Like Ram Das says: You want to see how together you are, go spend some time with your family! This sentiment is particularly apt during the holidays, when emotions run high and painful memories are easily triggered. Especially if this holiday things are different than you would like them to be: i.e. you’re single (again), newly divorced, bringing someone home your family can’t stand, or maybe you simply dread the same old story your family dynamics dose on when you get together.
Here are a few tips that can help you face whatever may come with more confidence and grace than you’d imagined…
Embrace “what is”~ This is the quick way to holiday enlightenment! The sooner you accept people and things the way they are and not the way you want them to be, the more likely you are to experience some real joy! While this is no easy pill to swallow when you are feeling lonely, rejected, or not up for going a few rounds with your family, this truth will set you free. Try it; it’s the perfect gift to give this season.
Right-size your expectations~ If you’re aren’t quite ready to accept things the way they are, your next best bet is to curtail your expectations some. Try this (always works for me). Find someone less fortunate than yourself and do something wonderful for them. It’s a sure way to get an additional perspective. Sometimes we can get so righteous or stuck in our story we don’t leave any room for something different or magical to happen. The spirit of giving will soften your grinchy glare and open your heart up. ‘Tis the season to cut some slack. Plenty of time for therapy and analyzing everything and everyone come the new year!
Walk a mile in their shoes~ Refuse to participate in certain members of your family’s antics, or can’t possibly stomach your ex flaunting his “new and improved you” all over tinsel town when you’re still obscenely alone? Try a shot of compassion. While this is not easy, especially for novices (‘cause you have to actually care enough to take a moment and walk a mile in their shoes), in most cases it helps us take the edge off. Understanding that being human is complicated, and that we are all frightened and fragile whether we show it or not, helps ease the burden of needing everyone (including ourselves) to be perfect.
Stage fright~ Are you the type that thinks of the right thing to say or do after the fact? Like, you think of what you should have said, but freeze up and blank out and end up a mess? Then you need to rehearse your lines! Doesn’t matter who you are, when we are upset we don’t think clearly. No matter what awaits you, try and do a dress rehearsal so you can be prepared for anything. Write it down and carry it with you so you don’t get blindsided. And practice all the way there, and maybe even the day before if you have to. “No, Uncle Bart, I am not drinking right now. Thank you.” or “That’s lovely; I wish you both every happiness!” or “Congratulations on your new part in the upcoming porn film, I am sure you’ll be a great success.”
Let the train go down the track~ Need to make an appearance because it’s the right thing to do and aren’t interested in feeling, dealing or healing, or even saying the right thing right now (you know what they did, they know what they did, period)? I always say, when there’s a train coming down the track, get out of the way. Take a few deep breaths, count to ten, get something to eat, help in the kitchen, make call to someone who can help calm you down; and if that doesn’t work, excuse yourself, go straight to the bathroom, and re-group. Before you say or do something you will regret, remind yourself like a mantra, “Why should you always take the high road? Because that’s the kind of person you are.” Otherwise, leave town and send a Christmas card.
Have a pity party~ Speaking of leaving town: you might be fed up, feel the urge to fall apart, say the wrong thing, make a scene, behave badly, act inappropriately for the first time in your life, storm off and leave, or just stay in bed and wait for January. I say, let yourself have it. Maybe what you need is a little pity party. Go for it. Pick a start time and an end time and go for it. Maybe letting yourself feel what you’ve been stuffing is in order. Maybe you need to attend to some of what’s bottled up before it causes more damage to you or anyone else. Heck, you could invite some friends and just have a big negative merge! Who knows, it may be just what the doctor ordered.
Do overs~ If I feel like I can’t pull it together, or am unable to say something tactfully or gracefully, am intolerant, or simply full of crap and can’t get out of my own way, I ask for a “do over.” I attempt the right behavior, but if I can’t get it right, I will say something like “That didn’t come out right, I am so sorry, can we try that again?” Or “Maybe it’s better if we talk about this another time.” Then there’s always Plan B. I leave and try again next year… Give yourself permission to do what you have to do to take care of yourself!!
Bottom line: during the holidays, there is no more pain to be felt than at any other time of year. According to John James’ “Grief Recovery Handbook,” this is a fact. There are simply many visible associations with painful memories that keep us trapped in our habitual thinking. If we can remember that we are all connected, that most of us are doing the best we can, and that most of the pain and suffering we experience is a projection, we are less likely to take things personally and more prone to create connection rather than greater separation!
Avoid a mystical hangover this holiday season – watch Maryanne’s advice from author Roger Housden: