Everyone looks forward to absorbing every joyful moment of the Holiday Season, right?
Everyone works all year to experience Christmas. The family comes together and gets along, the women happily prepare 17 side dishes, the men, without resentment, deep fry the turkey in the back yard and the kids all laugh and play.
Okay, let's get real.
It just doesn't happen that way.
Yes, somewhere, in a far-away magical place, there is a family that makes a Norman Rockwell scene appear lame. And knowing this, just for a brief moment, I long for that family to adopt me for one holiday season.
But in a fit of honesty, most people would admit that spending the last two weeks of the year with their family leaves them exhausted, drained, hurt, angry, embarrassed or all of the above.
Let me be clear. I love my family. It's diverse, webbed by divorces and new marriages. I know in my heart they mean well. However, their good intentions can come up short.
And, obviously, people celebrate the holidays for different reasons. This isn't about the reason for the season. This isn't about religion. This is simply about how painfully horrid we can treat each other, the unnecessary pressure people add during this time of year and why we fail to recognize it.
First, each woman — because the men don't have nearly as much invested — gets caught up in her own expectations.
The rat race to keep up with the Joneses seems to accelerate as we near this beloved time of year. The season just isn't complete without seizing bragging rights with a new Italian leather sofa or 70-inch plasma TV.
Then there's the unruly and outlandish competition to give the best presents, either in quantity or quality.
That just adds to the third ingredient: that ton of guilt you're dragging around.
There are almost without exception complaints about the food, either by those cooking it or those who feel they could have done better.
And then there are those discussions about people's personal matters when they leave the room, only to abruptly end when they return to the group.
We are murdering what should be — what could be — a happy, peaceful and beautiful time.
Get your head out of the clouds. Stop being so self-absorbed and recognize what is really going on around you.
People who couldn't afford it bought plane tickets or drove 800 miles to spend their down time with you.
If you hate cooking, make everyone bring a dish or cater.
Not everyone is afforded the luxury you possess — either by way of a raise or maxing your credit cards — to provide for their family. Stop showboating.
Stop complicating the "most wonderful time of year."
Some people are going through difficult times in their relationships, learning how to start life over, balancing a budget with less income, raising teenagers.
So don't get mad if someone doesn't use the fine china, spills wine on the carpet.
Don't rant if they bring a frozen pie to the dinner. I can't bake. Ahem. I mean, they might not be able to cook.
Go easy, people.
Christmas shouldn't be about buying things we can't afford to impress people we don't even like most of the time, just to spend hours after they leave dissing everything about their life and recalling why you only see them at Christmas.
Kudos to those in that far-away, magical place who have mastered the celebration.
For everyone else, remember we're all fighting a personal battle. Think about what really matters and extend the same kindness you hope to be given.
Heather Tempesta is a single mother of three who lives in Brandon.