On December 18th, one week before Christmas, I sat down in Dr. Janice’s chair for my acupuncture appointment. Dr. Janice felt my left and right wrists, looked at my tongue, and said the 5 words that I vowed would not be said again: “You are carrying much stress.” And here I was so sure that this would be the year that I rose above the holiday madness. Surely after peeling off layer after layer of forms that no longer serve me (perfectionism and expectations to name two big ones) I would be able to enjoy the “most wonderful time of the year.” It’s so easy to fall back into old thought patterns and behaviors when we are beyond busy and exhausted. Here are a few lessons that I relearned this Christmas season:
- I tend to turn into a Tasmanian Devil when I am hosting a family get together. My husband has learned to not stand in my path while I am focused and on the move; I WILL run him over. My breathing becomes short and shallow and my heart rate is elevated. I get a wild look in my eye and move at a pace that would put Flow Joe to shame. In other words, I become a big hot mess. In the middle of my completely out of control state, I decided to take a few minutes to take some deep breaths. Upon a few minutes of reflection, I realized that I was trying to make everything perfect. When I thought about it, I realized that this quest for perfectionism was a selfish thing; it was me trying to show off and to appear totally put together and in control. The unattainable goal of creating a perfect environment for my family was completely robbing me of joy. I decided to shift my focus instead on creating a comfortable environment, one where we could just enjoy being together as a family. Then, the tasks became labors of love and my joy was able to return.
- Traffic and crowds still totally piss me off. Obviously, I’m still struggling with this one.
- I think if we’re being honest, many of us dread spending time with family. Some of us may still carry the hope that this year will be different, that this year will be more like the classic movie White Christmas and less like Christmas Vacation. But, once reality sets in, the majority of us brace ourselves and just try to make it through the hours we are forced to spend with our extended families. Why can spending time with family be so much more difficult than spending time with friends? I really believe this is because many of us feel like we can’t be ourselves around our families. We are still trapped in the roles we began as children and, for whatever reason, are afraid that we will disappoint our families if they see our true selves. Families know about each other’s secrets- we all know that Uncle Bob is an alcoholic, we all know that Aunt Eloise had surgery and is now addicted to pain medication and is experiencing depression, we all suspect that cousin Tim might have a mental illness- yet we sit around the perfectly set table, smile, and discuss the weather and other trivial matters that mean absolutely nothing; the conversations feel fake and forced. Shouldn’t families be the first ones we turn to when something is wrong in our lives? Shouldn’t we all feel the freedom of unconditional love? As I have been able to open up and be more honest with my family, I have had more real and intimate conversations with some of them over the last few months than I have had during my entire lifetime. Sure, it’s scary to be completely honest; however, it’s completely worth it. I am proud of my family. Sure, we all still have a ways to go, but they love me and each other more than I originally gave them credit for. And, the next time I go through a valley in my life, I’m hopeful I can be real and vulnerable. I’m almost positive that they will have my back no matter what and will continue to love me and call me their own. Perhaps your family is the same.
Congratulations on making it through another holiday season. Stressful, busy times do test our faith and resolve. They can also make us stronger and wiser, and hopefully, a little closer to the ones we hold near and dear.