With the holidays fast approaching, you're probably already thinking about what experience you're hoping to have with your family and community of friends. Holiday visits and gatherings often present some emotional and relational landmines that can be avoided if you approach them with awareness and intention. Here are a few tips for navigating the holidays in a way that honors yourself and those you care about:
BE MINDFUL OF YOUR EXPECTATIONS
During the holiday season, it's easy to get lured into wanting some sort of Hollywood experience where relationships get mended, past family traumas are instantaneously healed, and your clan metaphorically stands in a circle singing "wahoo, wahoo." I'm not saying that never happens--I've learned to never underestimate the possibility of a miracle. But, if you go into the holidays with this or any expectation or agenda, you will likely be disappointed. As the saying goes, it took some time to create a mess, and it will likely take some time to clean it up.
The holidays are not the time--okay, it's never a good time--to ambush a relative or friend so that you can unload pent up feelings or smooth out old hurts, even if your heart is in the right place. If the moment presents itself and the conversation happens spontaneously, then pay attention to it. But, if the timing isn't right and there's not a mutual desire and willingness to have such a conversation, then don't force it. If you want to heal or improve a relationship, think about initiating a conversation before the holidays or waiting until the New Year. When you do approach them, let them know how much you value the relationship and ask if they are willing to talk with you at a time that works for them. That way, you don't impose your timeline and agenda in a way that may prevent a positive outcome.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT IS
One of the most requested songs each holiday season on radio station WNCW is Robert Earl Keen's wonderfully satirical song "Merry Christmas From the Family"--a Sort of anti-Norman Rockwell homage to the kind of dysfunctional family holiday that so many of us can relate to. Here's a part of the" chorus:
Carve the turkey, turn the ballgame on Make Bloody Marys cause we all want one Send somebody to the Stop 'n Go We need some celery and a can of fake snow [...] Hallelujah, everybody say cheese Merry Christmas from the family Why does this song strike such a chord with people? My theory is that in addition to...