I still tend to ignore the holiday season. Around my house, if my husband doesn’t decorate, it probably won’t get decorated. It’s not that I have anything in particular against the holidays in principle, it’s the letdowns that I have to ride for the next few months that I’m trying to avoid.
Having admitted that I am a recovering codependent, also admitting that I struggle with perfectionism isn’t much of an admission. It goes with the territory.
We all want our holidays to be magical. We love the special feelings that come as we anticipate them. We fantasize that, somehow, this year, the holidays will begin some sort of a world change that will move us all toward a Utopia of brotherhood and peace (or at least cut out some of the family bickering over the holiday meal).
Instead, the same-old-garbage that permeates everyday life finds its way into our perfect holiday plans. Our sister-in-law, who has never realized that she really is accepted as part of the family, creates a scene when her favorite dish is passed away from her instead of to her. Grandma insists that our parenting style is ruining our children and the family name. Even though we tried to prepare ourselves, that “favorite uncle” crawls under our skin and sends us into the kitchen to cry after getting the meal on the table.
That was just Thanksgiving, and now we have to gear ourselves up for Christmas — getting the perfect gifts, preparing the genuinely fake smiles we will be wearing to all of the social events on our already-crammed calendar, cookies that don’t taste just right (and we have to decide if we are going to bake another six batches and throw these out or not), losing sleep trying to get it all done.
A week later, we sacrifice the majority of a good night’s sleep in hopes that 2017 will be better than this year.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
All it takes is a persistent shift in what we expect. Why do the hoidays need to be perfect to be special? Wouldn’t macaroni and cheese without all the tension be better than a perfect Christmas dinner? Can we focus on the good in others (even those “favorite uncles”) and avoid falling back into the same old traps that have plagued family gatherings for years? Can we admit that there are parts of holidays that we really don’t like — and then focus on the parts we love?
This year, let’s decide to cut ourselves some slack. If we only get the tree up and not all the yard decorations, if the cookies are a little bit too done, if our sister-in-law throws that predictable temper-tantrum — shrug it off. Life happens, even if we have designated a day on the calendar as a special day. We don’t leave our needs and imperfections behind on November 1 only to pick them up again on January 2.
So, let life happen, and remember to be thankful that we have uncles that crawl under our skin, sister-in-laws who throw tantrums, kids that are going to get over-excited, and friends who want to spend time with us.