take a deep breath . . . then another

It’s December, the time when relentless advertising urges us to buy expensive gifts for everyone we know, and churches implore us to experience “the true meaning” of the holidays. And, everywhere are images of a *perfect family* enjoying a *perfect Christmas* where the only problem is guessing which neighbor is getting the Lexus with the big red ribbon.

Where does that leave the rest of us? – you know, the real people in real families, where people have faults, where family history includes disappointments and secrets as well as singalongs, and mom and dad can’t afford a new Lexus? It leaves us in a world of hurt if we don’t watch out.

In December all the chickens come home to roost, including birds you thought you’d kicked out of the barnyard years ago. Ancient resentments and problems jump on a Greyhound in time to sneak into your house by December 10 or so. Their battle cry is a high-pitched “It’s not fair!” And, it isn’t. It’s not fair that Christmas is hard for you because your parents divorced, or the kids are bratty, your brother is an alcoholic, your mom is always criticizing, you have to hide your real life from your family, or dad likes your older sister best. It’s not fair that your family will never go to church with you, or that they insist on going to church five times a day, or that you have to go to the other grandparents this year, that it never snows, that Santa isn’t real.

So okay, things aren’t fair. But, we deal with life’s inequities pretty well all year. Why do we fall apart in December? I think it’s because from infancy we’re brainwashed to think that in some mysterious way our lives and families will (cue twinkly harp music) become *perfect* at Christmas time.

In fact, the opposite occurs. As far as I can tell, everyone gets weird at Christmas time, and the overall level of agitation and anxiety enters the red zone. So, possess your soul with patience. Take a deep breath. Cut yourself a break. Forgive your nutty relatives, friends, and co-workers. They’re doing the best they can, and they’ll be back to normal in January.

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