The Holidays are Here!

What are your Illusions? What is the Reality?

Are you in a frantic state of Holiday busyness, feeling more stressed than cheerful, too exhausted to enjoy the true meaning of the season?

The expectation that everybody be cheerful, and merry, creates an unrealistic goal.

So where does the pressure to have an over the top Holiday Season originate?

Madison Avenue starts flashing perfect holiday scenes into living rooms by Halloween, nudging us to prepare earlier and earlier every year.  The illusion is that if you start sooner, do more, consume more, project images of perfection onto our real families, we will have a 'Currier and Ives' experience. 

Are you imagining your holidays as a cocoon of love, warmth, acceptance, and safety?  It will be only to the extent that your family is like this throughout the year. Yearning for warmth as well as intimacy, do you believe that going the extra mile, preparing delicious meals, going without sleep, shopping for the perfect gift, will make this year different.

Our culture promotes the belief that if you try harder, you will achieve a snapshot of beauty frozen in time, and somehow your family will magically evolve into a finer representation of themselves, without the usual family dysfunctions.

Let’s look at the reality of how dysfunctions play out. Dysfunctional family members, under the pressure of the season's expectations become more of who they really are. Issues in families that are tamped during the year frequently rise to the surface becoming turbulent or weird at holiday gatherings...

  • Aunt Sue will drink more to medicate her empty feelings, becoming obnoxiously loud.
  • Dick the control freak becomes a micromanaging intrusion into everybody's business.   His behavior is more obvious and because he cannot control the holiday hustle and bustle, which makes more anxious.
  • Fred the angry one sends family members tip toeing around, in order to avoid out and out volatility. 
  • Agatha, the sister is more critical and demeaning in an attempt to lessen her envy of your success.
  • Uncle Mike who is fundamentally distrustful of the Christmas experience is more cynical and fully into his Bah! Humbug! Role.
  • What about you in this mix?
  • Do you have fantasies of pleasing this tribe?

If the examples above do not fit, fill in the blanks before you decide to over-function, become overwhelmed and disappointed in yourself and them, again...  What part do you play in this drama?

In Less Messy Families:

In less messy families, there may still be a tendency to over-do even while discussing ways to simplify celebrating the Holidays.  It is important to grasp that simplifying does not mean getting more organized. Getting more organized or trying to do the same things in less time is not the answer.

To simplify does not require the abandoning of gift giving, or replacing holiday feasts with Spartan fare. However it does require mindfulness and reflection on our usual ways of celebrating.

Compatible families ebb and flow all year, with love, support, flexibility, and warmth.  In such families, everybody shares in the doing; the adjusting to changes, and simplifying as is necessary. 

Of course there are problems, there are always problems, however the dysfunctions are not front and center.

It is a time to focus on decorating our "inner tree", with true generosity, love and compassion.  It is a time to encourage children to give in ways that only children can. .  Give them an opportunity to participate in joyful giving, where no gift wrap is required.

Forget the forced frivolity, the‘shoulds’ and all of its attendant madness.  Dare to shake up how you want to handle the season. 

Dare to shake up how you want to handle the season. Clarify what you really want; it is a good idea to make a Holiday job list.  Ask yourself:

  • Do I like doing it?
  • Would the Holiday season be the same without it?
  • Can it be shared?
  • Do you do it out of habit, tradition, freedom, choice or obligation?
  • What do you want to do differently?

Eliminate what you can, sticking to simplicity and sharing, as you select favorites.

Finding more modest ways to celebrate leaves us less vulnerable to overeating and overdrinking, and overspending.

May you experience Christmas with love, wonder and the sacredness inherent in all twelve days. May Hanukkah be a profound spiritual experience.  Stop to reflect and take in the true meaning of the Season.

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