Some years, the holidays seem like they’re more trouble than they’re worth. Bringing everyone together in one place can result in exactly what we don’t want this time of year – aggravation, anger and adolescent acting out.
Instead of the memories from our youth or some lovely Hollywood movies we’ve seen, the holidays can be all about too much food, overspending on presents, or fighting through miles of traffic. No matter your ability to stay in a Zen state at other times of the year, the various pressures that come with the holidays can be overwhelming and akin to a disaster movie.
I don’t like these experiences, I don’t want to repeat them, and I know that I’m not alone. No wonder, even those of us with intact and healthy families can still dread this time of year.
So, it is with a happy heart that I share my family’s success in coming together in spite of all the difficulties that might stand in the way of our doing so. I could bore you with all of the details, but instead let me just say that folks are flying, driving and spending a bunch of money to gather. Over the course of the last two weeks, I’ve seen everyone pull together to make this happen. That includes my children, parents, siblings and, of course, Beth and I. But it feels to me like it’s happening with a little more love and a lot less obligation. That’s good.
One of the main reasons we’re gathering en masse is to be with my parents. My stepfather, Jim, is 85 years old and not in super-duper great health. My mom, too, is getting on in years, though she still takes Zumba classes three times per week. The two of them are in the golden twilight of their lives and it feels right and good to be with them. More importantly, we love Jim and Pat Campbell. They are and have always been great parents and grandparents and it’s my/our pleasure to let them know it. And if that takes some planning that resembles the Battle of the Bulge, so be it.
More difficult to arrange was seeing our children. Helen lives in St. Petersburg, Florida and Steph (like us) lives wherever she happens to be. Thanks to Orville and Wilbur Wright, all of us will be crisscrossing the country to be with one another. I’m very proud of us for making the sacrifice and for putting family first. It’s expensive, often a pain in the a _ _, but it’s worth it.
Kudos to my mom for pulling together a Thanksgiving dinner plan. As we did last year, the folks at Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace in Yorktown will do all of the cooking. My job is to pick it up and that’s easy.
My brother, Craig, and I had a great talk last week. It felt great – especially when we shared about our dogs, both of whom died in the past year.
One of the things I know about siblings is that these relationships can be difficult or impossible, too. With some work and time applied by us both, though, Craig and I are in a better place. I know that our work will make my holiday experience tremendously better. The Work always works.
Over the course of our traveling adventure, we also spent time with my sister, Leah, and her family in Vermont. Taking the time to be with one another (and her beautiful family) was great in the moment, but it also will benefit us all over the holidays. It’s my experience that families can blunt the effects of a difficult holiday season (or other life events) by maintaining connections. This is a lesson I am learning about friendship, too, as we have seen those relationships mature by staying in touch with our far-flung friends!
Amidst the despair and grief of losing my best friend, Bradley, I am feeling some love and hope, too. These feelings can exist side by side. In fact, it may be that the love and connection I feel for my family and the letting go of some of the holiday anxiety are directly attributable to working through the grief and despair. If that’s so, then it’s worth it. I have never liked the phrase, “no pain, no gain,” but it seems to be true!