I realize that the holidays of television specials are not, for most people, the holidays of reality. Travel is stressful; family is complicated; people have magazine expectations for non-magazine life, and those magazine expectations tend to hurt when they’re crushed. One of the best and worst parts about family is that you don’t get to pick who they are—You don’t get to pick parents who are super interested in your life or siblings who like all the things you do. You don’t get to pick aunts and uncles who know you’re vegan or gluten-free and are willing to accommodate that when you share your annual Thanksgiving meal. You might see a salad like this one at the end of November and think you want to add it to the holiday meal, but you’re not allowed to help; you might see a salad like this one and wish someone else would make it, but you’re the one already managing the long list. Going into the holiday season, for many people, confronts feelings you probably don’t want to have, and so sometimes you think it might be easier to stay home, or at least to tell the other people to; I know.
But here’s the thing, from those relationships which you didn’t pick, you also get this—proof you are not in control. In this world where we can tweak our Facebook profiles and decide our Twitter content, where some of us are on our laptops and iPhones so often we find ourselves, in offline conversations, wanting to mute something boring someone says, seeing the fact that we’re not the kings and queens of our own little kingdoms is good.
You don’t have to be at a difficult holiday party or an awkward family get-together to realize you are not the center of the known world, but it is a place that shows it. When you’re a guest in someone else’s home, when someone else is the guest in yours, you have to stretch a little and give a little and not do everything exactly your way, and this is terrible and this is wonderful, and this is the holidays, and this is life.
The older I get, the more I start to think that the difficult parts of life against which we have our joys and happinesses are, in the end, joys and happinesses in themselves. Not getting the house or the spouse or the job or the family we want hurts; it has to. We need the hurt, to reveal us to ourselves and to contrast other beauties we’d forget to stop and see. I’ve spent a lot of Thanksgivings giving thanks for where I see beauty—This year I’m also thankful for where I don’t, thankful for how those hard things break me and change me and show me myself, thankful for how they magnify the sweet things around which they come.