(Click here to read the first post in this little series.)
So, you go to the movies, right?
And in the middle of the feature you decide you don’t like what’s happening in the movie.
So you charge to the front of the theater and throw yourself at the screen, trying to convince the characters to just stop it already! You shout at the villains. You slap the screen…
“Aw, come on Christine, that’s a stupid example. No one would ever do that.”
Maybe not at the movies they wouldn’t.
But most of us do this in our daily lives. We try to fix all the external things. We try to fix the things we have absolutely no control over. We try to fix our outsides without first working on the source of the image – our own insides.
In other words, we are the projectors. We are the producers. We are the writers.
So, what does this have to do with families and holidays and stress?
The only place to start creating a happy holiday with your family (or with anyone) is inside of you. Families are perhaps the easiest place to catch yourself in the unproductive act of shouting at that movie screen.
Now I know this might sound like a great idea in theory. And maybe it’s easy to doubt the possibility of putting it into practice.
So here’s the thing to remember. Practice is exactly what it takes. And practice is exactly what you get when you do this stuff with your family. You’ll see small results with each thing you try.
Best of all, this work is quite simple and do-able. You don’t have to meditate or find a higher state of loving consciousness to do it. (You can get to that stuff later.)
For now, here are five practical things you can do to prepare for the family holiday events…
1. Go complaint-free
Make a Complaint-Free Pact with your partner or with one of your siblings starting today and running through January 1. (If that feels like too much, just do it til December 26th.)
This means that when your 33-year old brother calls to tell you he’s bringing his new 18-year-old girlfriend to the festivities, you don’t call anyone else in your family to talk about it. It means that when your daughter calls to tell you she’s “gone vegan,” you don’t descend upon your husband to tell him your children are idiots. You just watch your own temptation to spew venom.
Make a game out of not complaining. Decide that any time you’re tempted to go on a rant, you’ll just pause and say, “Well, isn’t that something?” (Said with a Southern accent, this technique can be pretty funny.) Get the Complaint-Free World bracelet. Wearing the bracelet alone might generate some great conversation between you and other family members.
2. Surrender your time in advance
I use this technique whenever I don’t feel like doing something, or if I find myself wishing I were somewhere else doing something else. If choosing something else isn’t an option, I stop resisting, and I surrender my time.
Just recognize that the family holiday event is going to happen, and that’s where you’re going to be. Set your intent to be present. Set your intent to really be there, and know it’s exactly where you are meant to be. If you were supposed to be somewhere else, you would’ve gone there!
3. Abandon the Holiday Shoulds
The Holiday Shoulds are insidious. Pay attention to them – they can creep up out of nowhere!
Here’s a list of Ten Holiday Shoulds you can release now. It will make you happier when the time comes to get in the car or to receive guests…
1 – I should have a new outfit to wear on Christmas Eve!
2 – I should’ve made Christmas cards to go with all of my presents!
3 – I should be better at wrapping presents!
4 – I should’ve bought more expensive presents!
5 – I should go out and buy more [insert useless consumer good here.]
6 – I should’ve lost weight this year!
7 – Christmas should look more like [insert animator or artist here — i.e, Rankin Bass, Thomas Kinkade, Jacquie Lawson] makes it look!
8 – I should be able to play Christmas songs on the piano!
9 – I should’ve made [insert time-consuming baked good featured in Martha Stewart magazine]!
10 – I should decorate my house better!
4. Decide how you want to feel
Have you already been talking about stress, family and holidays? Have you already told friends about how much you dread traveling or having guests or being with family?
Challenge yourself to tell a friend how you want to feel and be with your family at the holidays. (Rather than “how it always goes.”) How do you see yourself at dinner? Can you see yourself eating only what appeals to you -without bingeing to escape the present moment? Can you see yourself smiling?
Focus on what you want. Not on what you don’t want. Energy flows where attention goes.
5. Have a friend on call
If your family situation is really unhealthy, and you don’t feel strong enough to face it alone, ask a friend to be “on call” for encouragement and love. Get a partner. Just knowing that someone out there is loving you unconditionally can make you strong. You ultimately might not need to call. But it’s a great option to have.
Taking care of your insides involves accepting your vulnerability – rather than repressing it and wishing it weren’t there. Acceptance begins with asking for help. You don’t have to get whiney. You can just ask a friend to be your Go-To-Gal. (Or guy.)
If your partner or spouse is coming along to the event, have a conversation in advance. Let him/her know that you might need a little extra love and encouragement. Ask him/her to “Watch your Back.” Ask him/her to be the strong sensible one if you get triggered.
Pick one (or all five) of these things, and you’ll begin to notice a shift inside of you. You’ll feel more at ease knowing that you’re putting your energy and attention on something that you can actually control as you prepare for the holidays with your family.