Telling stories

Finding some holiday cheer that really lasts

Posted by southwrite on December 27, 2009

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The holidays are just about over and most of us are already thinking about the coming year, work, new clients, taxes and all the labor that goes into making our lives as freelancers.

For me I’m still thinking about the holiday just past and I think I’ve come to something of a revelation – for me at least.

I have sweet memories of childhood Christmas mornings when I leaped out of bed early and went tearing full speed to the living room. There the big tree with its colorful lights was now transformed into a an banquet of carefully wrapped boxes containing who knows what wonderful gifts. And, the slice of cake and milk I had left for Santa were now gone and a note of jolly thanks sat on the empty plate.

It was a marvelous magical time that only a child’s mind could perceive. The passing of those years and the loss of innocence has made those holiday memories distant. They’ve been replaced by the realities of parents who weren’t very wise and dependable and a world that isn’t very jolly. Life has tainted the joy of childhood for me much as it has for many others.

Don’t get me wrong. I do like the parties and the music and the chance to watch – once again – How the Grinch Stole Christmas and A Christmas Carol. I still get choked up over Tiny Tim, but my favorite Dickens’ character is Scrooge. Sure, he’s not very likeable, but I can understand his honest point of view. All this Christmas stuff seems like a waste sometimes. Have you ever tried to get anyone at the office around December 25th? Without fail they’ve just left or they’re at some office party.

The holidays are also the time for visiting and being visited by friends and relatives. And, for many people, that’s where the holiday rub comes in. All of us have some people whom we see during this orgy of familial good times that – if we weren’t in the same family we would have no reason to seek out their company. Many people look to family visits with dread because they know that conflicts will ensue and they’ll come back not just with a few extra pounds, but some hurt feelings as well.

Over the years I’ve participated in those situations more than once. Nobody can push your buttons quite like family. The worst part of it is that even when you see it coming – just like last year and the one before – you’re still hit between the eyes with those barbs as if it were a well executed ambush.

I had that experience myself. Sitting at dinner listening yet again to a relative’s unendingly negative take on the world. In past years that would have pushing me over the emotional edge. But, I decided, not this time.

I smiled and nodded and changed the subject. The words continued to come. I didn’t respond. Without really thinking about it, the mood passed and we moved on to other topics.

Your antagonists don’t change until you do and you won’t change until you stop being a willing participant in the dance. For me the first step was giving up the all consuming desire to be right. The second, was learning that even when you win in this game, you lose.

When the irritation starts growing because of the direction a conversation has taken, I’ve come to realize that I’m seeing myself in the words and faces of my relatives. And, with that realization has come a new ease and a new empathy. Just like me they’re doing the best they can with the cards they’ve been dealt.

That’s some holiday cheer that can work all year.

One Response to “Finding some holiday cheer that really lasts”

  1. Another good article, Randy. Great take-away for those with annoying relatives (and who doesn’t have at least one?).

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