It is that time again where some of us start watching our favorite holiday movies. Do you have a favorite or two? Many of us watch the same movies every year, in spite of knowing the entire plot and many of the lines by heart.

Why do we do it?

Well research says we do it for a couple of reasons. For some of us the old films trigger pleasant memories and emotions like joy or gratitude. A certain film can remind us of a specific time in our lives, perhaps when people who have long ago died were alive, maybe we were much younger and in retrospect it can feel like a simpler time. Before mortgages, job stress, divorces, or painful breakups. Another reason we’ve discovered is the escape. Maybe we don’t have such pleasant memories from childhood or earlier in our life and the basic plot lines that inevitably have a happy ending helps us forget for just a little while. We can lose ourselves in another story, another life, and feel pleasant feelings like joy and gratitude in spite of our own loss or pain. This is good for our nervous system either way, and can leave us feeling calmer and less stressed for a little while. 

Now I’m not criticizing watching these films. I’ve already tucked into a few myself so please don’t judge me. But what I’m wondering about today is if there couldn’t be another reason we watch these hollywoodish movies that might not be so helpful to us in the end.

Some may watch the guy always get the girl, or the family always solving their differences in the end, or the long held grudge magically melting away and everyone hugging at the end while the swell of bright music in the background grows louder. Some may watch that happy ending and end up feeling like everyone else’s life just works out. Everyone else is luckier, prettier, happier, and just has things work out with no issues or problems to solve.

We begin to believe we are the only ones in pain. We can begin to feel sad for our own situation, whether it be a family dispute, a relationship breakup, illness, job loss, or a death, and see ourselves as victims of a badly dealt hand. 

Have you ever seen a beautiful family all dressed up for the holiday at a restaurant? The parents are wearing their finest evening outfits and the kids are all freshly put into soft velvet and satin dresses and pants? They are stunning as they pose for a picture in front of the Christmas tree and each person is more gorgeous than the next. We see this group and we feel a bit of jealousy. They must have it all figured out. Clearly they have money, health, and love. 

They have everything they want and are having a nice life…and I don’t.

The thing is if we watch this beautiful family long enough we may begin to see some cracks. Did you notice how the father is clenching his jaw and in spite of smiling for the camera and he has his arms crossed and a slight frown between his eyes. Mom is laughing as she gathers the kids but her body language tells us she is exhausted. We hadn’t noticed grandma in the background with sad eyes and a bend in her back as she is now using a cane. 

What do you suppose this beautiful family is going through? There could be anything wrong and many things right too but the point is I can guarantee their lives are not perfect. They have felt pain, struggles, stress and loss. They have been hurt, scared and lonely.

Fancy dresses and freshly shined shoes don’t fix our wounds. 

So as we watch the holiday movies this year and feel sad for our own less than perfect lives and families, I would like to caution you to challenge the belief that others have it all figured out. None of us know what people are walking around with and none of us are free from hurt. So it stands to reason everyone around has experienced suffering. And sometimes the ending isn’t happy. The marriage breaks down, the loved one dies, the family member you trusted betrayed you or the job ended. But we carry on, don’t we? We continue to live and experience both the joys and sorrows of life. Because that is real life. Not always perfect or even happy, but good enough and most importantly we are not alone.

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