Discover more from Finding Words in Hard Times - with Jon Swanson
041 Five choices for a bit more celebration during the holidays.
Welcome back! (Or welcome!)
In August, we visited friends in another state. On the last day of our visit, their 13-year-old daughter had scheduled her own birthday party. All her siblings were present, her aunt and cousin, her grands, us.
But it wasn’t her birthday.
Instead, she was teaching us all an important lesson for holiday gatherings.
Dates aren’t as important as people.
It wasn't her actual birthday, so no one was expected to bring gifts. But she knew that at the time of her actual birthday in October, others would be off at college and other places. Being together for the event was more important to her than being together on the exact date. We can choose to be as wise as a tween when it comes to deciding on when holiday events happen.
That party suggested another lesson for holiday gatherings.
Family can be loosely defined.
We aren’t part of her family, biologically. In fact, we’re fake internet friends, people who first connected through Twitter. But we’ve spent time together and FEEL like family.
Gather with the people who need family, who need gatherings, who need hope, who offer sustenance and support. This doesn't exclude biological family, but it suggests that when inviting people for holiday gatherings, we cast a larger net than we'd expect.
When Jesus was talking about inviting people to feasts, he suggested starting with the people who can't invite us back. When I was growing up, we lived far from biological family. Thanksgiving dinners often included people who were also far from family. It expanded my thinking, and my heart.
Laughing is healthy. (Mocking is not)
For the past three years, with restrictions and unexpected and excessive deaths, with economic challenges, and other disruptions, lots of people have struggle with laughing. Other people have gotten caught up in various kinds of arguments and have fallen into rejecting the positions other people hold. What sounds like laughter, is more like mocking.
But laughter is healthy. I’ve sat next to deathbeds and laughed as family members told stories. (We’ve cried some, too.) If holiday gatherings can move from mocking and hesitant whispering into tear-causing laughter, that will be healing.
Lowered expectations mean higher satisfaction.
Many of us have been disappointed by the toys that we've received for Christmas. We’ve wanted the cake to be perfect and the icing ran. We wanted the clothes to match for the picture and two people got colors that clashed. Horribly. We wanted everything to be perfect for just this once, and it wasn’t. Because it can’t be.
So, rethink the standards. Getting people into the picture may be more important that matching shirts. A frozen dinner which allowed conversation may be more fun that the migraine my mom had every year getting the Thanksgiving feast ready.
There’s no statute of limitations on grief.
I was standing in the drink line after a workshop event. I thanked the person next to me for something she’d shared. She said, “That death happened 10 years ago. I didn’t think it would affect me.” I reminded her that her grief defensive shields were down, and that the topic of the workshop stirred up memories. Months, years, and decades after someone stopped being part of our gatherings, we will still miss their food contributions and their face.
And as you eat the deviled eggs someone made in their memory, go ahead and shed--and then wipe--the tears. If someone thinks it’s the paprika, that’s fine. You know it’s love.
Have some happy in your holidays.
When we think about holidays, we often dwell on what we’re missing, what isn’t going right. If we think about what did go right, about how we’re reinventing things for a new generation, we can celebrate.
I hope this helps you for the next few weeks. I’d love to hear your comments.
Thanks, as always.