Dec 22, 2010

Season's Gratings

Dear As A Punk-
Like seemingly everyone else, I'm not looking forward to going home for the holidays. My family isn't a complete horror story like some of the people who write in, but at best it is a tense and not enjoyable experience for everyone, not just for me. It is like we all feel oddly obligated to show up and sit around being miserable together even though we truly do not understand each other. No one has the same views on anything from politics to lifestyles to what we want to watch on TV. After a couple days we all go to our separate corners of the state and just deal with each other for the rest of the year with awkward weekly phone calls and hastily scrawled birthday cards. If that is good enough for the rest of the year why do we have to go zombie march through this yearly yuletide ritual? Why do families do this to each other? Why can't we admit that if we weren't related by blood none of us would probably be friends with each other? Should I just bail out and maybe the rest of the family will be relieved and follow my example? - Blue Christmas Blows.

Dear BCB-
The bad news is, "everyone else" isn't dreading the Holidays. In fact most people DO have the sort of (enjoyable) Christmas you probably can't even imagine. It might suck to hear that, but it is the truth.

As you said in your letter though, your family situation isn't hellishly horrible, it just sounds like everyone is hellishly disappointed, your mom especially, I'm guessing. No one sets out to create an awkward and disconnected family. I'm sure your folks had the best of intentions, maybe they just didn't have the skills/ability to pull it off. Maybe there were disadvantages that were beyond your parents' control. See if you can figure that out, and then, find a way to forgive them. As much as we like to think familial love is something that is just supposed to 'happen' the truth is that those bonds are built slowly and over time in a million small and not-so-small ways. Sure, some families make it SEEM easy and automatic... They're the lucky few who managed to somehow find the same wavelength for each other and ride that wave together.

...but that isn't you. Or your family.

So what do you do? Sure you could bail out, but I've got news for you - Chances are the reaction you'll get isn't going to be "whew, what a relief, now we can all stop wasting time with this yearly masquerade.", it is more likely that everyone else will rally 'round your defection, since obviously you're all a bunch of people looking for something to bond over, and nothing does that quicker than a "family villain" ...and that would likely be you. If you can live with that then save the gas money, buy yourself a tree and stay home. If you can't shoulder the burden of family scapegoat for a family you would rather not have to deal with... well then it sounds to me like you DO want to deal with them, you're just as disappointed as everyone else.

But how do you fix any of this? It is unlikely that you're going to create a Christmas miracle for yourselves that "changes everything from now on" that only happens in (bad) movies. IF you still care, you have to figure out ways to make it just slightly slightly better, even if that tiny improvement takes a lot of effort... and then you have to find a way to be happy with the results of your efforts, even if they're barely measurable... Otherwise you'll just be adding a new layer of disappointment and resentment to what is already a very very large pile.

I guess I'm saying you have to find a way to acceptance. Acceptance of yourself and acceptance of your family... no matter what their limitations or failings might be. You said yourself, you didn't come from a nightmarish childhood and let me tell you - that alone can, and should be counted as a blessing. Know what I mean?

...and when you start your own family, remember this stuff.

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