What’s Not Making My Holiday Card

The importance of accepting the good, the bad, and the ugly this season

It's the time of year when I start getting holiday cards from my really organized friends. You know, the ones who scheduled a professional photographer or snagged a few minutes with a talented friend, wrestled their kids into festive duds, and clicked enough shots to get the one that makes their family look pretty darn perfect. We put them up on our front door to begin our holiday decorating season.

Later the letters start coming in – two-page typed missives that fill me in on all the things my friends and family were doing over the past year while we were too busy to talk. These highlight reels are wonderful – and terrible – because in their polished, thoughtful reflection they turn the life of a frenzied, imperfect woman and family into the portfolio of SuperMom and her SuperBrood.

Like a browse through a peppy Facebook feed or a college alumni magazine, accomplishments at the speed of bullet points can be downright intimidating. They are also only one way to view the year you have had.

Given our evolutionary bias to remember negative experiences, walking back through the last twelve months to find all the things you can feel proud about is a good psychic exercise for any family to go through. As a member of the easy to self-criticize species Modernus motherus, I know how beneficial that can be.

But it's also not the whole picture. Equally important is acknowledging the mess and muck of life and normalizing the lows we all go through as an inevitable (and sometimes even beautiful) part of being (or raising) a human being.

As I look back on the year I've had, I'd like to think that embracing the struggles along with the triumphs will bring me closer to accepting my entire experience and to making the struggle as natural a part of life as the accomplishments.

One of the primary goals of all mental health organizations such as Seleni is to lower the stigma of needing help. And one of the first steps is to normalize difficulty. If we could all openly admit to – and share – the times when we are having trouble, then it's much easier for everyone to ask for help when it's needed.

To that end, here's a few lowlights from the year (with pics!) that will probably not make it into my holiday card:

  • Urgent care trip #1: Split my chin open and wrenched my thumb on a dry Texas riverbed during a girls' weekend away. (See pic!)
  • Accidentally booking a Thanksgiving vacation that made my older daughter miss three days of school.
  • Bed Buggedon 2014, when we filled more than 60 hefty bags with our belongings, gave our home over to exterminators, and had to (embarrassingly) turn away playdates for a month.

Your turn: What happened this year that was not the stuff of holiday cards? What moments in your life – funny, scary, sad, unexpected – are a part of the person you are at the end of 2014 and will shape the direction you take in 2015?

We invite you to take a moment to think of one or find a pic and join me and the Seleni Institute in putting together an altogether different kind of holiday memory: #holidaycardcut. See how here.

After all, it's not all mistletoe and bow ties on 5-year-olds.