GETTING THROGH THE HOLIDAYS WITH GRATITUDE AND YOUR SANITY
Here at G and T we try and be grateful every day. We try and give back. We like to think of it like everyday is Thanksgiving here.
But today is the real Thanksgiving. The day when families all across the country somehow through bad weather, delayed flights, crowded highways and screaming children make their way to relatives to ostensibly give thanks and not have any fist fights or screaming matches while carb loading and often drinking too much.
Holidays are grand. They are sparkly and filled with supposedly good cheer, good intentions, pretty music, our favorite foods and oftentimes gifts.
But there is another element to holidays; they come loaded with family members with whom we often have a complicated past. They also come with all sorts of expectations. We are going to have fun damn it, even if – A doesn’t speak to B. And C just ran off with D’s cousin. Maybe Dad drinks too much and ends up insulting everyone before the pumpkin pie. Is everyone staring at G wondering if he is still clean or do his eyes look a little dilated? Does L have an eating disorder and everyone is passing the potatoes to her and begging her to eat?
Is mom a narcissist and it’s all about her? Is there an issue because once you are married you can only pick one family to go to and the family you didn’t go to is not speaking to you and you are riddled with guilt? Is there the annual my kid is doing better than your kid competition?
Do you spend the whole night before with an anxiety attack knowing the first words out of your Aunt Estelle’s mouth will be, “ Another Thanksgiving and you’re not married. Did you hear even Charlie Manson is getting married?”
Nobody can push your buttons like your family. And sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, the holiday season is often the most family intensive time of the year. Those we might be able to gracefully avoid during the rest of the year are suddenly in our face or walking through the door dragging all their emotional baggage with them, and often times asking us to hold it for them during the meal.
Holidays also often bring out the worst in people for so many reasons it’s impossible to list them here. But I know there is a branch of my family and a holiday would not be a holiday if there was not some manufactured tension to set it off with a bang.
Holidays are also the time when the absence of those we have lost is the most apparent. This year we lost my father-in-law; I have not spent a Thanksgiving in 17 years without him. My girls never have. My mother-in- law hasn’t in 60 years. This will be a holiday laced with cheer and sadness is my guess. I know I am not alone in this.
There are more suicides this time of year than any other. The average American gains eleven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. People spend more money on their charge cards, get more DUI’s, have more fights, and eat more than any other time of the year.
But we don’t have to.
What to do as these times approach and all these mixed feelings, mixed messages and old habits and behavioral patterns reenter our lives?
This is the place where you take the first affirmation and you hold on to it with all your might.
SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE AND IT’S PROBABLY ME.
I know, you are not the passive aggressive, grudge holding one who spends his holiday trying to make himself feel better about his life by criticizing yours.
But guess what he is not going to change. Your mother who remembers every slight real or imagined, BINGO – she ain’t going to change either. Your sister -in -law who is jealous because you have the better job, nicer house, are married to her brother, unless she is in therapy or doing the work, she is going to stay exactly where she is.
So the only person in this who can change is you. And all you can change in relation to some people is the way you interact with them.
When they go to push your button and they wait for the response they have always gotten, you don’t have to give it. You don’t do that anymore.
You don’t fight with the person who is always looking for a fight. You don’t defend yourself to the person who always makes you feel defensive. Whatever the behavioral pattern is, you just don’t go there.
They might push harder, but if they don’t’ get anything they will stop. And you can walk away. Nicely, you don’t have to engage. You don’t have to respond. You don’t have to be rude. You don’t have to be anxious, defended or sad. You can just say, “Hope mom made those green beans we love. I think I’m going to go help her in the kitchen.” Then walk away, you can do that. – With anyone. You can also change the topic to something neutral and universal and move it away from the particular and high octane.
A member of my family started in the other night, old patterns, old feelings acting out the same play with different lines and you know what I did. I said, “This conversation is not going to lead us to anything good right now. Let’s end it. Good-night and we will talk later.” No fights. I did not defend my position, which I could of. I did not bring up a laundry list of past incidents or reasons why what was happening was wrong. I dropped it. I didn’t’ engage and that was the end of that.
I have changed and so has the way I interact with those around me. You have changed and consequently so has the way you interact with those around you. So the relationships have changed
But remember don’t try and convince them you are living in the light and they are still in the emotional stone-age. They don’t want to hear it.
Something has changed and it’s you! And you is all you have control over.
BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE. TRUST IN YOUR FUTURE AND LIVE IN THE MOMENT. ENJOY THE DAY. THE FOOD. EMBRACE THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD AND FEEL SORRY FOR THOSE WHO DON’T. ENJOY YOUR NEW FREEDOM FROM EMOTIONAL BONDAGE AND POOR HABITS.
P.S. Those Brady Bunch, Norman Rockwell families – they only exist on the canvas and on the screen. Every family has it’s stuff.