The reality of Christmas with my family

worst christmas pajamas
oh, how I’d love to see my whole family in matching Christmas jammies and kerchiefs. You can see more wacky Christmas family pics by clicking on the photo.

Every year, the week before Christmas, I am so excited. This year is no different. It’s a few days before my far-off family arrives and I’m so full of hope and good cheer.  I’m imagining the wonderful Christmas I’ll have with everyone around.  I’ll spend time in the mornings visiting with my cousins.  In the afternoons, I’ll watch as all the little-kid cousins play harmoniously together while forming lifelong bonds. I’ll have time to myself and time to spend with my little family as we soak up the fun of Santa and gifts and Christmas books.  I’ll get to hear my uncles and dad tell the same funny stories and jokes that are shared every time they get together. I’ll enjoy wonderful meals, stories and laughter and I’ll appreciate the good memories made. I can just see what a glorious Christmas it will be.

Every year, the week after Christmas, I’m kind of disappointed.

After Christmas, I often feel like family get-togethers involve so much organizing or cooking or time when schedules just don’t line up that I don’t have nearly enough time to sit around and visit.  Or relatives from different time zones wake up late and then stay up late so I’m drooling on my pillow and sound asleep before the party warms up. Kids nap and people are moody (not me, no…) and I tend to appreciate lots of time to myself so I might sneak off when everyone is visiting so I can decompress or take a little snooze.  Point is, the picture of what I think Christmas will or should look like is different from what actually happens and this might have something to do with the disappointment I feel around December 29th each year.

Yoga talks about all experiences as “real,” sattvada.  My desire to have special Christmas feeling is real.  Wanting the connection to loved ones and the feeling of steeping in time with family is one of my favorite things, so that, too, is real.  The thing is, when I have my Christmas fantasy, I may not be seeing the situation and the week’s events accurately.  How could I, really?  We have different nuclear families, different needs, different schedules and preferences, so there is so much that is impossible to anticipate. Even though my desire is real, the fantasy is about my desire and it might not fully consider the actual humans involved. Yoga has a word for this also: avidya or misapprehension.  Avidya happens when our feelings, wants, fears or ego get in the way of seeing a situation accurately.   Real and accurate don’t mean the same thing.

So what if I stepped out of Christmas fantasy and attempted to take a look at what I can see and what I already know about Christmas celebrations with the Green family.  Based on years and years of experience, I have a pretty good idea of what happens when lots of family gathers to celebrate a holiday.  We’ve probably got one good afternoon when most of us will be in the same house to visit, eat and spend time en masse.  I’m going to bet that’s Christmas dinner. Nap times, time zones, airplane flights, good mood, bad mood, need some space from all the craziness…though my fantasy might exclude them, these things actually happen and have an effect on our holiday schedule. People will have to wander off and take care of things.  But then, there will also be quiet times in the kitchen when one or two of us have time to talk.  I could invite a cousin or a sister to accompany me on the twentieth grocery store run of the week for a little visit.  A trip to the park with the kids could be a nice change of pace and give them a chance to play…even bond.

There’s a real desire to connect with my family and make the most of the time together, there are experiences that I can consider as I anticipate how to make the most of our time.  Maybe letting go of the fantasy, but holding onto the intention while I make an effort to connect will help me to enjoy and accept what family time really is over the holidays. 

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