Holiday $h!t Stew
In December, most people think about presents, Santa and the next holiday party. As for me, this is the time of year that I think about Shit Stew.
Let me explain.
When my husband and I lived close to my family, we would go home for the holidays. It was tradition to have Christmas morning at my mom's house, then go see my aunt, then go to my dad's house and, finally, we would end the night at my brother's.
My husband thought all the driving around was crazy and exhausting. While I agreed with him, I also pointed out that I wanted to see everyone and this is how my family always did things. After driving our crying newborn daughter to every neighborhood in the Sacramento area one Christmas, my husband was all done with this "tradition" and I was finally open to hearing about other options.
I stopped and asked myself, "What kind of Christmas do I want my children to have? What kind of Christmas do I want to have?" The answer was clear. I wanted peace, relaxation, warmth, snuggles and joy. Driving to everyone's house and checking the box on each relative we were "supposed" to see had none of these qualities.
So I made the tough decision and told my family that we were going to stay home for future Christmases. I told them about the feelings I wanted our kids to remember about the holidays and I didn't want it to be about travel, stress and tension. It was difficult and uncomfortable to break tradition, but our lives are so much better as a result.
In any family it is easy to get used to things that seem crazy from the outside. Toxic patterns can repeat for generations. We can wear a mask around our families of origin, pretending everything is fine when it's not.
It's like we are all eating Shit Stew, a special family meal that has been passed down for generations. It often takes someone from the outside to see that while we scarf down Grandma's old recipe, it is still Shit Stew. While we may see the delicious carrots and potatoes in the Shit Stew, our partners/friends/confidantes are not fooled. They can smell that shit from a mile away.
Yes, the holidays are stressful with all the events to attend, presents to buy and places to go. But it is also stressful because this is the time of year that we sit together and ceremonially eat the Shit Stew.
This holiday season, enjoy your family. Savor the positive aspects of your time together. And when the Shit Stew is passed around the table and old, familiar patterns emerge, just observe your family's special recipe. You can still eat the Shit Stew, as it will be expected that you do. But you can do so with a renewed awareness and be conscious of how much you want to put on your plate.