It’s holiday season once again, so here’s my reminder that you don’t have to be happy about it if you don’t want to. And if you love the season, enjoy! Madonna sang, “A way to come together and make things better, we need a holiday.” Well who doesn’t love a vacation, but holidays for some people don’t feel like a vacation. I would argue that the idea of Thanksgiving is a great one, as life without gratitude is a sour one. Most people can find at least one thing to be thankful for. If you can’t, there is probably a food bank, a friend, a life coach, a therapist or a meeting where someone could help you out. There you go, something to be thankful for. There is help if you need it.
In his Crash Course in Biology, (#1 “That’s why carbon is a tramp.”) Hank Green states, “Making and breaking bonds is the key to life.” Hank Green (a great friend to anyone who hasn’t had to take a test in awhile) may have been teaching about the main elements of life that bond together in thousands of ways to meet our basic human needs, but his words ring psychologically true. The second part may sound a little harsh because who likes to think breaking bonds is an essential key to life, but it is.
We know that the bonds of affection we have with our people are what makes the holidays great, right? Cooking and decorating is fun for sure, not so much if you don’t share the experiences. The truth that ordinary people, sharing a meal together over smiles and laughs with gratitude for each other are really what the commercials are selling this time of year with their pretty tableaux.
There are so many bonds that we need to make in life, beginning with the internal bond of innate value, a sense of identity that does not hinge on another’s view of us, or particular life circumstances. But there are plenty to break as well.
Hank says digestion is a good example of chemically necessary bond breaking. Carbon, that tramp, needs to be broken up with to get energy from our food. The breaking of bonds also provides warmth from a wood fire. Of course, some form of energy is required to break the bonds, so maybe she’s not a tramp after all. Oh hell, it was just a memory cue, without carbon, life as we know it would cease to exist.
So it may not be easy to break bonds, but it is an essential key to a healthy life. Considering holidays, expecting ideals is a great thought pattern to break up with. Dr. Henry Cloud, counselor, leadership coach and author of the Boundaries books, puts it this way:
“The big lesson here is this: deal with life as it is. Do not get stuck in protesting reality for what it ‘ought to be.’ If you give up the demand that life and the people in it be something other than what they are, you will find creative solutions to every difficult situation. And you will be a more loving person.”
Holding grudges, being dishonest about real feelings, feeling a need to always be right, and staying entwined with those who don’t respect your “no,” are a few places where a break up may be in order.
Madonna was right, to a point; there are ways to come together and make things better. It may take a lifetime and plenty of energy. Some days or years it may be infused with natural sadness over a loss or difficult circumstance. At times it will be as bland as the cauliflower stuffing the health nut in your life tried to share at Thanksgiving. But maybe there is a dessert there as well, something to be thankful for on your table, every year.