Friday, November 27, 2009

Perfect timing

Isn't it ironic that the times when families gather for food and celebration are perhaps the most stressful, drama-inducing days of the year? I base my calculation on experience, of course, and welcome replies to the contrary. The problem, in my view, is not that they are indeed stressful and dramatic, but that we expect them to be anything but.

We have a Pollyanna view of the holidays, painted by cultural expression. Ultimately, these days can be a huge letdown if one element of the experience is "negative," i.e. a dish doesn't turn out, an awkward moment occurs between family members out of touch for 98 percent of the year, siblings clash, or emotional conversations creep up that have long since needed to.

Isn't it a rare day when all seems peaceful and bright? But that's okay. The point isn't for the gathering to remain free of tension, awkwardness, or other unpleasantness. We should let go of idealistic notions of happy-go-lucky, sepia-toned nostalgia. Holidays should be welcomed, not because they elude negativity, but for their revelations: They jolt us—to reflect, to converse, to balance, to indulge...what we should but rarely do on the other non-holidays of the year.