Last year, a decree went out that there would be only one gathering around a traditional Christmas table. She who does all the planning, shopping and personalizing, shall be making one Christmas meal whenever the hell she liked, and you could show up (on time) or not at all. And it brought her great relief and joy. A very durable boundary wall went up to protect her, and the world was good.
Last year, after seven, yes, count’em, seven rescheduling attempts at a family get together, it finally happened, with the people whom I arranged a second dinner for, arriving over two hours late.
My jolly goodwill and ho-ho-home form the holidays ended. I leaned on my wee bottle of Jameson to get me through the evening, and then I did some reflecting.
I decided, after much hurt, anger and frustration, that the only thing to do was surrender. I surrendered to the values I hold dear. This was met with love and support from people who love me. Everyone else continues to have that glazed, “I don’t compute”, look on their face.
You can’t change people. Although it’s a saying we frequently use, really accepting that means you hold fast to your boundaries like a life raft, especially around toxic people.
I came from a kooky family but we did Christmas right. We put aside our differences, and showed up, on time, respecting the effort we had all made to have a special day together. Homemade gifts showcased every person’s creativity, and the food, my goodness, the food!
Since those days when we gathered on Christmas Eve to see one another, make our way to church, and finish off our meal and gift giving in the wee hours of the morning, so much has changed. I’ve experienced great loss during the holidays more than once. I’ve struggled to put food on the table and gifts under the tree. I’ve had Christmases when the pain of loneliness was almost unbearable. In other words, I’ve worked damn hard for my happy, and I’m not letting anyone take it from me.
I want no part of disrespectful, entitled people under any circumstances, but especially during one of the most joyful, loving, happy times of the year.
I have stopped being the only one who engineers parties, family gatherings and sacred times to connect. Planning, shopping, cooking, and decorating take a lot of time. I love doing it when I know it means something to my family and friends, and I resent doing it when someone shits all over the plans. I stopped buying gifts I didn’t want to buy and came back to my homemade roots. I stopped hosting parties for people who may or may not show up. And you know what? The world didn’t come to an end. In fact, it feels damn good. Boozy-eggnog-in-my-cocoa-good.
My exhaustion levels have gone WAY down, and my Hallmark Christmas movie watching time has gone up. I have come back to the sweet meditation of making; sewing, baking, stitching. And the people I thought it was so important to connect with have faded into distant social media clicks. Live and learn.
Boundaries are the best gift you can give yourself for Christmas. They give you the time and space you need to heal, and root yourself in traditions, new and old, that bring you joy.