A Partridge in a Pear Tree – Embracing Holiday Awkwardness

Partridges don’t spend much time in pear trees.

They’re ground-dwelling birds; they live, eat, lay their eggs, raise their families on the ground. They do roost in trees, climbing or flying up to escape from predators or to sleep. They can fly, but like pheasants and turkeys, they pretty much only do so in emergencies. They much prefer to be on the ground.

We’re a little like partridges, then, during the holidays. We don’t mind the office parties, neighborhood get-togethers, school productions, drive-by visits from friends and family, all the holiday social engagements we feel obliged to attend; but somewhere between co-workers’ bad breath and kids’ bad acting, most of us will realize at some point during the holidays that we’d rather be somewhere else. Some of us would rather be just about anywhere else.

To be fair, many folks thrive on the social side of the holidays, just like they thrive on their social engagements year-round. But for the rest of us, the need to bounce from one party to the next for the entire week before Christmas sits somewhere between necessary evil and being stretched on the rack. For introverts, who thrive on time alone and find social engagements exhausting in any season, this time of year can be especially trying.

That’s if we spend it focused on the difficulty of it all, the awkwardness. Intro- or extroversion aside, our holidays will be largely what we make of them. If we choose to focus on awkwardness and boredom, bad breath and the fact we don’t know anybody and really don’t care to, the season will be truly excruciating. If we choose instead to find something to enjoy, maybe to find one person at each engagement whose company we’d like to seek, or to give ourselves permission to take a time out when we start to feel overwhelmed, if we allow ourselves to spend time admiring the decorations or the tree or the giftwrap when the need strikes us instead of forcing ourselves to be social–if we choose to find fun and joy in the holidays instead of unpleasantness and awkwardness–we may find it’s an enjoyable time after all.

But that choice, the choice to find something to enjoy and pay attention when our spirits tell us we need a break, takes courage. It runs counter to what our friends and family, our coworkers, our culture expects of us. We’re not supposed to need time to ourselves at a party; if we do, there must be something wrong with us.

Truth be told, though, most of us need just that from time to time, even if it’s no more than a few minutes to clear our heads. Better to have the courage to admit when we need it, to embrace a moment of awkwardness, than to pretend we don’t need it–and end up hating the part of the year that’s supposed to be the most joyful.

I've been a soldier, a dreamer, a working stiff, a leader. A husband, father, example (good and otherwise), and now a survivor. I write about courage, because courage is what enables us to accomplish the impossible. If you draw breath, I love you. If you love in whatever way seems best to you and want others to love in whatever way seems best to them, I am your ally. If you believe someone is less than you because they do not love the way you do, I oppose you. If you see someone as a threat to be abused or destroyed merely because they do not look like you, or love like you, or worship like you, I am your enemy. I am a joyful and courageous man. And I stand with you who love.