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Christmas is a time of tradition!
It’s a time when we remember the ways our families celebrated in the past and we look forward to reenacting those familiar moments in our own families. It’s a way to stay connected to our heritage and encourage a legacy of togetherness for our children.
It looks different to many families, and in some ways similar at the same time. Trimming the tree with handmade ornaments while sipping hot cocoa and listening to Christmas carols. Baking Grandma’s cookies with the cousins. Attending Christmas Eve candlelight service followed by a family dinner. No matter what it looks like, tradition seems to naturally take center stage during the holidays, especially Christmas.
The tradition of traditions is a beautiful thing.
When embraced, it can create connection, belonging and unity. It can be a time of joy and excited anticipation and can culminate in countless fond memories.
BUT what happens when traditions result in the exact opposite outcomes than what they are intended for?
What happens when schedules are so busy that there is no space on the calendar for tree trimming until one week before Christmas?
Or when the only copy of Grandma’s Christmas cookie recipe is nowhere to be found?
Or when your daughter and her family decide to stay home on Christmas Eve this year?
What happens when unmet expectations of how you desperately want the holidays to be, turn into disappointment, aggravation, and grief?
Hanging onto tradition is important, yes. But many things can hold us hostage in this pursuit and as a result, create an unwanted tradition where the holidays become a dreaded reminder of conflict, drama, inadequacies and old patterns of behavior.
Often, we set our own stage for these behaviors when we exchange our desires for unreasonable expectations. And when we are unable to adapt to change, we are surrendering to its inevitable havoc not only in our hearts, but in our homes.
As humans, we are naturally adverse to change. We grow accustomed to what is familiar and our brains are driven towards predictability, logic and resolution. Year after year from childhood to adulthood, we practice the same action and experience the same feelings related to the same outcome. These traditions are imprinted in our muscle memory. We learn to expect them and we develop patterns of behavior surrounding them.
So when there is change, especially unexpected change, the resulting feelings can be foreign and overwhelming and distressing. We can feel unprepared and out of control and a great sense of loss. The inability to deal with these emotions appropriately can rob us and our families of peace and joy and ultimately connection.
The only constant is change.
Embracing this concept can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
In the movie, “Parenthood”, Gil and Helen Buckman are trying to navigate through seasons of life with their families. At one point, they are facing yet another challenge and Gil vents his utter frustration with life to his wife. In this moment, the aged grandmother speaks up:
“You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.
Up down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!
I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”
Her wisdom resonated with Helen Buckman as she declared to an anxious Gil, “I happen to like the rollercoaster!”
What if we choose to ride the roller coaster this holiday season with our hands held in the air, our hair blowing in the wind and our eyes softly closed?
What if we look at change as an opportunity to embrace something new? To create new traditions, appreciate the old and step into the future?
What if we choose to navigate through unmet expectation and disappointment in a way that allows us to grow? To deepen our understanding, strengthen relationships and move towards one another instead of away.
What if we walk in the shoes of where we are going instead of in the shoes of where we have been?
What if we choose to enjoy where the path takes us?
This Christmas, will you make the decision to embrace change and CHOOSE JOY through the ups and downs of life?
Merry Christmas, friends!