“Your family seems rather normal,” claims my therapist with a smile after my litany of complaints and reasons the holiday season sucks.

I chuckled because she named my unspoken fantasy of the Norman Rockwell image of holiday celebration and gatherings.   The warmth of his paintings captures a comfort and peacefulness of generations around feasts with decorations donning the walls and fire mantles.   The portraits imply harmony.

My first memories are of my parents, extended family, and my grandparents with dogs running around the hostess’s house while the smells of delicious food entice, laughter and conversation fill the rooms, and the men downstairs smoking yucky cigars and playing cards.   I waited with excitement for my gifts purchased with my allowance and babysitting money to be opened by my family.

How do we endure the holiday season when we have challenges of blended families, different family traditions, and individual desires?  Over the years, I established boundaries which have been both beneficial and limiting.  Beneficial in that I am clear about my expectations and arrange for the best outcome.  However, enforcing the boundaries over time and revising reiterates how small my world appears.

Now, I entertain the idea of abandoning all family functions and conform to the trend in the Urban dictionary, “Friendsgiving .”  There appears to be this universal suffering with the force of family.   I am actually curious when the concept of family became publically unbearable.  I wonder how many centuries the suffering was unspoken and silence.

I can see it now — a portrait of family members gathered in a room with eye rolling, frowns, and verbal acknowledgement —  “I’m only here because of my superego’s demand of appeasing my parent’s fantasy.  But let me be clear — I’d rather be with my friends and have fun and eat delivery pizza!”  Normal Rockwell is either turning in his grave or punching his fist in the air saying, “finally the truth can be painted at last!”