Finding Joy And Appreciation At The Holidays

The holiday season is typically a hectic cluster of anxiety and arguing in my family. Unfortunately, I believe we are not alone. Many people experience heightened levels of stress attributed to finances, socializing, junk food, weather, and gloominess. In fact, stress is linked to death and more people die during this season than any other. Scary. Because it supposed to be a time of love and companionship.

Within my family, I find it hard to relax and difficult to be joyful. Everyone is trying so hard to please everyone else that no one actually gets their needs met. We face the issue of differing political and social views. We bicker about whose boyfriend is too young or too old. We yell at each other, “you shouldn’t drink so much,” and “You really gotta not smoke,” or “you will never know what it’s like to have three children.” We love each other so much, but we all lead such different lives and we are all  hurting in our way. Sometimes it doesn’t seem worth it to go along with traditions and pretend to be cheery. I will admit, without hesitation, that I no longer look forward to the traditions I once cherished. In fact, I dread thanksgiving. I pity the plastic-wrapped, hormone-stuffed, frozen turkeys in their caskets in the middle of the grocer. I know my mother’s epic meltdown is sister’s just one eye roll away. And I dread the horrid display of consumerism that is Black Friday. But the day has passed and I have survived.

The holiday wasn’t filled with joy and pleasure. I wasn’t expecting it to be. However, I did find laughter and shared happiness with my siblings the next day. As we lounged mid morning in the living room, my sister took out her envelope of stationary and discovered some stashed photos from our youth. This was the treasure: 

Photo Credit: Rachel Mierzejewski

I do not, in fact, remember this; making the sign or taking the photo. It must have been one of my Dad’s eccentric art projects. It is hard to go back in time and think that “we” were excited for the Bush administration. It stirred laughter and astonishment amongst us. These days, we are as liberal as they come. It was actually refreshing.  The photo allowed me to step back and appreciate that I have lived my life and formed my own thoughts and opinions; a few of which no longer align with some of my family members. My siblings have done the same. We are proud. And I am grateful that at least my mother and aunts recognize and appreciate our ability to be free thinkers and defend our opinions. I was reminded that the hidden treasures bring more joy than the extravagant traditions. I have also accepted that holidays will always be difficult for my family, but maybe if we pay attention to the simple things, if we encourage laughter, and share appreciations for one another, we can make it better. We can see the love.