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Day 62 - Christmas, Artillery Scenes & Elf

I do not know about any of you but I was born into the wrong family for holidays. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. I love our family vacations and I love spending time with them. We just don’t do the holidays like I wish we did.

I was the only child to a military family. That in and of itself is hard. Most military families have a lots of kids. Kind of like Mormon families. And they go to church about the same too. We did not fit the military family mold at all. We were small, my parents highly educated, my mom wanted and had a career, we did not attend church but we were nonetheless military.

When I was a kid and saw a Nativity scene on base, I called it an artillery scene. So yes, I was pretty indoctrinated in all things Army. We still laugh about that today. Poor Jesus was just having his birth celebrated and there I was calling it some new battle ground. Come to think of it, it kind of was for him.

I have talked a lot about expectations and ideas about how things should be. This idea, more than any other, has robbed me of joy in my daily life. Having this preconceived notion about how things should go is the best killjoy around.

Holidays are hard for many people because I think it is the only time of the year when one can no longer maintain their own delusion. When you spend time with family or have a family that is so dysfunctional that you just can’t spend time with them, all of your many, many expectations are addressed in real time and there is no avoiding the chasm between what you want/need and what is happening.

I would have liked to have had a larger family. I loved the chaos of my friends’ homes where there were children and adults coming and going. I spent all of my time as a kid across the street at my best friend Daniel’s house because his house was loud, exciting, full of teenagers and lots of drama.

Now, I totally appreciated coming back to my house where it was quiet, clean and organized. I did not appreciate it so much at the time but I can see now how much I would have hated having to live in that environment all the time.

So for the most part I am grateful for my quiet, undemanding family around the holidays. We open presents, eat a meal together and then usually go our separate ways or go to a movie. It is chill, low key, it requires little to no preparation and is over shortly after it has begun.

But I would be a liar if I didn’t acknowledge that there is always this part of me that wants and misses the huge family celebrations. Being a military family, we moved around a lot and were never near family. We would travel to Florida almost every year when I was younger because my grandfather’s birthday was Christmas Eve. That was fun sometimes but we were never really close with family so it didn’t have the intimacy I craved.

Now, most of our extended family has passed on, lives elsewhere and we are not really close to most of them. My children go see their dad usually for this week so our Christmas celebration is almost always early and short lived. Sometimes, we don’t even have a meal together when the kids are leaving the next day.

We have traditions though. The kids and I make chocolate covered Christmas pretzels to give away every year. Grace collects nutcrackers and Christmas snow globes. We decorate every year and my tiny house seems like a Christmas store threw up everywhere. We do Christmas - we just kinda lack people.

I am not complaining about how we do Christmas. More, I am acknowledging the coming sadness when everyone else seems to be highly family impacted on the day and my family and I are doing our own thing. It is an interesting feeling. On the one hand, I love that this year and last year and many years, I can wake up at whatever time I want to, go for a hike, do whatever I want (read in bed, write, yoga) and no one but the pets are here to give me any shit. I can go get Chinese food with my parents and maybe a few stray friends that are also alone on the holiday. Then go to a movie or not. It is a nice easy going day and I am happy.

But there is also this part of me that always misses the huge family gatherings. Where there are gifts, games, food, drink and lots of family closeness. I love the idea of being invited to someone’s crazy family where there are relatives, friends, kids and it is organized chaos that results in everyone sitting down at a gigantic table together to just talk, celebrate and give time to each other. In fact, I have to own that this concept so touches my soul that just writing that made me cry a little.

I have to acknowledge how much loss there is at the holidays for me and I know for others. People suffer from childhood Christmas letdowns, Seasonal Affective Disorder, unmet childhood expectations and just plain old depression. I am lucky considering the list I just laid down. I am pretty even on the holidays. Despite that, I wanted to acknowledge that someday, I hope that I am part of some huge family celebration that culminates with a fancy table, nicely dressed people and good conversation. Someday, I wish that I could be a part of something like that. I know that I could try to create it but I think that is really what I am talking about. I am not one to create this type of thing. This type of celebration is created by other people. Not my people. My people, myself, we are capable of creating lots of other things, just not a huge Christmas shin dig.

I think one of the hardest things about the holidays is holding in your heart this desire for something other than what you have. It kind of robs you of the enjoyment in the moment. This year, I intend to fully embrace whatever holiday I end up having. I am owning in advance my not so secret desire to have something other than the reality I can and do create on my own.

I think this year, I will instead be open and allow whatever is supposed to occur or not. I will realize that the holidays are just another venue for me to understand and accept that I get what I am supposed to get. I will get what I need and usually, when I let go of these intense expectations, I get what I need even if that looks different than I think it should.

This year I will try to bring joy, laughter and magic wherever I go. I will embrace my inner Elf and spread Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear. I will watch that movie (my favorite holiday movie) and allow myself to be transported to a me that doesn’t really exist in my real life. I will allow my expectations to fall away and just be present. It really is the best thing that I have to offer anyone.

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