Taking Control of Christmas

The holidays can be a joyous time, but for many people they are an emotional minefield.

Christmas is a very painful time of year for us. The pain begins as Thanksgiving approaches and by mid December we cannot wait for January 2nd to arrive. For us this signifies the return to normalcy and the routine of our lives.

Before Mike began testing as a cop I expressed to him my biggest fear and hesitation was the thought of being alone on holidays. I am an extrovert, which means I get my energy and self value by my relationships. I feel right with the world when I am in community with others. The flip side is when I have too much time by myself, my self-esteem drops, I feel drained of energy, and I become sad. So for me to give the gift of the pursuit of law enforcement to Mike was a huge sacrifice for me, because it has meant more time than I would like on my own.

One of the best survival skills I have had going in my favor has been that even though I have a brother, I really grew up as an only child. He is 12 years older than me so by the time I was in first grade he was away at college and never returned home. My parents were industrious so they spent a lot of time working and were not very involved in my day-to-day growing up. So I have a strong sense of independence and learned at a very young age to take care of myself. I was getting myself off to school by the time I was six as my parents were already at work. When I got married I was hoping that would end and I would gain strong relationship connections through marriage and with Mike's large family; something I never had coming from a small family that was scattered all over the United States and never very close. I saw my mom's side of the family a few times throughout my life and have met my dad's sister a total of three times.

As an adult, I was hoping I would finally have a sense of connection that only comes through family but, due to distance and Mike working nontraditional hours, we are still very isolated from family. They have never been very accepting of Mike working weekends and holidays and are also not very good at making plans. We do not have kids, unlike Mike's brother and sister, and they traditionally get together when all the grandchildren are available, regardless of whether we are available or not. We tried for many years to make holidays work with them but, through trial and error, we have learned we need to take control of holidays and make them work for us. Having the control back is also going to give us better control over our mood during the holiday season because it gives us something to look forward to, and because hope is the best medicine.

Setting our own traditions

The first step in creating a celebratory mood during the holiday is setting our own traditions. As long as Mike remains on his shift he will be working every Christmas except during leap years. Most Christmases I have spent alone with nothing to do. So this year we started a new tradition which will be followed in years to come: I will accompany Mike in his squad as I join him as a crime fighter. After work we will go to a movie. Having a set and planned routine ahead of the holiday gives us tradition, which in turn will give us familiarity. It is making an abnormal situation normal; something that is a constant challenge for the LEO family all year round.

Another tradition we are setting is we are going to have our own Christmas on the day of our choosing following the holiday. Even though the world around us will be in full throttle again, we are going to pretend nothing is open, open our gifts to each other in the morning, isolate in our home with movies, and cook a full holiday dinner. A large turkey feast is my favorite meal to cook and even if I am not cooking for a crowd, we are still going to indulge and have the pleasure of leftovers.

Accepting friends as family

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