Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Holidays Juxtapose Differences

Christmas magnifies differences. Different regions and cultures, and even extended family have different traditions, different ways of celebrating, different foods that are special to them-- all within the same religion!
Today we watched Rick Steve’s “Christmas in Europe”—featuring beautiful and lovely differences—all celebrating the same event. The spirit of the subject kindles acceptance, but food widens the chasm.
I was surprised one Thanksgiving with my husband’s extended family. I always think there will be plenty of sides for a vegetarian. But even the vegetables had meat added. I found two of many dishes on the table to eat. (I didn’t suffer any; I’d had plenty of guacamole and chips before dinner.)
Yesterday we had dinner with my daughter’s new extended family and in all their special food I found two things to eat. I wasn’t upset, I was honored with “no need” to contribute, but it was so interesting to me that one family’s “special” is another family’s exceptions. I had missed my daughter’s text about making a salad. This morning I saw it, and felt bad because she had to cope with yet another set of exceptions (gluten-free). I could fudge a little, she couldn’t unless she wanted to be sick for five days.
These differences in the way we are raised, and the way we see things, the way we celebrate, the way we think and the things we like, or even need, can make for strained relationships; or we can notice, honor, ask questions, learn and respect.
Have you noticed that isn’t always the way it goes down?
In fact, very often, it becomes a source of irritation or ridicule, sometimes hurtful even with family; other times it’s more good-natured jesting, even adding to the fun—as when I had seven sibling supervisors as I was learning to make tortillas the morning of the aforementioned Thanksgiving.
What makes differences so threatening? Or is it just that we like what we learn to like? What we’ve had from childhood?
Openness seems to be threatening. We don’t really like change. We like what we know, it makes us feel secure. We usually have to have a reason to learn new ways, try new pathways. Sometimes we go looking, but more often we get into ruts.
But think about it. The same old ways lull us into mindlessness—one of the biggest problems we have today.
Auto pilot can take all the joy out of your life. The same old routines can suck the life right out of you. Creating deadness, or creeping numbness.
So, do some things that make you stretch, that move you out of your comfort zone and keep you awake. Purposely try new things for good reasons and make thoughtful choices.
Maybe all you need is one New Year’s Resolution this year: live with purpose: learn from others, ask why and listen, try good new things that make sense, that increase life and energy—things that make you more you. In the end you are only responsible for you (and the things your children pick up from you). You are all you have.

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