The holidays are wonderful and terrible and relaxing and anxiety-ridden all at once for a lot of us. It's hard, when your life has been upended, to feel a sense of belonging, because what was the case before is no longer the case. The families that were the most like yours in the past no longer look like what yours is today.
For me, as a divorced mom of 2, the holidays have an unwritten expectation that they'll be warm and fuzzy and full of family and friends and create "perfect" memories for my kids to carry into adulthood. This isn't entirely realistic. I'm working on setting new traditions and finding new ways to find joy in holidays, even though they don't look like I expected them to any longer. Last Christmas, the kids and I were scheduled to visit my mom and sisters for the holiday. It's about a 5 hour drive from home, and it a family visit comes with its own baggage I've carried since childhood. (Why do we always step into the same roles in our families we had when we were kids?) Unfortunately, we came down with COVID just before we were scheduled to leave. Thankfully, it wasn't a severe case, but with an 80-year old mom, we weren't about to risk exposure, so the three of us stayed home. I fretted endlessly about how it would all work, and in the end, we had a simple brunch instead of Christmas dinner, opened gifts, played a game, and watched a movie. It turned out to be lovely, low-stress, and probably a better memory for the kids than many holidays. Does that make me worry less about this year? Nah. That'd be too rational!
This year, we're trying to go to Mom's for Thanksgiving, and again, I find myself filled with anxiety over the whole thing. We had the option of staying home, having a meal with a few other families, but the other families are all intact, with two parents, a bunch of kids who know each other and have camped and traveled together, and the whole perfect picture. (For the record, my kids know a couple of these kids, but not well, and have told me they just don't have much in common with this group) and I don't feel like I fit in with that gathering. It's never easy to be the 3rd wheel (or 5th or 7th or 9th...). So we're hitting the road to go spend the holiday with my family. Holding my breath that it will be fun and will "fill the bucket" this year. I'm trying to be mindful of what causes stress and what brings joy. I'll report back.