Ever play with one of those Chinese finger traps?  You stick your fingers in and they are stuck.  The harder you pull, the more stuck you are.  This is how I am feeling during this holiday season, and I know I’m not alone.  There seems to be a huge sense of expectation built up this time of year, to make this the “best one ever,” like life is some kind of Hallmark movie.  Worse yet, there is almost a sense of societal obligation to be cheery.  After all, who wants to be accused of being a scrooge? 



For a variety of reasons, there are several people who won’t be coming to Christmas in my family this year.  Some are no longer with us, some are in a life struggle that is taking precedence over family and holidays, and some have changed their religious views to no longer include Christmas, or the family get-togethers that have accompanied it.  For me, this time of year has always been about family, and the sights and sounds of Christmas this year have a hollow feel to them.  As a matter of fact, I have mostly avoided any shopping that is not absolutely necessary, in order to avoid the dreaded Christmas music, which makes me cranky or depressed, depending on the tune.



I’m not saying any of this for sympathy, or attention; my problems are miniscule compared to some people's.  I’m saying it because it’s my truth, and it’s been weighing on my mind.  So much is beyond our control, not only during this time of the year, but all throughout the year; yet there’s this undeniable pressure to “make” it a great holiday.  Sometimes you just can’t.  It is what it is.  Call me Scrooge, but I feel resentment at that expectation, because it minimizes people’s reality.  There are many times in life that we are walking with privilege and are unaware.  One form of privilege is getting to be with your family and being happy.  Right now, I have several friends going through divorce, several friends grieving a death, a friend dealing with major legal issues with her son, and another friend whose little grandson is at the brink of death from cancer.  Why do we have this pressure to “fake it” when things are not well, just because it’s the holiday season?



A couple of weeks ago, a man I know killed himself.  I don’t know why, and it seemed to come as a surprise to everyone who knew him.  I don’t know what pressures he faced, or what kept him from talking to someone and asking for help, but I don’t think our society is very good at encouraging that.  That expectation to “be tough” isn’t always very helpful.  I’m not blaming society for his death, just wondering what role this might have played.



The only way to get out of a Chinese finger trap is to relax, and push both ends of the trap toward the center.  Reduce pressure, find a place of balance, whether that’s in the center or wherever, because it’s different for everyone.  Stop pulling against the pressure.  And recognize that in the long run, we can attach meaning to a day but it’s still just a day.  We can find new ways to honor our lives, every day.



My friend Deb always ascribed to the Platinum Rule, which is to treat others as they wish to be treated.  I won’t assume that everyone celebrates Christmas and has a Hallmark life (or wants either).  I just think we are all here doing the best we can, in each moment, and that seems more than enough to expect.



Peace is a loaded term.  And for me, I am seeking peace this holiday season by providing joy and comfort where I can, to myself and others.  Staying out of the ways of others when I am feeling grumpy, because it’s not my intention to be a wet blanket.  Looking for the positive in people and situations.  And perhaps most importantly, not feeling guilt if I don’t choose to partake in the Santa hat-wearing, jingle-belling, fake cheer I’m “supposed” to feel.  It's a great opportunity to boil the season down to what is really, truly important.  I’m a little busy this year missing some people, and I’m going to concentrate on loving the people I can. 



If you are reading this, my wish for you is peace of mind and heart, comfort, and love.  If you are sad or struggling, know that you are not alone.  And it’s okay to be sad, because sometimes life is sad, it just is.  There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t feel “cheery,” or if you do.  Regardless of who or where you are, I wish you peace.