It has been about a month. And as time has created a little distance from our holiday experience, I am going to say the thing you’re not supposed to say — our holiday wasn’t good.
It was honestly one of the most stressful and unenjoyable holidays I have ever had. There were moments it felt like a train wreck.
As I have returned to work, the topic of conversation is on the holiday season.
- “How was your vacation?”
- “Did you have a good holiday?”
- “Was the time with family enjoyable?”
The societal expectation is for us to respond with, “Vacation was great! Our holiday was lovely. We had such a good time with family!” This year, none of that is true for me.
When people say “holiday,” they aren’t talking about the actual holiday. They are usually asking about the 1-2 weeks of vacation time you might have taken (if you are fortunate enough to have that time off work). I know that five really crappy days with extended family doesn’t define my holiday or even the reason my family celebrates the holiday, but it sure does muddy the holiday enjoyment waters.
If I’m being honest, my response to someone asking me about my holiday is, “Vacation was nice. It was great to be off work for two weeks. Our holiday was hard. It wasn’t great. And time with extended family became stressful and conflict-filled. I wish none of it had happened.”
Of course, we had nice moments and good experiences at various points over the holiday. We definitely made some special memories. We had our holiday fun. As a family of four, we enjoyed driving around the area to see Christmas lights, watching tons of Christmas movies, making holiday treats, doing puzzles or playing games, attending church services, and simply being together during the most wonderful time of the year.
The holiday time with our immediate family was delightful. It was the five days of extended family stuff that did me in.
And I’m sure I’m not alone. In fact, I know I am not alone. As I have spoken to friends about our experience this year, many of them could relate to some of the tension and stress created by unspoken expectations, poor communication, and differing opinions on how to engage with one another during the holiday. They, too, were thrust into unavoidable family social situations resulting in stress and conflict (some of which was avoidable had those involved communicated differently and practiced more flexibility).
Should I blame it on the pandemic? Should I blame it on the vast different in how our family operates compared to how our extended family operates? Should I blame it on the pressure put on seeing one another during this this special time of year?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that my kids were fairly oblivious to the conflict and stress quietly occurring behind their backs. If you ask them, they had a great Christmas. And they loved seeing their extended family. I also know I am so thankful for my partner. At one point while privately processing an especially hard moment in the guest room away from everyone, my husband grabbed my hands and said, “I wouldn’t want to get through this week without anyone else by my side. You’re my ride or die.”
Did I swoon over his sweet words through my angst? 100 percent.
Having a partner-in-crime who sees me and values me during the best times and the worst times is a good partner-in-crime to have. For better or for worse? Am I right?
So, was this year my favorite holiday season of all time? Absolutely not. Will our relationship with our extended family be changed forever moving forward? Probably. But in the grand scheme of things are we happy, healthy, and so very fortunate in our circumstances? Yup.
Even so, I want you to know that if your holiday sucked, no matter how #blessed you feel, it’s okay to be authentic and honest about that experience. You are not alone.
The “My 2021 Holidays were a Train Wreck” club meetings start next week. See you there.
JK . . . sort of.