Home for the Holidays


It's beginning to look not like Christmas

They say you can never go home again, just like you can’t step into the same river twice. Things change.

Have you ever been to a class reunion?

“Cigars had burned low, and we were beginning to sample the disillusionment that usually afflicts old school friends who have met again as men and found themselves with less in common than they had believed they had.”
- James Hilton, Lost Horizon

“My town had grown and changed and my friend along with it. Now returning, as changed to my friend as my town was to me, I distorted his picture, muddied his memory. When I went away I had died, and so became fixed and unchangeable. My return caused only confusion and uneasiness. Although they could not say it, my old friends wanted me gone so that I could take my proper place in the pattern of remembrance – and I wanted to go for the same reason.”
- John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley

You’re probably thinking, “Roy and Pennie must have gone back to their hometown for a High School class reunion.”

Nope. The last class reunion we attended was nearly 20 years ago.

I’m not writing these things for me. I’m writing them for you.

We Americans have idyllic, Norman Rockwell-type expectations of the holidays.

A TV show about a bar in Boston began with a theme song, “Where everybody knows your name. And they’re always glad you came.” And when overweight, unemployed, nothing-special Norm Peterson walked into that bar, everyone looked up and shouted “Norm!” Each of us secretly wants to be Norm Peterson. We want to be known. Cheers became one of the most popular shows in the history of television.

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
- Maya Angelou

In his book, The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton describes “home” as we tend to remember it:

“The house has grown into a knowledgeable witness. It has been party to early seductions, it has watched homework being written, it has observed swaddled babies freshly arrived from hospital, it has been surprised in the middle of the night by whispered conferences in the kitchen. It has experienced winter evenings when its windows were as cold as bags of frozen peas and midsummer dusks when its brick walls held the warmth of newly baked bread. It has provided psychological sanctuary. It has been a guardian of identity. Over the years, its owners have returned from periods away and, on looking around them, remembered who they were.”

We go home with an idealized memory of a place where everyone listens and cares and loves us for who we are, a place where we're known and everything is okay.

And what we find when we get there is our family. We’re never quite prepared for the selfishness of Carol, the laziness of Lee, the assertiveness of Sarah and the insensitivity of Bob. And Gary, well, he’s just a jackass.

Pennie says Chapel Dulcinea receives a large number of wedding cancellations right after the holidays. Evidently, “meeting the family” was enough to break the engagement. Then I heard Dr. Grant tell a roomful of students that clinical psychologists see a spike in requests for counseling right after the holidays as well.

But then Dr. Grant said something profound: “The opposite of depression isn’t ‘Yippee!’ The opposite of depression is gratitude.”

So this year I have a plan: Rather than trying to have a good Christmas, I'm going to make sure that everyone around me has one. My plan is to be silently thankful. Constantly, consciously thankful.

I'm going to see past Carol's selfishness and like her anyway. I'm going to accommodate the laziness of Lee. l plan to submit to the assertiveness of Sarah and understand the insensitivity of Bob. I'm even going to seek out Gary and show an interest in whatever he wants to talk about.

If my plan is to serve rather than be served, and to give understanding rather than receive it, how can I be disappointed? 

Are these things in my nature?
No. Not at all.

Might I crash and burn?
Absolutely.
Will I tell you how it all turns out?
Count on it. Monday, December 28 in the rabbit hole.

Wish me luck.

Roy H. Williams

TONIGHT ON PBS – Monday, Nov. 23 at 10PM Eastern, 9PM Central:
Elbert Hubbard: An American Original. Watch the show and you'll understand why I've been intrigued by this man described as “a storm of contradictions” for more than 30 years. “His looks screamed 'artist.' His writings preached a mixed message of rebellion and conformity. And his success was pure capitalism.” – RHW

“One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things.”
- John Burroughs

“The turkey, slain, slowly cooked over our gas or electric fires, is the central figure at our holy feast. It is the totem animal that brings our tribe together. And because it is an awkward, intractable creature, the serving of it establishes and reinforces the tribal hierarchy. There are but two legs, two wings, a certain amount of white meat, a given quantity of dark. Who gets which piece; who, in fact, slices the bird and distributes its limbs and organs, underscores quite emphatically the rank of each member in the gathering.”
– Tom Robbins, Skinny Legs and All

I'm very proud to announce my partner, Tom Wanek, has just released his new book, Currencies That Buy Credibility. It's worth reading if you want to make your marketing more effective. Take a look.