With the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade kicking off the official Christmas Season, I am reminded of the things that have helped me transcend them over the years.
I stopped paying attention to the holidays after my second divorce four years ago. Being part of two former nuclear families has allowed me to redefine what it means to be “family” and how one goes about celebrating it. It is from this renaissance of new ideas I offer these five things to keep in mind during the holiday season.
1) Someone contrived holidays to get you to buy things
Holidays are just another day, but the media and marketing hype makes many of us feel inadequate if we don’t live up the picture of family they portray. Families are as diverse as the stars in the sky. Some people form closer family ties with others who are not part of their bloodline. Others see fit—for good reasons, like physical abuse—to abandon family members.
A true family is chosen and celebrated 365 days a year. You need not take part in the materialistic orgy of the Christmas season to believe you belong to one.
2) Forced family gatherings are more like high school reunions than a family get together
In 2009 I attended my forty-year high school reunion. It was interesting to see how, even after four decades, we all assumed the traditional roles we had back then. High school was an important and formative years in all of our lives and that is why we fit ourselves back into where we thought we belonged. But that is not real anymore, for we have changed and evolved.
I can say the same for our family members. While we might get nostalgic for those days when we gathered around the Christmas tree in anticipation of Santa, the truth is different. Adult children become self-reliant. Like they did for you, issues like career, relationships, raising children and reaching for a variety of goals distract them.
Parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, etc. are also changing as they enter new phases of their lives. Yet forced family gathering throw us back to the familiar roles and perceptions, some of which we have worked hard to overcome. Therefore, family friction arises.
Family gatherings that are more spontaneous are much more meaningful.
3) Allow people to be who they need to be
No matter how you slice it, not everyone sees the world as you do. Environment, experiences and relationships shaped their worldview and beliefs. We are all different and it is important to note that everyone, no matter how good or evil they may seem, are doing the best they know how. When you accept this, you know there is no justification to demand of them to live up to your expectations.
This liberates you to do things for others because you want to and not because you expect a certain behavior from them in return.
4) Look to for love and authenticity in your relationships
Time is our most precious commodity and you don’t want to waste it on fake relationships. Holidays can shine a light on the counterfeit ones. For example, I would rather not hear from my children or family members at all rather than get the obligatory holiday texts during the designated times of the year. If we are truly involved in each other’s lives, there is a consistency of engagement. These are the authentic relationships you want to nurture. The others are an unnecessary waste of your energy.
5) How people treat you reflects how they feel about themselves
When family members treat you poorly, it is easy to rationalize their actions by blaming yourself. But their behavior reflects the level of anger and frustration they have with themselves. Unless you triggered their conduct with your own bad actions, you should not interpret their behavior as evidence that something is wrong or lacking in you.
People who love you will treat you with the utmost respect and uphold your self-worth. When people treat you badly, dismiss their behavior and move on.
6) Be thankful for the person you have become
How the human species survived amid dinosaurs and creatures that were greater and more powerful is a miracle. This can be said for your survival. You have weathered numerous challenges and evolved into the person you are today. You are the hero of your great journey and there are many adventures to come. Concentrate on your own effort and timing of things and stop measuring your value on what happens on arbitrary days created to help vendors market their merchandise.
If you find yourself alone during this period of the year, it just means it is time to start growing some new roots. Begin today.
Going through a difficult life transition?
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