We were supposed to be at my mom’s house at one o’clock. The girls and their husbands and I were meeting there to celebrate Christmas a little early. Mom didn’t need much help, so I planned to arrive around 12:30. I thought my daughters would arrive closer to one. As I was running errands before leaving town, my youngest texted to let me know she and her husband had left home and were on their way. So, they would beat me. A few minutes later, my oldest texted to say, “20 minutes out.” And so, I was beat by everyone.
Not that being early is the big deal, but it’s funny how habits within a family get shifted onward. (Well, it’s not always funny. I’ve also seen not-so-great habits passed along.) Perhaps what most prompted me to smile was the anticipation of being together. Family gatherings can be stressful, and because of the seismic shifts in my family over the last couple years, holidays can especially hold some sadness, anxiety, and uncertainty.
If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you know I’m not a sweep-it-all-under-the-rug person. That includes holidays for me. I gave up my expectation of the perfect holiday years ago. I’d rather have authentic relationships and interactions. I’d rather be able to be myself, invite healing, share my life.
The holidays might be over, but the same concept carries into so much of our lives. How often do you put pressure on yourself or others to go through the motions to make a gathering or other situation what you want it to be instead of what it is? What honest conversations and confrontations are you avoiding because you want to pretend things are what they’re not? If you have goals for a situation or relationship to be different, do the hard work to change it. Apologize, listen, forgive, share, process.
One of the hardest things about the way my marriage ended was my ex’s refusal to process with me, our family, our friends, or anyone who might be a reality check for what was going on. That lack of honesty and transparency continues to have ripple effects. I decided early on to invite honest conversations. Perhaps it was partly because I simply didn’t have the energy to put on a facade. Plus, one person’s approach doesn’t need to invade everyone else’s approach. I encouraged people to seek truth.
Being the early bird who sets that tone is difficult for a variety of reasons. Being an early bird doesn’t always mean you get the best of a situation. It has some costs to it. It takes sacrifice. But when it’s based in a pure concern for and commitment to other people, it is worth it.
I hope that’s something my family and others see in me. Seek truth, transparency, and humble processing with others. Not everyone will cooperate, but when they do, it will enrich relationships.