only supposed to be concerned about everyone else’s feelings and needed to push their own feelings deep down inside. I would have feigned all happiness, concentrating on their fun as what was most important.
This past year’s transformation and realization that I am not ‘perfect’, and that it is okay, was very freeing.
Yes, I was truly sad. I had quite a few tough moments to work through, but I didn’t hide the feelings, and I didn’t worry what my kids or anyone else would think about my expressing sad, negative feelings.
And thanks to FaceTime and technology, my kids and grand babies were making me smile and laugh throughout the holiday:) With pictures and videos, I could even share the fun with others via Facebook and email.
Christmas Eve with my brother's family was wonderful and fun, as it always is each year. And Christmas Day with my mom, who is self-admittedly sad during the holidays, was a day I have dreaded in the past. We've been invited to join in others' holiday fun on numerous occasions, but my mom prefers not to.
Rather than silently dislike the day, I chose to create a new possibility this year and focused on lightening her spirits.
She and I were not the pictured ideal big group, as is the movie version of the day - only two of us, but we made it a nice time from early morning rise (unusual for me in the past) and eating breakfast while watching her morning favorite shows, to sharing church at The Abbey, arriving in ample time to be seated for the mass.
My mom gets nervous when we have to rush, so a slow and relaxed drive to church made her happy:)
We laughed after mass in the car, about the heavy usage of incense and marveled about the very well behaved two little boys in front of us. Then a brief visit to drop off a few gifts to dear elderly friends who are extended family to us and back to my mom’s house, just a mile away.
The rest of the day was spent watching old holiday movies together while eating leftovers from our Christmas Eve dinner and drinking tea, each of us wrapped up in homemade afghans made years ago by my deceased Aunty Val.
How lucky we were to be wrapped in love! Mom and I did just fine and had a really nice day:) I could tell by her hug when I left, that she had a good day and was happy with me.
So, no kids and no grand babies and a Christmas day of two. Yet, overall, I felt more happiness and joy, than I felt sad. And it felt great to acknowledge and fully feel the sadness when it was there, and let it pass - so much better than burying it inside. Now it is gone:)
I wish for each of you, to feel all the feelings that you feel, and then let the less desirable ones go by, replacing them with new possibilities and feelings!
For me, I plan to create my 2015 with feelings of happiness, health and love:)
Sending you each Love and Joy for the New Year!
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