christmas "break"

There is a lot going around in the blogs I frequent about having a simple, scaled-back holiday.  This is a notion that I love, and must do because we don't have much funding for anything blown out, but I think I'm still missing out on something - the part where relaxation happens.  The time when you sit back as a family and enjoy each others' company.

When you come from a divorced home, and your parents have lives in separate places, navigating the holidays can be somewhat tricky.  When I was on my own, it was pretty easy - Christmas at one place, Thanksgiving somewhere else.  I as based in NC so most of my holidays were spent there.  Sometimes I'd go to PA for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  But it was relatively easy and there wasn't a ton of trouble in the planning.

Now I've got 2 more families, and another set of feelings, to consider.  Brian's parents live a couple of hours south of my mom.  And then there's the whole, 'oh yeah I'm married now, I guess we need some time together' thing.  Two more families.  And I am all about making "Brian+Me" have top billing - to the extent that it's possible, anyway.

Back when we were in school, Christmas break (or winter break, for the more PC of us) was a real break.  No school, no tests, no papers, no work - just a couple of weeks of nothing to do except attempt to live with our parents while avoiding as much conflict as possible.  Some folks would sit around and mope, some would reconnect with all the home-town friends, some would go places.

I spent my first two winters after school working AT a school, so for as long as the university was shut down, me no worky.  It was awesome.  It was like 'easing' into being a real-life grown up, in a way.  Some of my friends were in grad school, others worked for places that gave them a couple of days off, but they did have to report to work sometime between Christmas day and New Years Eve.  Pretty standard stuff.

Last year, my third post-school Christmas, I was unemployed, so I had like 6 weeks off for winter break.  Not so relaxing, because I spent the whole time being anxious about money and finding work and whatnot, but having the down-time was good because Brian wasn't in school either, and we didn't take a honeymoon until later. ___

This year, I'm working at a Christian nonprofit, and we are off from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1 (with the possibility of having Jan. 2 off, giving us another whole weekend).  Also a score of a deal, but here's my thing:

this year, the nice break will not end up being a break for me at all.  Or at least not much.  Because we have 3 families to visit, and they are spread across the Eastern seaboard, and we have about 6 days to see them all.

Granted, Christmas in Hershey PA will be pretty special, and I'll see relatives I haven't seen in a long time, and Brian will get to meet some cousins and whatnot who he hasn't met yet, which is also cool, and my little brother will get to hang out with his new brother-in-law who, by the way, is WAY cooler than me in a 13 year old boy's eyes, and whatnot.  But I am feeling bogged down by the sheer amount of travel and activity we are cramming into these days.  Big Christmas Eve party with the whole family in PA, 4 hours north.  Christmas dinner with another family in Chapel Hill NC, 7 hours south.  The next day, my brother goes to South Africa for a while.  The day after that, we are going to a wedding in Davidson, NC (2 more hours south), and the day after THAT, Brian is preaching in Charlotte (another hour south), and then the day after that, we are driving the 6 hours back home so that I can collapse and have barely enough time to recover before reporting back to the office. 

I keep getting a pit in my stomach, though.  Christmas isn't supposed to be some manic driving-spree that keeps you away from your own home so that you can traverse the interstates and get all your bases covered.  Family is supposed to be enjoyed all year round, and we do try to see each of our families as often as possible, so why is there so much pressure at this particular time of year to make an appearance?  Pinning everything on one holiday is too much pressure - especially on the newlyweds who are still figuring this thing out.

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