This is the iconic Norman Rockwell, Freedom from Want. It’s part of a series of paintings referring to the The Four Freedoms speech given by President Roosevelt to Congress in 1941, during what we would now call his State of the Union Address. He was giving his reasons for American involvement in World War II, and he sited these four freedoms, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear, as freedoms that everyone in the world ought to enjoy. Then, Norman Rockwell painted his idea of them.
Out of its context of World Ward II, this painting has become a yardstick by which we measure our own Thanksgivings. It is what an American Holiday table looks like, it is the nurturing we should all have, the cheer, the turkey, the knowing looks, the connection. For many, this painting isn’t freedom from want, but the epitome of want.
Children who grow up with disconnect in their families look around and compare theirs to others, and then, let’s face it, set about trying to create The Brady Bunch in their own homes. The Brady Bunch may date me, but the point is, we cannot compete with fiction. These are created images, frozen in time, exclusive of tragedies, deaths, and the real life hardships that leave behind their wisdom.
It is painful to be missing and wanting emotional connection from family, and these holidays coming up do tend to put the distance and differences in the spotlight.
Here are a few things that might help:
Stay with what is. It may not be the image of perfection, but some things will taste good, and some conversations will be meaningful.
Connect with your people. If you have real emotional connections in your life, make them part of your day. Send a text or call. If there are people in your family you feel close to, create pockets of one-on-one time with them.
Find a way to give. There are so many people who are missing connection on these days. Empathy goes a long way, and it benefits in both directions.
Try something new. Mark this as a new year. Begin a new tradition especially if you have lost someone recently, and you feel lost. Include a new experience in your holidays, a drive in the country, a gratitude discussion, a polar bear swim.
Approach your holidays from the inside. Rather than trying to make it look like what good holidays look like, go for creating the feeling of warmth and connection. Less decorating, more coco. Less shopping, more scrabble. This cuts way down on the stress, and it’s bound to get you closer to people.
Every single day the sun rises and sets, even on these holidays. If those crazy-making moments with extended family come up, try going out on the porch and marveling at just how short, thankfully, the days are now.