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War Zone

You know how it is.  The Holiday season brings out the best in all of us.  We all become solicitous of one another’s feelings; everyone develops more tolerance for one another’s foibles; there is plenty of time for everything that needs to be done; traffic is usually light; the other folks always patiently wait their turn.  Isn’t that right?

Now, don’t you look at me like that!  What do you mean, “What planet am I from?”  In fact, I think you had better stop looking at me like that right now or I’ll give you a bit fat knuckle sandwich!  You know what… if you don’t like what I’m saying about the holiday season, you can just leave right now, and don’t let the door hit you in your big fat… umm, well, and okay I’ll admit that I may have overreacted a bit.   Again.

Hey, I tried.  I did my best, but I bet you find the season as trying as I do.  I’ll admit it; I’m one of those people who find the holidays inordinately stressful.  Can I go home and bury my head in that comfy quilt now?  Hide from my children, and my guests, and the in-laws, and… No?  You mean that we’ll have to get through this together? 

Then I suppose we’ll need some “coping mechanisms”, which is a high fallutin’ psycho-babble way to say, “how not to go psycho and kill folks that we generally care about most of the time”.  Yes, this year we’ll probably need ways to maintain our sanity, most of our dignity, and maybe even a bit of the joy that we are supposed to be taking from this time of the season. 

I know, I know, there is no way in the world that we’re going to manage to do this!  We’ve tried to manage this before and it never seems to work out like we’d planned for it to.  There is NO way that this season is going to be any different than all of the others, or is there?  Might there be a way to get through the season without mayhem?


The Expectations Game

That family in “It’s a Wonderful Life” was so perfect wasn’t it?  I’ll bet that you’ve watched the movie a few times, maybe even a few dozen times.  Indeed, I’m betting that you want your Christmas to be just like theirs was too… well, maybe without the attempted suicide and the angels, but you know what I’m getting at.  You want a Christmas just like the ones you grew up watching on your teevee.

The perfect morning, the warm house, the snowy weather outside… The entire family should all be there too-- all at one time, for the whole day and without anywhere else to go.  The perfect presents will be there, and everyone will be sweet and the kids mostly quiet… and… Okay, I’m dreaming again aren’t I? 

Of course I am, and so are you.  Those teevee Christmases were not real; hey, they only took place on your television set, not in your parent’s house!  So maybe we should change our expectations a bit.  Change them, not lower them, and instead change those expectations into something reflecting reality. 

It’s time for the big questions.  Will we be traveling throughout the holidays?  Will we be making multiple trips to see different branches of the family?  Are we, more or less obligated to drop in on some relatives that we don’t particularly enjoy?  If so, we’ll need to add these things into our expectations.  We’ve already factored these trips into our travel plans, the kids know that we’re going to Cousin Arnold’s house, but have we really accepted this? 

Many people never really accept some of the parts of the holidays that they find unpleasant.  They slip into a denial about what will be required of them.  Sure… your dream Christmas is probably different than the one you actually have planned, so have you allowed yourself the opportunity to enjoy the one that you are really going to have?  Or instead, have you slipped into a deep funk and missed out on the joy that was still possible to obtain?

It’s those expectations that are tripping you up.  If you make up your mind that you are not going to have a good time, then, you quite certainly will not.  Admit it; there are probably some good things about the schedule that you have planned.  Someone must be enjoying this trip or you wouldn’t be making it-- even if it isn’t you.  Maybe your children are dying to see Cousin Arnold and his children.  Maybe the drive itself can be enjoyable.  Focus on that, and adjust you expectations accordingly.  Think to yourself, “My children will be enjoying this trip very much.  All of this makes them happy and I will share their joy!”  And if you can manage to have this outlook, no one should die by your hands this year!

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