Things I Learned for Christmas

The December holidays are a time that many people dread; spending time with family is a common stressor. While visiting home for the holidays triggers some stress-induced feelings and eye-rolling over holiday habits people hold dear (people decorating their cars like reindeer are on my list to avoid), I like spending time with my loved ones and exploring my hometown of Chicago (technically, I grew up in the Western suburbs of the city).

Every time I am home, I learn a few things that give me insight into my personality. And this recent visit was no different. Here are a few things that I learned:

  • Watching Two and a Half Men makes me physically uncomfortable.

I mock this popular sitcom a lot, as do many that like their humor with wit and edge, but I never tried sitting through an episode. My mom is a fan, and I finally watched it in an effort to be a good son. Oh, it was an effort. Viewing the hackneyed acting and dopey dialogue,  I winced, squirmed and felt like I was watching a puppy being punched — and that was in the first 10 minutes.

Needless to say, I did not feel well — heck, I felt like the 2 Girls, 1 Cup ladies watching it. And I admitted to my mom that I couldn’t watch another minute, breaking down like a prison snitch. She was cool about it, and we ended up watching something else.

  • My mom is pretty cool.

Though our taste in entertainment differs (see above), she did have a few kind words about a favorite show of mine that was not among her favorites. While watching The Simpsons, she remarked about the innovative attributes of the show’s storytelling. Knowing that her past thoughts on the show barely rose above lukewarm, it was like a Christmas present hidden behind the family piano. It gave me new respect for her, especially in light of my discomfort shown above.

  • Procedural crime-solving dramas are gross… and addictive.

Nothing brings out gore like video games and crime-solving television shows. Seriously, the amount of blood and bodily organs splayed on the screen in an average episode of CSI (and its millions of spin-offs) or Bones would make the Mortal Kombat creators wince. Watching these shows is like a gross-out contest where the challenger poops and then eats their fecal matter: it’s unexpected, and you’re surprised that they topped themselves.

Speaking of Bones, damn did it suck me in. I don’t know if it was the likable though two-dimensional characters, the intense situations and puzzle-like configuration of each episode, or a new-found crush on Emily Deschanel, but I watched a lot of episodes. (I think it was the Deschanel factor.) I don’t see myself watching it on my own, but I’ll pull up a seat when I visit my family again.

"The Deschanel Factor" claims another victim: my heart.
  • I love my family.

Sure, they drive me crazy at times. And yeah, I know that I do the same. But being with those that love you unconditionally and that you can say the same about is a good feeling. Being able to tell an inside joke or offer a few words of a shared memory is a comforting, fun experience. When they know what you’re thinking, how you are feeling based on your body language or want to share in the current events, it is that much more special. And when you look at them and remember years of experiences — good and bad — and still want to give them a hug, that’s love.

  • My friends are dang cool.

A yearly tradition is spending New Year’s Eve with my college friends, and I make the two-hour+ drive to spend time with them, catch up on the past year and have fun. Being able to reconnect and feel the shared positivity with them is well worth getting together, and it makes me wish that I can spend time with them more often. It is tough cultivating bonds over a long distance — hell, maintaining relationships in the same city can be an ordeal — and it is all the more powerful to have friends with people that feel the same.

Some of these things can be learned throughout the year, but “the most wonderful time of the year” makes the lessons more poignant and special. For that, I can put up with the cold weather and cheesy traditions if it means gaining knowledge from my family, friends and myself.


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