Ah, the winter holidays! Halloween gives us a nice prelude to the looming specter that is Thanksgiving and [December holiday of your choice]. And what makes these festive times so very unnerving?
Family. Those people you’ve avoided all year until now.
Okay, maybe it’s not really that bad. Somewhere in the world, there are happy families who all love and cherish one another and are always genuinely happy to be together. And the rest of us hate those guys. For most people, it’s not really one extreme or the other, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle. You want to see your family, but you’re really nervous about putting on a good front and appearing successful next to your overachieving cousin (that smug bastard). Or you know you’re going to be forced to deal with that jerk uncle who just can’t shut up about his political views. Maybe it’s that you just don’t get to see them often enough and you’re not sure how to get in enough time, which likely means you’re going to spread yourself thin and be exhausted by the end. Whatever your particular flavor of drama, the holidays bring us all the gift of stress.
One of the best ways to mitigate some of that stress is to manage your expectations. Don’t engage in magical thinking about how you’re going to finally get every detail right, or tell off Jerk Uncle this time, or finally earn Smug Bastard Cousin’s respect. It ain’t gonna happen. Accept it. Embrace it. It’s okay. Seriously, it is. You don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to be right (and that’s a topic that deserves an entire post on its own–hell, an entire blog). If you routinely feel disappointed at the end of the holidays, start managing those too-high expectations now.
Family isn’t so bad. Except when they are. But they’re every bit as human, and amazing, and flawed as you. If you can find a way to accept that, you’ll all be a lot happier. Especially after the holidays are over.