I had coffee with a friend who had to figure out how divide her holiday too many ways and still honor her own traditions.
In another life, I was married to someone from a broken home like mine. Divorce on one side of the family already creates too many stops for the holidays, but both sides? Holiday Hell.
There is always someone who will take personally the fact that you didn’t choose their gathering as your first stop. There is always someone who will publically recall your most embarrassing moments, want to point out your inadequacies, and grill you on your missteps and bad choices. There is always someone who doesn’t understand why you aren’t thrilled to partake in another meal or special event they waited until you arrived to begin. There is always someone who doesn’t understand that you really have to go to work the next day, and still have a two hour drive to get home. And there will always be hurt that goes unrecognized, mainly yours.
I used to dread holidays. Then I got divorced. That eliminated a couple stops on my route. It also cleaned out my bank account curbing Christmas altogether. But I remember one Christmas night sitting by the cable TV Yule Log with a glass of wine, can of nuts, and the dog at my feet as I waited for a movie to start. It was Heaven.
No racing to the next stop where I had to pretend that I was delighted to be there. No picking at food I really didn’t need, or overeating to the point of serious sickness. No holding my tongue or doing massive quantities of dishes to avoid confrontations. No deflecting sarcasm with humor. No one angry with me for not putting them first. Everyone might have been angry for me not showing up, but hey, I didn’t have to give myself away.
Ever notice how many funerals there are around the holidays? I have seen five this week just in my little corner of the world. Life is short. We are lucky if we live to see eighty. Does that mean we have to give ourselves away to everyone to make it matter? I don’t think so. You never know when you’ll have your last holiday. How do you want to spend it? Miserable? Exhausted?
Do you want to make someone happy on the holidays? Begin with yourself.
Be selfish, you say? But the holidays are about giving to others! Ripples in the pond, I say. You can only spread joy if you are joyful. People can feel when it is genuine. Otherwise, your joy-less presence will not be a gift to anyone. If you’re going to show up all bent out of shape from the last gathering or the argument in the car, it might be best to keep your unhappy act home.
Honor your own traditions first. If you really don’t want to go somewhere, don’t. There, I said it. I just gave you permission. DON’T GO if you can’t bring any good to the occasion. Yes, you’ll probably be talked about, but only in speculation. Hurt feelings, anger, disappointment are things we all live with daily, but better that they come with your absence than something you said in frustration and can’t take back. Because some people hold grudges and have very long memories that will bleed into every holiday to come.
Isn’t the whole tagline of the season Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Men? If you can’t bring peace to your own home, how can you be a bringer of goodwill to anyone else’s?
Give only what you have the resources to give – time, money, energy, caring, self. And when you’ve run out, stop. Because you can’t give something you don’t have left to give.