Who Is Your Family?

IMG_5893.JPGNow that Christmas is over, I can finally say it:”I hate Christmas.” I know many people that feel the same way, and it has nothing to do with it being a Christian holiday. Instead, it’s about the idea that “family” should get together once or twice a year to binge on food and “be there” for their family even if throughout the year they couldn’t be bothered. I can’t speak for everybody’s family, and I’m sure I’m exaggerating with my own family, but it’s just that being of the same blood doesn’t mean all that much to me when I don’t even see these people most of the year. That may be the modern lifestyle, but that just means to me that we have to redefine the meaning of family and, with that, the meaning of Christmas. Family, to me, are the people that were here for me during the tough times, on a day-to-day basis. Christmas can be any day of the year you choose to give of yourself to others.

Raise Your Hand If You’re A Single Mother

Being a single mother, as it is with many single mothers, Christmas and Thanksgiving were not times of joy for me in the past. They were times of extreme hardship. If it wasn’t the lack of money, it was the fact that many times my daughter was spending time with her father during the holidays, even when it was my turn. Others have their families all together, and they think that this is the atmosphere I want to be in when Christmas time rolls around? This is not my idea of a good time, and I doubt anyone would think it is if they were in my shoes, but people rarely put themselves in your shoes.  Instead, because Christmas is a time to make merry, they insist that you participate too, whether you like it or not.  They don’t realize that letting me out of their festivities would be the kindest thing they could do for me. I even tried to get out of Christmas one year by telling my family that I was not available because I was taking a trip. They just showed up earlier. They just don’t get it. I don’t want to be around them during the holidays. It’s not personal, it’s just not pleasant for me. Now, I’ve finally said it: I’m not showing up for Christmas, no matter what the reason. If they wish to show up during the rest of the year to be there on a day-to-day basis for tears as well as laughter, they are more than welcome. Otherwise, Christmas is not the time I want to get together with people who don’t share my life in this manner, whether they are blood-related or not. I’d rather spend it with the others who showed up when times were tough.

Are People Getting Why Christmas Is A Farce?

During the recession, I’m sure many other people got a hint of how tough it is to celebrate a season when you just don’t have the funds, when people expect you to put on a show, when the gas or electricity is being shut off and no one is noticing. Even so, those that still have their spouses and kids are blessed, as I am, to have that connection around, and I also have connections in the neighborhood with other people who aren’t even close relatives that I consider my true family. Why? It’s because even though I don’t mention it, I notice the small things they do to support me and my daughter in every day actions. Sometimes it shows up in a filled up tank of gas, a dinner invitation, or even free clothes. It’s really not about the material benefits of having other people care throughout the year, it’s knowing that someone actually does care and that they are willing to sacrifice some of their own time and effort to make sure my daughter and I are well taken care of. It’s a feeling of having an extended network of people within the city, my community, that is caring and sharing their resources, and not just showing them off. It’s the phone call I get to talk about what they can help me with (even if I don’t accept), not about their new job, baby, or whatever. The phone call is appreciated when there is obvious caring behind it. It’s also about the follow up where they show up at my door and get rid of hornets in my yard, or replace a worn carpet, not because they need the work and want payment, but because they saw a need and they wanted to help. Those are the people I feel connected to, and those are the people I call family.

I Love My Adopted Families

To be honest, in almost the past 30 years, the only time I’ve seen my actual blood relatives has been when they were celebrating something. I have to shell out money to show up, and you know, most of the time I’m not in the mood to celebrate. It’s a major effort for me to show up, it can cost me work time which I need to keep solvent, travel costs, and money in gas, lodging, and food. I am generally completely obligated to show up, even if I just don’t want to, even if I had the money.  I have to sit and listen to people who I have little in common with. It’s not that I dislike my family at all, it’s just that there is not the same connection I have with others who were more caring during the year and available within the same city on a day to day basis. Why would I suddenly feel the urge to be with somebody who I haven’t seen in person during the entire year, and who was very busy with their own life? A year is a long time to be left alone. If I left my cat alone for a year, I don’t think it would ever forgive me, yet people do this to other people all the time because it’s a modern way of life that values this sense of disconnection and distance. We really don’t want to hear about the tough times, we just want to talk about the fun things. We have no idea how to create community, even when these are people within our own blood relatives.

This year I decided I would no longer show up to family functions. My kid is grown up, and I don’t feel obligated to show up to visit with people whose connection resides in blood, instead of actual support and sharing. It’s not that I have something against my relatives, it’s that I value the community of people that were present with me all year long more. It’s the presence I value, not the blood. It reminds me to be present too. It creates an environment that can sustain me and my daughter, and others likewise, whether we celebrate Christmas or not.  I’m also thinking I am going to nurture and grow my adopted families more, even though the relationship is already mutually beneficial. I just think I understand now how to help others a little more, and it has nothing to do with a dollar bill or bloodlines, celebrations, or Christmas. Sometimes, all we need is for someone else to be willing to be present with us during the tough times, not just the good ones, and that creates a bond of community stronger than blood.

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3 responses to “Who Is Your Family?

  1. This is so right on! For years when my son was young I put on big Christmases for my family. I was married to a man who made a lot of money and lived a whole different life than I do now.

    Then when I married my present husband, my son was grown and we were obligated to spend Christmas with his family. His mother made a big deal of us being there and I had to fight her on Thanksgiving of which I insisted on having my own dinner with only our kids…..if they wanted to come (I never made them feel they had to be here). I came to Hate Christmas time due to this big shindig at their home every year. I prayed for a blizzard so I didn’t have to go. I finally told them that we could not afford presents for everyone. They still gave us presents and that makes you feel even worse……but I stuck to it. Now, my MIL is gone and his family does not do the big celebration anymore. It is much nicer. Though we do see his family through out the year, monthly in fact. I do not even decorate anymore for Christmas, send out cards or buy presents. Like it so much better this way. Makes me not dread it.

  2. It’s that way for a lot of people. The “haves” get to show off and make the “have nots” feel worse than they do all year long at Christmas time. It’s their time to really revel in their material abundance and put on a big show. They even do this with charity, even though many won’t think about that all year long, only on Christmas time when they can tell everyone what they did, get on the radio and get attention for their good works. All you have to do is look at how people try to one-up each other with their lawn and house decorations to realize that the spirit of Christmas has been usurped by the spirit of competition. Of course, those with more money win. If you do a good work, it should be done in silence and without the need for extreme fanfare, like Christmas time. Then, it comes from the heart and not from the ego. It’s not the Christmas that Jesus would have wanted. The same opportunity for giving exists all year long, but rarely do people actually use it.

  3. P.S. I lost a few readers from this post, but I think it had to be said. People need to think twice before they assume that an act of Christmas cheer is genuine or just another ego drama. In Buddhist terms, Christmas has become the prime instigator of “spiritual materialism” in the West.

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