Peaceful Holidays

20141202_220257The holidays are upon us. For the past four years we have made a concerted effort to reject the ever increasing pull of consumerism. Instead we have made our best efforts to keep our focus on the importance of joy, the love of people and on the spirit of peace. We incorporate this mindset into our Christmas cards each year. The art may change but he message remains the same.

Our family celebrates the presence of peace, love and joy. Sure, it can be boring. There are not a hundred gifts under the tree and even getting them to come up with a list of gifts they want is a challenge. They are just not hyper focused on themselves and their quest for more stuff. As a parent, there is nothing that warms my heart more than this fact. It is a validation that our example and efforts have in fact made an impression. If you have teen agers, of the boy species, you understand how improbable of a feat this can be. We focus on the small things and remind one another that the spirit of the holidays is about waiting for the light of the world. For the first time in four years my kids will be with me on Christmas morning.

I have been called a scrooge on more than one occasion this year when I have voiced my disinterest in the Elf on a Shelf nonsense or explained that our tree and the cards we receive each year are our only attempts at d├ęcor. We are simple folk and frugal with our dollars this time of the year. To us, we budget for things other than stuff that will spend 11 months of the year shoved in the attic. This does not make us any better than the next guy but it does mean we spend time explaining to some why our house is not visible from space or why our credit cards have a zero balance. These conversations reinforce our family mindset that the holidays are indeed about family and people not things, blinking lights or elves on shelves. Having said all of this, we also find ourselves faced with the reality that there are those that believe that the holidays are the perfect platform for drama, negativity and selfishness.

There will always be those who cannot get out of their own way and who love nothing more than the opportunity to disrupt peace for others. I feel sorry for people who operate in this way. I truly know that those who behave in this way are not healthy and to some extent given their rants and reactions cannot help themselves. They may never have learned self-control or how to handle their emotions. Maybe they were not hugged enough as a child or just plain disappointed in life as a whole. We all know these kind of people. There is nothing that will set these types on the warpath more quickly than choosing not to interact with them. If a relative has a fit in the kitchen and there is no one in the house to hear it does it still make a noise? Yes. And the cops are usually called.

Here is the thing. There are 365 days in a usual year. Christmas is one day. It is my belief that we should be interacting with everyone in our lives in the same peaceful, loving and joyful way as we do during the holiday season the rest of the year. A cop friend of ours has shared numerous stories about how Christmas is one of the busiest days of the year for her. People who fight, argue and often have contempt for one another all year long get together, drink and then spend Christmas together. What is the point? I suggest that we would all be better served if we had the wisdom to either make more of an effort to rise above whatever family drama is rolling around or choose to not engage in obligatory family gatherings.

Not everyone is in the mental or emotional place to make this choice. There are many who truly do not realize that they have a choice in the matter for many reasons. They are stuck in patterns of behavior and their default is behaving in the only way they know how. As a result those in their lives suffer the consequences. The reality is that family peace has to be a priority and those who are unable to oblige should be prepared to not be included where peace reigns. It is not personal. It is called a boundary. It does not mean that you are not loved by the person who puts up a boundary. It simply means that they are not going to get themselves wrapped up in dysfunctional relationships.

We all have our own journey. This is a fact. However, when a boundary is instituted, understand that manipulation, tantrums, hurling accusations and being hateful will eventually erode the side of the mountain where love grows. This is a cautionary tale and happens all the time among the most loving, giving and kind hearted among us. We all have our limits regardless of what the date on the calendar may be. When those limits are reached instead of Buddy the Elf singing to spread holiday cheer the only sounds that will be heard will be the sound that accompanies being told to take a flying F*%$ through a rolling donut.

I am beyond blessed and really looking forward to spending a quiet holiday surrounded by those in my life who have chosen to love me unconditionally. Those who build me up and support me no matter what my day may bring. There is no better way to celebrate. As this season draws near I pray for too many blessing to count, an openness to hearing the message of the miracles of Christmas and Hanukkah and the celebration of Kwanza and any others I may not be aware of, and for healing and peace in each of our families near and far.