Ahh, the holidays.
Sparkling lights. Gingerbread. Candy canes.
The anticipation of little children peeking beneath the tree.
Yes, heart attacks. December 25th has the honor of holding the record for the highest incidents of heart attacks. The second highest? December 26th.
Experts say it’s a combination of cold weather, change in eating habits, financial stress and emotional stress. But some of us live in warm climates. And some of us don’t change our eating habits very much. So it seems the thing we have in common is the holiday stress.
For some of us, Christmas with the extended family isn’t quite like the Hallmark commercials. The whole Norman Rockwell ideal of the holidays is as mythical as Santa himself. It doesn’t help that we arrive a little shell-shocked from the spendfest we’ve just participated in and we are surrounded by people who are similarly stressed. But then we must contend with things like competition, favoritism, bruised relationships and desires for approval.
With a little eggnog thrown in for good measure.
I must admit that as a child, I had this whole idealistic vision of the Christmases of my future. I imagined a roaring fireplace with stockings lined up in their places. Adults sipping hot cocoa while our kids played excitedly with their new treasures. I saw hugs and heartfelt exchanges among beloved family members. In my mind, it was a tiny slice of the world where everyone felt like they were unconditionally loved and accepted. Where even for one day, everyone belonged.
As it turns out, there is a fireplace involved. Stockings. Hot cocoa. And yeah, there’s some love. But then there is some other stuff. Stuff that Norman never painted. For years, I was sad and upset about this. I felt cheated. Even a little angry that we didn’t have the wonderful Hallmark Christmases I was sure everyone else had. My childhood dreams of Christmas had been dashed by bitter reality.
In fairness, most of my other childhood expectations were off the mark as well. My husband has neither a white horse nor a set of shining armor. I do not live in an adult size version of my Barbie Dreamhouse and – sadly, I do not have Barbie’s boobs or her shoe collection. My backyard does not resemble a garden & flower show. And I would not recommend eating off my floor.
But now that I am older and a little wiser, I’ve learned to hold a new perspective on the whole holiday gathering thing. I’ve let go of my picture perfect expectations and have discovered the beauty of embracing the whole crazy-fun-strange-uniqueness that is my family. And I believe changing my perspective was the first step toward restoring the holiday spirit. At least in my own heart, if nowhere else.
Over the next week, I’ll be sharing tips I’ve learned (mostly the hard way) for restoring the “joy”, the “merry” and even a little bit of the “jolly” to the holiday season.
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