Dec 26, 2014

Your Holiday Mileage May Vary

If you are reading blogs (and you are), or are on Facebook, instagram, etc. you've seen innumerable pictures of Walton-style families (loved that show!) gathered over the holidays.  Some traveled to amazing locations, others have Martha Stewart-worthy trees and decorations.  Lots of pictures of smiling families, cute kids, adorable dogs and cats (lots of cates).  (Ok, I'm not a fan of cats.  Feel free to hate me). 

No lingering resentments, recovering or not recovering addicts, step-family woes, challenged children, college drop outs, debts, lost jobs, depression, sibling rivalries, divorces, etc.  I mention this because I read a post on Facebook that softly suggested that it appeared that everyone had enjoyed an amazing Christmas.  The underlying message seemed to be "Glad you did, but I didn't."

I did enjoy a lovely Christmas.  We spent it with our son and much of my husband's family.  This is a family that knows how to get along.  There were lots of laughs, board games, and food.  Not a cross word.  Yes, I had moments of high anxiety, worry, etc. but they were just moments.   I loved being with them.

It wasn't always this way -- almost every holiday in my past was dominated by the cause and existence and aftermath of addictions.  My brothers' problems became my problems, because that is how addictions work.  But now they are all gone, and I am introducing myself to the holidays in a new way.  It is hard to shake the past, but I'm shaking it as fast as I can. 

Yet -- even with a good drama-free Christmas, my life is no different than most.  Lift up the social media of happiness, and there are some issues.  I post this just to remind us, particularly in the world of public sharing on social media, that I've yet to meet a perfect family.  We all struggle with a few (if we are lucky) not-so-happy things.  Online is not real.

One blogger I know, who is a riotous pleasure online, has serious, movie-worthy, sad family problems.  Her blog is full of witty commentary, but her life behind the blog is anything but witty.  I think of her every day, knowing her struggles.  Another posts gorgeous creations, while she has shared with me that her husband resents every dime and minute she spends on paper crafting.  Her life is complicated....  A facebook friend has an amazing life, except that one of her children is paralyzed by depression. I'm sure you could add more examples. 

So if you are wondering how every other family manages to pull off the big glorious holiday and life, the answer is that they don't, although the reality is that some folks are suffering more than others.  In any event I suspect that everyone is displaying just a slice of their lives.  And that can be a good thing, because happy slices uplift the soul.  However, the downside is that we may forget that we are only seeing a slice.

Whatever holiday you and your family celebrate, and particularly if you are struggling to celebrate anything, I hope that the social media frenzy of perfection doesn't add to your struggles and make you feel more alone.   You are not. 

30 comments:

  1. Thank you, Joan. Beautiful words from a beautiful person.

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  2. This post is just perfect. I'm so glad you are enjoying the Holidays this year!

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  3. Maybe you need to post this every year. Maybe you even need to post it earlier. Maybe a lot of us need the reminder to let go. Maybe a dose of plain-speak is too rare and so a greater gift. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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  4. Well said, Joan. As always, well said! Hugs, Darnell

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  5. I don't do any of the popular social media garbage such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. for many reasons. Sounds like this is yet another reason not to do them as if there already weren't enough.

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  6. Wonderful message that obviously came from your heart...I can't complain about any family issues, but I sure can whine a bit...at least to myself. Huge void this year without our 4 year old grandchild who's spending a year abroad with her mother. But we gathered as a family and tended to ignore the "elephant" in the room. Distraction works. Thank you for posting this ...a good dose of reality is good for the soul.

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  7. Merry Christmas Joan! I'm glad you are finding new and better ways to celebrate. Thanks for the great post. Comparing ourselves to others generally isn't helpful, showing care and compassion for others, as you have shown, is wonderful.

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  8. Wow, I almost didn't read this entire post! I've only recently "found" you and I was prepared for another perfect example of Christmas.

    I'm so glad I read the whole thing! We had 3 adults and 4 kids in one apartment all with the flu! And this wasn't a "bad" Christmas for us! lol

    I think it's good to stop and reflect about those who have struggles that we can't even begin to understand. I think the world needs more compassion and understanding!

    Bless you for your honesty! I'm glad you enjoyed Christmas and I hope you have many more equally or even more, enjoyable! :)

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  9. thanks for this post -- I am wondering if I can ask your personal opinion -- or rather share our family dilemma. My niece is a "recovering' drug addict. The big debate and sometimes tense moments came over whether to have the family dinner be alcohol free. While her "taste" is not alcohol, her mom and some others of us were hoping to support her recovery and not flaunt drinking in her face. Her cousins were not so supportive, and therein was the problem. Just wondering your thoughts and if you know of any good blogs that deal with addiction issues. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Carol, I must confess that I am the last person to advise on this. My father (and brothers) were alcoholics and I have an aversion to alcohol -- I see no reason for its existence!! I just cannot be wise or objective on this topic. I do not know of any blogs on addiction. That said, I always vote for compassion towards those trying to better themselves. What harm would it do to do without a drink or wine for a meal or two? Hugs to you and thanks for the question!

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    2. Thank for sharing. Addiction has touched so many lives - it always amazes me. I love your idea of "compassion towards those trying to better themselves". I will share that with my family. Even it helps change one person's point of view, it will be worth it.
      Wishing all the Best to you and your extended family in this New Year.

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  10. Joan, this is beautifully written. I had been mulling over this idea in my head all day because I dread formulating a response to the dreaded, "Did you have a good Christmas?" statement that everyone poses on the Monday following Christmas weekend. It feels like that, "How are you?" question when most people really only want to hear, "Fine" or "Great!"

    You highlighted many of the moments I experience during the holidays when people who don't normally see each other suddenly get together and "make nice". My Christmas was predictable. That's the truth... and I've decided to focus on the positives and the blessings and to remember I always have a choice.

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    1. here's hoping next year is better than predictable. hugs.

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  11. Joan, you're a wise a compassionate woman. {{{Hugs!}}}

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  12. What a heartfelt and wise post. Sending hugs to you from San Diego--where I spent Christmas at the movies and then eating Chinese--as all good Jews everywhere are supposed to do.

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  13. Amen. Well said. Thank you for your courage and honesty. It was like a breath of spring air. Blessings to you and yours.

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  14. Joan--What a wonderful post! You mentioned so many things that I feel, not only at Christmas. I have to admit that this was one of our better Christmas' but I still felt the strain and awkwardness. Thank you so much for putting into words what I have felt for so long!

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  15. I truly appreciate your thought provoking post. Thank you.

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  16. Well said, and I'm glad you said it. Everyone should read this and know they are not the odd family out. All the cheerful fronts we see in the holiday season can further the depressive thoughts of others. We aren't all okay, but we do our best and carry on. I don't do Facebook just because I don't feel I have time for more social media, so I miss a lot of what you menitoned. Also, I don't force myself and my family into undesirable situations, so our Christmas and any other time is spent with those we love and enjoy. Thankfully, we do have that and we're a fortunate bunch in regard to the love and happiness and contentment of our immediate family.

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  17. Great post, Joan. I know that whenever I am actually at a gathering or dinner or event and then later see the pictures or posts on Facebook, it always looks better in the post than it was in real life. A good photographer can take pictures that make everything look lovely, when in reality when you are there, you see the mess just out of the shot--literal and figurative. Things always look better in the photos or on TV. I used to live near where they launched space shuttles, and Florida always looked WAY better on TV than it did in real life. On TV the water was bluer, the grass greener, and you didn't feel the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes.

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  18. True words, and all! I never believe "hype", anyway - which is what I view overly upbeat blog and Facebook posts to be - so it doesn't really get to me. That being said, this was the first Christmas since 1989 (no, I'm so not kidding) that I wasn't "waiting for the other shoe to drop". EVERY Christmas in the past two decades has been marred by varying degrees of drama/tragedy. Someone in jail, rehab, divorce court, addiction, whatever - not fun, not calm, not bright... Still, we've managed to have bright spots and pleasant moments in the midst of the mess. This year was mini-mess, all things considered, and moments of actual joy! I feel hopeful for future holidays...

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    1. waiting for the other shoe to drop is exhausting, isn't it? Glad to hear that this year was better.

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  19. Joan I so love you for putting this into perspective. Love reading your posts and looking at your creations.
    Happy 2015 to you

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  20. Thank you for a good dose of your great common sense, which you are always able to word so well! I think Christmas can come loaded with so many expectations, some of which just aren't realistic.
    Wishing you good things for 2015.

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  21. I love you, Joan! There's something I saw on Pinterest that said, "Thou shall not compare yourself to strangers on the internet." Sometimes it really is just best to step away from the computer and try to live in the moment. Hugs & Happy New Year!

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  22. So wonderfully well put! Thank you.

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  23. Great post, Joan! Happy New Year, my friend. :)

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  24. I wrote a long answer to your post but I think Google ate it. Basically: Amen sister! Amen!

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