Exit plan–the new holiday tradition

Considering the time of year and the fact that many of us will be spending a portion of it with extended family or coworkers, I thought I’d write a bit about strategies one might utilize to manage such interactions while staying sane. Certain traditions are worth cherishing, but alas, for some of us, they become burdensome or constricting. So what can a re-booter do to shake things up and create an experience worth the effort? Striking out in a different direction can be both liberating and terrifying, signifying a new you and a new perspective on the world. The possibility of creating a new holiday ritual can feel like launching World War 3 against kinfolk committed to “the way we always do things.”  But it doesn’t have to be.

As re-booters, just about everything in our lives is on the table for examination and revision. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, sometimes these revisions require no more than a tweak here and there, while others involve a shift of seismic proportions. In many ways, the seismic changes can be understood by those around us a lot more easily than the minor tweakings. The reason I say this is that the minor adjustments may sometimes indicate problems beneath the surface, thus certain people get nervous and they start wondering if more threatening adjustments are to follow.

Take, for instance, a change in holiday traditions. Coast to coast, I know a LOT of folks who wish they weren’t locked into a fixed pattern of annual commemoration (usually involving relatives or coworkers they’d rather not see) but, absent extraordinary circumstances which provide cover, they cannot manage to extricate themselves from painful rounds of fixed socializing. Now, as someone who values tradition, I appreciate the hazy image of festive dinners featuring a long table of relatives and neighbors noisily chortling into the night. But, as a re-booter, I remind myself of the (veiled) barbs and boozy commentary that also occured at such gatherings. And don’t forget the awkward family photos that include some, but not all, attendees. Having been excluded from some of these photos myself, I understand that particular pain of being “other’ed” despite my usual grumbling of how bad I look in every photo. And to compound this sense of outsider status, I now no longer even wish to be part of the snapshot, let alone the group. And therein lies the real loss.

But, the other side of all this is the hope that I can create traditions of my own choosing where photos are taken that include all attendees, each of whom is happy to be there! Ah, yes, wouldn’t that be a lovely memory to hold?

So, how do we do this? How do we celebrate holiday traditions involving at least some people we’d just as soon not see and still extract some genuine joy from them? Well, there’s always the bit of advice of “taking one for the team,” to be a good sport and support your significant other. There’s also the admonition to be sure to cut back on the consumption of spirits. And, most practically, institute a hard limit on the amount of time you must spend with these people. Here’s a suggestion: start with however long you were there last year and cut back by an hour. Next year, shave another hour off. I have a friend who, over the years, has whittled down his visit with his dad by fifteen minute increments and has managed to reach a base line of two nights, one full day—every other year.

Reading this may lead you to believe I am all about bah humbug and selfishly thinking only about my personal comfort. But this isn’t true! What I am suggesting is a way to spend the time you do have to spend but doing so with integrity and with as much pleasantry as possible. My friend tells me that now, when planning out his minimized visits with his dad, he can enjoy the time he’s there, knowing he’s got an exit plan.  What’s yours?

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One Response to “Exit plan–the new holiday tradition”

  1. grasshopper Says:

    thanks for this one. Definitely relate!

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