Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Embrace the tradition, even if you don't feel thankful this year.

Well, it is almost Thanksgiving. And I know a lot of people who have really nothing to feel thankful about this year. I think about them, and it makes me sad. Some have lost a loved one. Some have been diagnosed with cancer. Some have lost their job. One family has lost a child. I know that not one of them is looking forward to the holidays.

And I don't blame them.  The holidays are tough enough without those awful things.

So what can they do?  What can any of us do?

The only thing we can do.  Get through the day as best we can. Some will bow out this year and just stay home for a quiet meal.  Others will still attend family get togethers steeling themselves for the inevitable question, "So, how are you doing?'  Most dread that question.  It is funny, most people only ask that question to folks they know have had a rough year.  If you have won a million dollars in the lottery, no one really wants to know about that.  And many people, once you start to tell them your woes, chime in with their own, as though it is some sort of contest to see who is worse off. No wonder most clam up. I don't blame them.

So, what is the thing to do? Drop out for the year?  Still participate but sit quietly and leave early?  Get drunk?

I guess the best thing to do is what feels right.  For you.  Not for your mother or sister or friends. So what if they will be disappointed. They will surely get over it. But don't expect them to understand. They won't.

Everyone experiences their own reality. Some can just shrug things off and pretend that there is nothing wrong.  They seem to be enjoying themselves. Others sit and act morose the whole time.  And others will simply disengage. And it is all alright. Allow yourself to indulge in your own whims and tell others that this is how you best cope with the bad events of the year. Ask them to forgive your selfishness, but explain this is how you are protecting your heart. Perhaps they will best understand if you put it that way.

 We all want happy holidays.  We want them for ourselves, our loved ones, our kids.  We have a picture in our minds of how they should look and feel. Of how everyone should act. But they rarely turn out that way and many times we find ourselves sadly disappointed.  So, especially if you have had a bad year, allow yourself to expect less. Embrace the tradition, but let go of the expectations. Or create a new tradition. One that allows you to include a relative that is no longer here. Or one that celebrates new beginnings. Let go of the expectations of others and create something that has your own unique mark.

The holidays are fraught with so much emotion.  So many memories. So much weight on our shoulders. So much work and preparation. Much of it can be joyful, but it doesn't come easy. And there is oftentimes a lot of sadness.  Sadness for things that have passed and sadness for things that will never be again.

So, if you feel sad, embrace the sadness. Don't try to pretend it doesn't exist. And if people do ask the inevitable question, "How are you doing," love yourself enough to answer honestly. Don't get angry, it is a dumb question, especially if you have lost a loved one.  But take a deep breath and say that "This has not been the best year and to celebrate a holiday without a loved one doesn't really need an explanation, now does it."

And let it go at that.
Grief can't be shared. Everyone carries it alone, his own burden, his own way. ~~~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness. ~~~Erich Fromm

I still miss those I loved who are no longer with me but I find I am grateful for having loved them. The gratitude has finally conquered the loss. ~~~Rita Mae Brown

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