A Holiday Message
by Maurie Bergeron, Director of TIL Services
When we think about the holidays, it often conjures up scenes of family dinners, laughing, roaring fires, eating, drinking, gifts, beautiful lights, and trees. We associate words like joy, peace, sharing, giving, warmth, and togetherness. Christmas music saturates the airwaves in November and store displays announce the coming season sometimes before all the leaves have even hit the ground. We are inundated by these images, and with the support of the media we construct a vision of how things are "supposed to be." We internalize this vision and create stories about the fact that if we are "good" our holiday will look like this as well.
Unfortunately in the real world - the world outside of marketing and media - in the world where people are unique and families are multi-dimensional and thoughts and feelings exist, the reality of this vision is often fleeting at best. Eggnog spills, cats knock over Christmas trees, people get laid off, the baggage of history arrives with family, families fracture and generations of experiences and feelings surface. Whether we are alone or in the midst of people, many of us experience shame or unworthiness - a sense that who we are and what we have can’t and won’t be enough. That somehow if our world deviates from these joy- filled scenarios – we are "bad," that somehow there is something wrong with us.
But this is just not true. Our vision of how things are "supposed to be" is the problem – not you, not me, not us – but the "supposed to be." The images of other people, other families are just that – images.
I can remember how families were portrayed on television when I was a child and thinking, "if only we were like that." I can remember going to a friend’s house to play thinking, "if only we were like this." The television families were actors, quite honestly – many of whom struggled a great deal in their lives and some who sadly lost that struggle. As for my friend’s family, nothing was as perfect as it seemed, I found out, when her parents got divorced and my friend moved away.
The concept of "supposed to be" is fraught with misinformation and pain. And the premise that somehow during a particular time of year we should be kind to one another, that we should be grateful and giving, well in my humble opinion, this is misguided as well.
Let us begin now to work towards accepting the reality of who we are in real life – as real people with real problems, sorrows, joys and gifts. Let us allow ourselves to be imperfect, different than what we are told we are "supposed to be," because we are so much more than that. You are so much more than that. Let us be gentle with ourselves and allow ourselves to recognize it is okay to be sad if we feel sad. Whatever you feel is authentically yours. Own it. Let us recognize that if the holiday season is hard for you, there is nothing wrong with you. You are perfectly you. There is no shame in struggling through this time of year – nor is there shame in rejoicing in it. There is no right way to do this. There is only your way. And let us not forget that what we see is not always real, that we are not alone in our struggles. Let us remember that each of us wrestles with our history, our ghosts, differently, so be kind – always – not just during the holidays.
There may be times when our feelings can become more than we believe we can handle. There may be times when we feel we are totally alone and want to give up. There is always hope and you are never truly alone. If you need someone to reach out to – you can call any of these hotlines 24 hrs. a day, 365 days a year National Suicide Prevention Hotline Trans Lifeline VA Suicide Hotline
Remember you are worthy. You are perfectly you. Peace - always.