I recently went on a family holiday, and while we were away, I posted some photos on Facebook. I don’t post very often, but I was excited to be seeing new places. The pictures were of pretty scenery, with all of us smiling. And we did have lots of fun, in some beautiful spots.
When we returned, I phoned a close friend, and she asked me about the trip. I told her about the highlights, and how I loved every town and city. Then I whinged about some of the things that drove me crazy. The not-so-happy family moments. How partway through I had to give myself a stern talking-to, and remind myself that I’m not always a delight, so I shouldn’t expect others to be constantly sweet. I laughed at the irony of the smiling family photos, and told my friend – don’t believe everything you see on Facebook!
I’ve been thinking about the public face of Christmas versus the reality. How people wish each other Merry Christmas and talk about getting together with family, and how won’t that be lovely, when in reality, as much as there will (hopefully) be love, and laughter, and usually some great food too, there is often hurt. Disappointment. Misunderstanding. Perhaps in small ways – if you’re lucky, or in huge, painful ways – if your family is especially damaged. There is almost always some uneasiness, no matter what family you belong to.
But the good news is that every family has its dysfunction. No one actually lives that Hallmark card Christmas. If we’re lucky, we have elements of the glossy day, but no one goes beaming through their entire festive season. (Well, with the exception perhaps of the odd very fortunate and oblivious small child!)
A friend of mine once told me of a quote she likes to live by: ‘Expectations are resentments in the making’. I often think of these words at Christmas. I try to keep the food simple. I don’t get in a lather about decorating. And I understand and expect there may be irritations and undercurrents. After all, a large group of people, often small children to older adults, are gathering in a house for several hours.
Of course I hope people will laugh and relax. I hope the food is delicious. I hope the kids like their presents. But instead of bemoaning anything less than picture perfect, joyous family celebration, I just take the small good moments as they come and try to breathe when those other times occur.
For those who celebrate Christmas, I wish you all as much calm and peace and love as possible, given the season and your circumstances. May you have a comfortable bed to rest in. May you have a few minutes to yourself, to think and dream. And may 2019 bring you excitement, opportunity, and wonder.