Did you ever wonder how the Grinch got the way he was? I mean really, Christmas is only one day and at the most it is a season that only lasts from Black Friday to December 25th (although I did see some decorations go up prior to Black Friday.) To define your entire personality on essentially one month out of the year seems sad. But many people do just that.
I was talking with a friend the other day who was telling me how much they hate the holiday season. I asked them why they had such strong feelings about it and there were two reasons given:
1) I don’t like feeling obligated to spend time with my family. It feels really forced and almost like people don’t really want to be there.
2) I don’t like feeling like I have to go broke to celebrate the meaning of Christmas.
I began to ponder about these two reasons. Actually, I began to perseverate on these two reasons…I found myself mad at Christmas for doing that to people. I felt almost victimized by the season. Then the truth hit me like a truck.
The feeling of obligation around things like Christmas, Thanksgiving, holidays in general stems from root of co-dependency. Now, hold on, before you get all mad at me for saying that the holidays are co-dependent. What I am ONLY talking about is the “feeling of obligation.” I am talking about a person not being willing to stand firmly in their truth about what they are feeling and how they want to handle it.
I asked my friend about how they would WANT the holidays to go with their family and buying presents. There was an uncomfortable silence and then quietly she shared her truth.
If I really had my way about the holidays, I would spend time with the people who mean the most to me. I would buy tokens of my love that had special meaning for me and that other person. In giving the present it would be a representation of how I felt about them for the other 11 months or 364 days. This is the true crux of my problem. My family expects that I will spend time with them on holidays and then we ignore each other the rest of the year. That is what I want to change. That is what I want different about the holidays. I want the rest of the year to be different. I don’t want to just stand around the Christmas tree on one day out of the year singing peacefully with the family like the Whos in Whoville. I want to have that feeling about my family all year long!
Wow, I thought, this becomes a much bigger situation than just fixing Christmas. It is going to take a complete yearly family overhaul. So I asked, what are you going to do about it? Like I talk about in my book Drugs, Food, Sex and God, Action is the most important step to intention and change. Together we came up with a list of some simple ways to start relationships with your relations:
1. Make a list of all of the birthdays in the family and send out a card (and a gift if you want) for each birthday. This will perpetuate a feeling of “specialness” for each of the family members for another important mark on the calendar.
2. Make a point of connecting with family members every week by phone. If you have to, make a list of all of the members of the family you wish to connect with and call them on a set schedule. They don’t have to know that you have made it any sort of formal thing. Call your brother on week one, mother-in-law on week two, niece on week three, etc.
3. Set a date (firm date) to have dinner with one or two members of the family just a small group throughout the year. For my own family, the dinners I really remember are when Travis and I have gotten together with just one or two of my family and really gotten to connect without the full bevy of family.
4. Have a small party at your house and invite family with your friends. Remember to keep it small because it is important for people who are “important” to you to get to know each other.
5. Connect with one another on social media like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Comment with LOVE on your family member’s posts. If there is something that you don’t agree with let it go. If there is something that you find offensive. CALL them to discuss it. All too often we respond with some cold flippant remark and end up in a huge argument that is based in misunderstanding. REMEMBER, there is no emotion on Facebook or texting and our “sense of humor” can get lost in translation. (unfortunately, I have learned the hard way)
6. Finally, if there is someone that you truly don’t get along with for whatever reason and they are always there at the family gatherings. Make a date for the two of you to do something together, no one else. Talk about your differences and try and come to some amicable understanding. If there is just no way to do that then share your truth honestly, give them the time and airspace to share their truth honestly and then make a VERBAL agreement to just be cordial with each other in a family setting so as to not cause the rest of the family to be uncomfortable.
Perhaps you find yourself lamenting how these six simple steps could never work for your family or your situation. That might be true BUT the point here is that if you want your situation to be different you have to do something different. Period. You can’t continue to be miserable year after year in December and not have it become who you are for the rest of the months. That is what happened to the Grinch. Hate, anger, co-dependency, fear, among other character aspects of Mr. Grinch came out at Christmas but I am sure he was the same way on the Fourth of July. Maybe if he just started some traditions of his own on Christmas he might have been a nicer person all year long. I leave you with an original poem…
The Grinch Who Changed Christmas – By George Baxter-Holder
You have a list of things to change for next year.
But you’re a Grinch who suffers without holiday cheer.
Possibly this list is too late for this season.
You already hate it, you have your reason.
You’re a Grinch about Christmas perhaps that’s the truth.
You don’t like your brother, or sis or Aunt Ruth.
You find yourself trapped, you think you’re unable,
To sing at their tree or sit at their table.
Then stop silly Grinch, stop and sit still.
You don’t have to go, you still have free-will.
Take back the presents you bought with ill feeling.
Go help at a shelter, potatoes need peeling.
Go spread some cheer to people without.
Try giving, not Grinching, that’s what it’s about.
You want things to be different without reason or rhyme.
Then Grinch make them different, NOW is the time.