I'm not gonna get into all the gory details about my family, and it's not because I'm afraid to share that part of my life with you. There will be a time and a place for that, I promise. It's just that I don't think this is it. My personal story won't help you learn to accept or deal any better with the disappointment that may be your family. Chances are your disappointment looks completely different than mine, and even if it didn't and it helped you to feel like you weren't alone, wouldn't you want to take it a step further and learn how to deal, rather than just finding someone to commiserate with?
Before I start you should know that I'm in no way an expert, unless spending years in therapy AS A PATIENT makes you a pro. I didn't think so. I've struggled for years trying to find contentment at the holidays, almost always feeling let down. With that said, I have learned a few very important things, lowering my expectations is critical. Setting boundaries for myself and then never EVER crossing them, equally as critical.
These two things will make the holidays a lot less painful, even dare I say it, enjoyable. Some advice now.
1. Go in with no expectations. Hard to do right, almost impossible. I mean we all want our mothers to be in our childhood home baking cookies and cooking up a storm. Dad's outside hanging Christmas lights, the house is decorated to the nines. Christmas music plays lightly in the background while grandma and grandpa who have been married for 50 years sit by the fire holding hands. You and your siblings with all of your families fly home for the holiday, a packed house. All is cozy and warm etc. etc. etc. If your family life looks like that, I am truly happy for you, but that's not the norm.
When you have high expectations (like Clark and I did) it's hard not to be disappointed, no matter how wonderful Christmas might be. Now add in real life. Maybe you have a mother-in-law that brings out feelings of inferiority because she makes comments about your homemaking skills, or you have a sister that you haven't talked to in years, your father passed away, you lost a baby, you lost your job. High expectations and reality look totally different don't they? No family can ever live up to the family that you've dreamed up in your mind so all your doing is setting yourself up for disappointment. Ditch your expectations.
2. Get away and take breaks. D and I have a very quiet and peaceful home so heading into a house full of aunts, cousins, nieces and in-laws is going to be overwhelming and overstimulating. Poor Margo and Todd weren't the assholes they were made out to be, they were just normal people who had their peaceful existence completely disrupted when the Griswold's extended family literally rolled into town. I mean how would you feel if you looked out your window and saw this.
3. Don't be afraid to spend Christmas alone. That might sound sad to some of you, but if you've managed to ditch your expectations, it really can be quite nice. When we're not on the east coast with D's family, more often than not, we spend the holiday here in our home, just the two of us. Full disclosure, ditching expectations is HARD and I went years feeling incredibly lonely over the holidays because I was away from my make believe family. It took me a really long time to get to where I am today, but now that I'm here, I actually prefer the holiday at home, just D and me.
Nothing says you need a house full of people to celebrate Christmas. We always make a huge meal. The table is set beautifully, our china is out, the ice bucket is full of chilled champagne, Christmas music plays softly in the background. The tree is lit and the house is decorated. Sometimes we'll stay in our pajamas all day watching Christmas movies. It's peaceful and calm and it's absolutely perfect.
I know the holidays can be tough. If you'll be spending Christmas with your not so perfect family, take my advice and ditch the expectations, take time out for yourself and if all else fails it's not too late to stay home.
Have a great week friends.