Surviving the Holidays


Or is it.

For me, the holiday season is tricky. It’s magical, it’s joyous, it’s full of expectation and anticipation. It’s also extremely stressful, and very complicated. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this – maybe you feel it too. 


As I peer back in time, and recall the events of years gone by, some of my most happy memories are of Christmases with my family. I am flooded with images of sparkly, colorfully lighted evergreens, fires in the grate, and my childhood home bedecked with heirloom ornaments that lived in tiered colored boxes in our basement. Everyone was relaxed and happy, there was love and good will abounding, all was right in the world. 

Or was it. 

Memory and Nostalgia are curious things. They are slippery, beguiling, and not to be trusted, entirely. For me it seems that the snapshots in my mind almost always look easier than life at present, and are free of the complications that exist in the moments I am living in real time. They are neat and clean little silent reels, that my mind has somehow edited to be stories that I really like, and enjoy revisiting. They are certain and immutable, and no one can ever take them away. What’s not to love about that?? A real feel good situation. 


Now, as much as I like to peer into the past, and review these vignettes without conflict, struggles with parenting, dissatisfaction or unhapiness in my relationships, feelings of insecurity or inadequacy – I know all these elements were woven into the fabric too. But thanks to the memory editor of my mind, only harmony and balance prevail, while the thorny and dark bits are softened, if not burnished out completely. Perhaps missing out on the parts that weren’t SO perfect isn’t truly helpful.


Were all those holidays of my childhood as flawless and perfect as my memory recalls them to me? It’s true – the material facts are not invented. They happened – I do treasure them, and am thankful for the happiness and security I felt growing up as a kid. My parents loved me enormously, no matter how flawed they may have been, and in whatever ways. And their penchant for doing Christmas was pretty freaking amazing. That is truth. There are, however, some omissions from the story, I’m sure, and there were undoubtedly parts of the puzzle that were shielded from me as a kid. Maybe those unappetizing moments were actually the good part! Didn’t we resolve them, ultimately?  There are lessons in those conflicts.  

I mean… aren’t these kodachrome memories almost always impossible to live up to? It’s one thing to look forward to the holidays, and make some cookies and throw a party and have some fun… but I think I’m wandering into dangerous territory when the bar is always just out of reach, and that perfect feeling is always just a little unattainable. When this happens, I’ve already set the stage for disappointment at best, and more importantly, have risked harm to my most treasured relationships.

It dawned on me this holiday season that I’ve been trying to recreate the feeling of these technicolor enhanced, scrubbed and shined up memories for myself and my family – for years. In my mind, there is a feeling of Christmas that I’m expecting and determined to capture. And damnit, everyone else around me is going to feel it too. And if they don’t, that’s a personal afront to me and my efforts. This, my friends, is not only not working out great for me, but has a tendency to turn into what you could call the proverbial shit show. That, is NOT what I would call the Magic of Christmas. We can do better, I know it.



I had another New Year’s revelation come to me this morning. My boys are of the age, really for the first time for my youngest, where Santa is truly a magical concept and not a reality. The true wonder of coming down on Christmas morning in the half dawn light, and witnessing actual magic happen inside my child’s heart is slipping away and becoming a thing of the past. At least in tangible, literal form. You know how this feels for me? Can’t help it – SAD.

It’s ok, it’s ok. I know. Remember how that damn bell stopped ringing for those who didn’t believe in the Polar Express? It happens. And I know they do truly believe – on some level. But it’s turning more metephysical and grown-uppy. Yuck. I’m gonna take a moment to see it for what it is, and grieve it a little. It’ll be ok. 

I kind of hate it when people say “pivot”, but this seems like a really good context for it. It’s time for a Christmas pivot. I’ve been a mom long enough to know that there are chapters in childhood and parenting. And like it or not – this year marks for me the real end of the little kid chapter, I think. The gifts that hit the mark have more to do with computers and electronics than legos or stuffies (although thank the baby Jesus my youngest still loves the fluffiest and softest things – Sloth Squishmallow was #1 on the faves list, alongside the new laptop).

It’s time to let go, and gracefully move into the next chapter of the Magic of Christmas. I didn’t think I was quite ready for it, but I can do it. I can meet my kiddos where they are, and let magic still happen, right? Yes. Right. And what a relief it will be, when I stop controlling (or attempting to) everyone’s Magic-o-meter. I have truly loved these little kid and parenting chapters, and they will live on in my archived memory files. They were not always perfect, to be sure. But the imperfections are the signs that let me know it’s time to change it up. This is not so easy for me, and sometimes humbling, at best. But there it is. Grow and adapt, or be forever stuck in a memory trap that leaves me fractured and not present to the real magic that’s right in front of me, the way it’s really happening. What could be more magical than that? What better gift is there, to truly see your loved ones for who and where they are, if I’m able to to get out of my own damn way and celebrate it? 

The most beautiful moments of my life have not been ones where I am trying to control how it should look or feel, but rather when I am open and receptive to what is. This will certainly be my intention for 2023 and beyond.


Wouldn’t it be truly magical I could let go? What if I loosened the grip on how “it’s supposed to feel”? What if I could believe that real and true peace isn’t actually hocus pocus magic, but rather what comes naturally, when we trust that the beauty of truly seeing and being seen isn’t fleeting. Godwilling, I have many, many more holiday seasons ahead of me. I know I can count on my fingers the number of holiday seasons my boys will celebrate them with me as kids in this house. I would really love it if they could feel organic, unbridled, and real. My hunch is that means there will be some really nice moments, and a lot of regular human moments that happen weather it’s Christmas or not. That’s gotta be part of the equation. Like it or not, those imperfect moments seem to be where we really learn from each other. 


Family legend has it that when I was 8 or so, I killed my brother’s hamster. I loved it so much, I squeezed the life right of it. I *might* have a tendency in my 50 year old self to show the same kind of “love” about things I really care about. Like Christmas. Or my kids.

My prayer for the New Year and my life moving forward is that I remember that little hamster, look straight into his beady little eyes, loosen my grip, and let him, and all the things I cherish dearly, run free and flourish! It’s somewhat counterintuitive to me – but I think I’m on to something. As a wise man once said in song, “If you love someone, set them free”. Thanks Sting, good advice.

Christmas – I release you. Be what you will be, and I will try to love you for it. Just be sparkly, and snowy, and easy, and loving, and warm, and happy and perfect. Thanks.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Love Every Day,


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