If you come from the Norman Rockwell family, this post is not for you.
If, come next week, you and your people will gather “over the river and through the woods” and, in general, your family’s holiday memories look more like Hallmark moments than future fodder for Judge Judy, you might want to skip this message and get a head start on those AMAZING fruit cakes.
This piece is for the other folks. This piece is for those of you who have messy, sloppy, complicated relationships with the people you love. This post is for people who are anxious about the weeks ahead, because you just KNOW what’s coming.
Yep, in spite of everything you’ve tried, you KNOW that there just ain’t no way you’re going to get through this holiday season unscathed.
Damned if you do.
Damned if you don’t.
Whatever option you pick, you’re feeling fairly certain that you’re not going to get through the season without getting zinged, snarked on, screamed at, the cold shoulder, the silent treatment, dismissed, ignored, or rejected.
If you’re in one of those families – you know, the ones from the “other” side of the tracks – here’s the first thing I want to share with you:
There are no tracks.
All of those people who fell off in the first paragraph and are happily chopping away even now at their dried dates, are either in blessed denial OR they’ve found a way to make peace with the complicated social experiment called “family.”
So, the FIRST thing to remember not to forget to remember about families and holidays is:
Everyone has challenges with the people they love. Try not to be too hard on yourself for not figuring all this holiday stuff out yet. Remember this —
Further, if your family is also dealing with very real challenges like alcoholism, drug addiction, divorce, estrangement, affairs, financial difficulties, and festering resentments that linger on year, after year, after year – if you’re from THAT family – my heart goes out to you.
Because, if you’re dealing with any of that, the holidays can be extremely painful. When you have to relate in an ongoing way with people who refuse to get well, the passing of the years as marked by recurring holiday seasons can feel like just another year when, yet again, you are not having the holidays you still hope will happen.
You have regret for the future. Regret for the present. And this is a really painful state.
Maybe you “get it.” Maybe you know this: Hurt people hurt people. (click to tweet)
But even if you understand intellectually why the people you love can’t love you back, it can still be difficult to determine what is the “right” way to be in relationship with people who continually hurt you.
The Holiday Season can be extraordinarily difficult for people in those situations. Good Housekeeping just doesn’t cover this stuff!
Can you imagine, for example, picking up a copy of the holiday issue of your favorite magazine and finding an article like this, “10 Tips for Dealing with the Drunks at Christmas Supper?”
Wouldn’t it be great if you opened your Holiday Hymnal and Reverend So and So led the congregation in that quintessential holiday hymn, “Fake It . . . Till You Make It?”
Someone say, “Amen.”
Can we find a way to live within the truth of our family stories, find a way to protect ourselves from the slings and arrows that are sure to be flying, AND find a way to bring forgiveness, joy, peace, and grace to ourselves and the people we love?
Is that too tall an order?
Maybe we should write that article ourselves! Why not?
Let’s celebrate our first holiday season together by gathering our collective wisdom and creating a collection of tips for women who deal with difficulty during the Holiday Season.
I’ll start with a few suggestions and then I hope you’ll join in and leave your own in the Wisdom Circle comment section below.
Remember, though, this is a Healing Place.
What we want here are tips for our sisters about how to take responsibility for our own happiness and delight without blaming, maiming, or shaming others – even, nope ESPECIALLY, when we think they “deserve” it.
So, here are a couple of ideas to get you going:
1. You Are Not Alone – Whatever your family story, you can be sure there’s someone right down the street dealing with something similar.
2. To Thine Own Self Be True – This one’s really tricky, because most of us have a really deeply held conviction that love is a responsibility. So we do the right thing, even when others don’t. But maybe we shouldn’t. Thoughts?
3. Drop All Expectations – However you decide to navigate the Holiday Season this year, drop all expectations of yourself and others. If you don’t expect the Rockwellian family meal, you won’t be disappointed when Uncle John gets drunk again and falls into the Christmas Tree. And you won’t be disappointed when there is a fistfight on the front lawn before the fresh nutmeg is even grated on the Holiday Nog.
4. Check Your Own Behavior – In what way do you contribute to the family drama? Not at all? Really? Do you talk about other family members who are not present? Do you go around sharing your sad tale of woe to other family members in hopes they’ll see things your way? Do you hash and rehash old wounds, even in the privacy of your own mind?
5. Let Go of Your Story – Oh, this is a Good One. If we can let go – truly, truly LET GO – of our right to be seen as being wronged, if we can do that, then I’m guessing we are well on our way to true freedom. What happened happened and that is that. The past doesn’t have to be prologue. YOU get to create what happens next.
6. Love and Joy Come to Others – When all else fails, service work is the panacea for just about everything. When you help others, you get perspective on your own life. When you help others, you get that beautiful conviction that you matter, that you have something to offer, that it IS important that you are alive. You do matter, by the way. We should just put that right out there. Don’t forget.
At the heart of the holidays is the spirit of grace, mercy, self-less love. It’s easy to bring these things to people who don’t challenge us. But the others? Well those people bring us the gift of our own limits, and the opportunity to stretch past our “same old same old” way of dealing with difficulties.
Okay, now it’s your turn. What are your best tips for dealing with difficult relationships over the holidays?
Photo: flickr, liberalmind2012