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25 Days of Christmas: Day 19

Christmas is just around the corner and we are all in a rush to get things done last minute. Soon the families will descend upon our homes and the house will be full.

Today I want to talk about how we deal with “irregular people” in our lives. The holidays seem to bring this out a lot for many of us. Many years ago I read the book irregular people by Joyce Landdorf, which is about how to deal with the irregular people in our lives. The best way to describe an irregular person in our life is that person for whom nothing is enough or right. She tells the story of working like crazy on a holiday meal, putting everything on the table, having several varieties of things so that everyone would have her favorite. Her mother turned out to be one of the irregular people in her life. When the table was set, her mother came in, inspected the table, and said, “Don’t you have regular red Jell-O?” The thing about irregular people is that they are usually related, which means we can’t just walk away from them.

She borrows this term from a book titled Summer of my German soldier. In the story, a young woman named Patty hides a German soldier after he escapes from a prisoner of war camp. Patty and her sister were raised by a black nanny named Ruth. Patty always feels that she is not up to what her parents want or expect of her. When it is finally discovered that she has been hiding the soldier after her escape, her father disowns her and tells her that, to him, she is dead. She runs to Ruth’s house, crying, asking why her parents never loved her, what was wrong with her because surely it must be her. In one of the most significant parts of the book, Ruth shares this with Patty:

“I’m never going to ‘spice up other people’, but your parents are never going to feel anything good about you. And they’re also not the number one people with the best quality. t. When I go shopping and see the stamped label, ‘irregular’ or ‘seconds,’ then I know I won’t have to pay as much for that. But you guys have some irregular seconds, folks, and you’ve been paying top dollar for them, so I’m not going to wish what will never be”

And as you can see, we all have irregular people in our lives. And we can spend our whole lives trying to be good enough. The holidays tend to bring families together, and no matter how much you avoid this person or people, the holidays are one of those times when you just can’t avoid them. So how to cope?

In my own life, my parents were some of my irregular people. There was always something that wasn’t quite right, no matter what I did or tried. It took me many years into adulthood to finally realize that I just couldn’t please them and it didn’t really matter what I did or how I tried. Some things just don’t change. For me, it came from learning to “reframe” things. I realized that they were never going to change and I just stopped trying to make it different. I stopped “desiring what will never be”. And I started to look forward to those things that I knew would happen when they were around. I just accepted that they were going to say or do something hurtful, and when it came, I learned to recognize it for what it was and move on. On the rare occasions when nothing happened, I was pleasantly surprised; and when something DID happen, I could say “yes, there it is” and get on with things.

I still have irregular people in my life. I wish I could tell you that they don’t affect me anymore, but they don’t. They still do sometimes. And they seem to come out a lot more at parties! And yes, they are always related. 🙂

And you? How do you treat the irregular people in your life so that your vacation is not so negatively affected?

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