It’s easy to feel bad around Christmas. Everyone seems to have it better than you–happy family gatherings, loving parents, and even grudging in-laws coming together as one great, big happy family, sharing warm, fuzzy memories of past Christmases together. It seems like such a rip-off: why can’t you have that too?
I’ll give you a hint: it’s the same reason that you can’t eat the Easter bunny—because it’s pure bloody fiction.
One of the most important realizations of my young dating life was that there is no such thing as a woman without baggage—it’s an immutable fact. Maybe she’s attached at the hip to her mother; maybe her Dad didn’t hug her enough; maybe she’s never felt like she was worth anything; it’s always something. Men are no different, of course—it’s just a different style or colour of luggage.
When you put any two people together you get, effectively, twice the baggage. On the individual level, this can actually be a good thing; ideally, you fill voids in each other, and take on some of the overflow to make each of you a more complete, happy person. On the family level, however, you just get ten times the luggage, and only one porter (your partner) to help you carry it all.
Even that would be survivable in most cases, if the majority of people didn’t go out of their way to appear like they have it all together. Facebook feeds are flooded with happy, perfect people thankful for all the wonderful everything they have, and showing only the most flawless parts of their lives. It’s easy to look at them and think that you somehow got ripped off—that you’re the only one who has to deal with crazy family (or a lack of family) and wish for the holidays to end so that you can get back to the relative peace and quiet (or not have other people’s inclusion rubbed in your face).
Other “friends” on social media sites may be even more dastardly, deliberately trolling for a response. They’ll be the ones to respond to your comments, doing their best to make you feel worse, in order to make themselves feel/appear better. Often these comments will masquerade as helpful advice or anecdotes about how there is always hope—as evidenced by how well things work out for them. Inevitably, they will make you look worse, and make themselves look better.
The cake is a lie; these people are not your friends—and everyone has something dark and unhappy (however small) that is hidden behind their electronic veil.
Comedy movies revel in debunking the happy family myth. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, a holiday classic, focuses specifically on how messed up family can be, though the Hollywood need to wrap things up forces a bit of a resolution at the end.
Step Brothers is another great example; the one character’s younger brother seems to have everything: charisma, money, talent, a beautiful wife, and loving children. He’s also a complete jack-ass that even his wife can’t stand, who constantly rubs his success in other people’s faces. Surprise, surprise.
Yes, those are just movies, but even the most grossly exaggerated art imitates life, and the life lesson is this: there is no perfect life or perfect family, and endlessly searching for them, and envying those that seem to have them, will only make you miserable. Revel in what you do have, appreciating that even when things seem at their darkest—whether that means you’re alone through the holidays, or have in-laws that you can’t seem to get rid of—they will get better.
If nothing else, revel in the schadenfreude that comes with knowing everyone else is suffering too—even if they don’t admit it on their Facebook wall.