As I sit and wait for my youngest two children to go to bed so the rest of their presents can be wrapped for Christmas, thoughts about the holidays have been weighing on my mind. Not in a bad way, because this is my favorite time of year. And this is primarily due to the fact that I decided to celebrate them on my terms – which I will expound upon.
This year, I am at home with my family – which consists of my husband Craig and our three children. There are no extended relatives – no mothers, fathers, siblings, aunts, uncles or cousins in our presence. There will be most likely no friends that come to visit us at home, and more than likely, we will not be going out either. It will just be the five of us as the kids open their presents, and enjoy food. This is just fine with me.
There are a lot of perceptions about the holiday season, and it means different things to different people. For some, it is a fun time to gather with extended family, eat, and exchange presents or other rituals that are considered tradition. For others, it is tough because the gatherings with family and or friends seem to be more of an obligation than a celebration. They may be coerced into participating and interacting out of a sense of guilt and appeasing the desires of relatives, most likely a parent. And yet for others, it is a time of melancholy and loneliness (ie, the “Holiday Blues”) due to the loss of loved ones – either through death or distance – as well as other factors, including financial hardship or the personal decision to stop celebrating holidays altogether.
Since moving to the Atlanta area 15 years ago, I can count on one hand how many times we’ve had family visit us for the holidays. Mind you, I have only been out as an atheist since 2010, so this isn’t a factor in this delinquency. Most times, we are asked if WE will come up to New York to visit THEM – which we have done a few times since the move. I do take some responsibility in not going to see some relatives that have moved out of state, and there have been other occasions where family has visited at times other than the holidays (it’s been a while though). But to be honest, I have grown weary of the request for us to do the traveling back home – especially now that own my family has grown. And as I continue in my personal development and become more acquainted with individuals that are of a similar mindset, it has become very difficult for me to accept the ways of those who refuse to change, as well as expect others to conform to their stagnated thought process.
As much as there is joy in holiday gatherings, it can also be a time when unresolved issues come to light. And instead of finding ways to overcome these problems, many family units tend to let them fester into a revolving cycle of drama and dysfunction. I contend that no one should be forced, coerced, or even cajoled into any situation that will make them uncomfortable, or even cause downright unhappiness. I say this not to encourage total separation of the family unit. But it is best for people to be honest with themselves about their mental and emotional welfare during these times, and make the best choice – even if it is difficult.
I am finding that the older I get, the less appealing the idea of celebrating the holidays in a traditional manner become. For example, I am contemplating a group trip to the Smoky Mountains with some close family and friends, and celebrating Thanksgiving next year. Traveling to the Caribbean or another tropical destination for Christmas sounds great now. Even sending the kids to New York to be with their grandparents while I do nothing would be awesome! A few years ago, I thought those ideas were ridiculous – not so much anymore. They certainly aren’t new; it’s just a matter taking the time to actually DO them – despite what others may think.
In conclusion, although I wish I could enjoy the company of extended family more, there’s certainly no case of the holiday blues over here. Being alone or around very few people at times does not always equal being lonely. The most important aspect of my life is to be happy – which means periodically re-evaluating, and revising my thoughts and actions. This process is not influenced by the wishes of others, (although I do take advice into consideration) and I try my best not to impose my will in return. Because again, we must ultimately decide what is best for us, and make the most out of our own lives.
Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!!!