Last year something in my brain clicked and I decided to no longer be a humbug around Christmastime, although I thought that I had every reason to be. Using my past to justify the present is something I became very good at when I didn't want to take responsibility for my emotions/actions.
Although it’s still painful to recall, a week before Christmas 2008 I received the worst news of my life that my dad passed away. This December 17 will mark four years since his death, and it’s still difficult to grasp that it’s already been that long without him. Even though I've managed to really come to terms with his death and make peace with it, nothing changes the fact that losing a loved one at any time of the year hurts deeply and is something I will always have to work through.
Last year I had a change of heart. I wanted to really embrace Christmas like I never had before, or more like I had when I was a kid. I wanted to give gifts to everyone. I wanted to sing Christmas songs and watch movies and decorate and be happy and joyful. After all, I was engaged to the love of my life and we were both enjoying living with a special member of the family. Plus we were having one of the warmest winters on record so I had no reason to complain about the weather.
We headed up to Maine to spend Christmas Day with my mom’s side of the family. It didn't take long for alcohol and the absence of an uncle to stir up some hostile feelings which erupted in a shouting match while young cousins watched in horror. And I stood in the middle of the room, begging and pleading for everyone to stop and realize the absurdity of all of this. But hurtful words had already been exchanged and morale was low. At that moment I realized I could no longer play peacekeeper. Unfortunately I had to come to terms with the fact that these people don’t see things the way I do. Maybe someday they will, and I truly hope that happens. But I cannot hold out for that moment. I have to create my own reality.
A year later I’m living in a different part of the country with my husband and our tight knit family and we’re excited for the holidays. Thanksgiving was a success and now Christmas is on the horizon. The incident of last December feels like forever ago and I’m so ready to welcome my mom and grandmother here to celebrate with us. They deserve to be a part of a happy and loving family that has no interest in drama and we are welcoming them with open arms.
On that note, everyone deserves to feel welcomed and loved during the holidays and any day of the year for that matter. If the holidays create stress and anxiety for you, then my suggestion is to take a step back, breathe, and reevaluate. I know that sometimes family members can be pills and the mixing of personalities can be a recipe for drama. But love them anyway. Send out love every chance you get; you just may be surprised in the ways in which it comes back to you.