Thursday, December 27, 2018

How to Have a Merry Christmas

I'm sitting here drinking peppermint mimosas with my lovely Julia and ruminating on how good life is. Christmas has almost always been a very happy time of year for me. There have been a couple of sad Christmases - the first one after my divorce, the first one after Ron died - but usually the holidays are the best time of the year.

Peppermint Mimosas - Look better than they taste, but still okay

I know that a lot of people have a hard time at Christmas. They don't get along with their families. Their families don't accept them because they are gay, married outside their religion/ race,  cut off all contact with an abusive relative or a million other stupid reasons.

How to have a Merry Christmas

Let go of the expectations. People are who they are. It is what it is. Either change your thinking or change your situation and then let it go. Ronda has the organizational skills of a hyperactive squirrel. She is generous, smart, funny and kind but she probably just remembered on Monday that the 25th was Christmas. Maria had already finished shopping on the day after Thanksgiving and I suspect Jennifer already has her calendar planned out through December 25, 2019. Julia is cleaning her room now so that it will be ready for her grandmother when she arrives in six hours. You may think six hours is ample time but that only means that you have never seen Julia's room.

I'm not particularly the warm and cuddly type.  I do hug people and tell them I love them, but not every other sentence, like some friends of mine do. Jenn was shocked to hear that I actually baked cookies yesterday, which I found a little insulting.

I could go on but my point is this - everyone has foibles, flaws and failings. Many family gatherings fall apart because you find it so inconsiderate that cousin Tina is 45 minutes late for the eleventh year in a row or that your dad never listens to you and bought you a sweater with a camel instead of a cashmere sweater. 

You know that prayer about accepting things you cannot change and changing the things you can? My secret to enjoying the holidays and life in general is something like that.

Let it go or let them go

The unhappiest people I know CHOOSE to be unhappy. Yes, you do. I could get offended by off-hand remarks but it's a waste of energy.

I'm Catholic. I have friends and family members who are atheist. Every now and then they will make remarks like, "I can't believe that you go to mass." Well, I do.Yes, I am aware of the child abuse that has gone on for decades, probably centuries, and it disturbs me greatly.  We actually had a reasonable discussion about this at Christmas. I don't take it as a personal affront that people don't believe what I do. I listen to their ideas and keep drinking my peppermint mimosa.

We have a very good rule in our family -

"If it happened over a year ago, you can't bring it up in an argument."  

This is a rule my children have used against me on occasion, but it's still a good rule. I see married couples, parents and adult children, adult siblings all arguing about that party someone wasn't invited to in 1998 or the graduation someone didn't attend five years ago.

If you catch yourself saying,

"But don't you think parents SHOULD attend their child's graduation/baptism/ bar mitzvah/ wedding and don't you think they SHOULD feel bad and apologize?"

I don't know anything about your situation but since you are the person reading my blog, I am going to side with you and say yes, you are correct. So what? seriously, the point is, they didn't do whatever it was and they didn't apologize and buy you a gift and a doughnut to make it up to you.

Speaking of doughnuts ...

Fish Lake is an adventure game that teaches about fractions.  You can canoe rapids, solve math problems and if you need help learning, there are activities explaining fractions using turtle eggs, riding between camps and yes, even chocolate doughnuts used as an illustration of mixed numbers. Buy it and support my day job! Runs on Mac and Windows computers.

 So, you didn't get the apology or the doughnut. You felt undervalued and underappreciated. Let it go. That person maybe is not going to be as close to you or understand you as well as you had expected. Maybe you are adding now, fuming,

"As much as I had a RIGHT to expect!" 

So what? They are probably not going to change so you can decide to let it go or not.

The other option is to just not spend time around people who make you so unhappy. There are (former)  friends and relatives I don't see any more.  I had a friend who made a series of bad career choices, in my opinion. Every time I saw her she railed against President Obama's policies and how he was ruining the country and that is why she had financial problems. The last time I saw her, you'd think she'd be happy but no, she still couldn't get a job because "They are only hiring black people. I'm too white to get a job."

That's the point where I decided I was done. Probably stupidity isn't contagious but why take that chance?

If you have a racist/ misogynist / homophobic uncle, you don't have to sit and listen to that person. If some relative gives you the creepy vibe and you don't feel comfortable with that person around your children, don't go anywhere they happen to be.

Guess what else? YOU get to decide. If you have a relative who is always putting you down, telling you that you don't make enough money, you are too fat, you should be married by now or whatever it is that makes you feel bad, don't see them. Are they at the same gathering as your grandparents who you really want to see? Then call up your grandparents and ask if you can come visit on a random weekend in February. Flights will be cheaper and your grandparents will be thrilled to have their grandchildren think of them more than one season of the year.

Problem solved.

Much of the family happiness comes about because we really wanted our past to be different. Some of it is because there are people in our lives at present that we need to cross off the Christmas card list.

Let it go or let them go.

It's never too late to start living your happily ever after.

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