Image via Wikipedia
I admit I miss the holidays of my childhood.
I have fond memories of making the "over the river and through the woods" trip to my Grandma Ann's home. Once there, I spent the whole time by her side, helping her in the kitchen and in return being bathed in her attention and affection.
I remember her helping me feel warm, loved and special during the holidays.
The meals were hardy and home-cooked. I can still see everyone seated at the dining table, passing serving bowls full of food. After the meal, I know there were presents, but I cannot recall a single one. For what I remember the most is my family, together, under one roof and every one getting along.
It was truly a magical time.
Then at 16, my Grandma died and the holidays devolved into something quite different.
Now family members were fighting at the dinner table and openly unappreciative of a meal that didn't meet their expectations. Individuals started making other plans or not extending an invitation to certain family members. Slowly, my family started falling apart and drifting away from each other.
We lost our matriarch: the glue that kept us together, the person who quelled our disagreements and magician who maintained order amongst chaos.
For me, it was a process of adapting to change, leaving a sheltered childhood behind and learning about the adult world. I discovered a reality where people are not always kind to each other or agreeable to table their disputes long enough to enjoy a holiday meal together. My early adulthood memories of the holidays became about disagreements, distance and disownments.
It seems like as we all get older, the holidays seem to lose their wonder and splendor. And let's be honest with each other too; the truth is the holidays can be a very stressful time.
Just think of all the tasks, chores and To Do lists that mark this time of year. Then layer on the subtle and not so subtle messages society sends us this time of year: buy the perfect gift, be merry and jolly, set the perfect table and act like you don't have a care in the world. Add on top the woes many of us face today: chronic illness, physical limitations, financial problems and family disagreements.
What is a person to do?
My suggestion to get yourself back into the holiday spirit is to ask yourself what matters most.
My fondest holiday memories are about the people in my life. My most precious recollections are about spending time with them and doing the little things, like helping in the kitchen, sitting at the table enjoying a meal, relaxing on the sofa watching TV and posing together for an impromptu family photo. Those memories are about putting differences aside, letting troubles melt away for just one day and focusing on enjoying the moment and their company.
Even during Christmas 2004, a truly terrible time, when I had just begun my journey with chronic pain and my beloved Dad had just passed away three days beforehand, what I remember most is the comfort I felt just having my family around me. Yes, even with my heart heavy with grief, pain and fear and shedding quite a few tears throughout the day, it's the people next to me that I remember most.
I invite you to try an experiment with me. If you are having a hard time and you just don't feel up for this holiday season, try connecting to what matters most to you and place your efforts and attention there. See if readjusting your focus makes a difference in how you experience the holidays. Please let me know if you find this strategy helpful.