So far, we’ve discussed how to take care of yourself during the holiday season, and how to prepare for a potentially charged holiday event involving travel, family and holiday pressure.
Now, we arrive at the scene.
It’s time to ditch the idea of Christmas presents and welcome the idea of Christmas presence.
The best gift you can give to yourself – and to everyone else – is your presence and your attention. Few people choose to do this. They prefer to allow the old unconscious behavior patterns and distractions to take over.
That’s why so many family functions can slip into old patterns. Everyone’s on auto-pilot. Here are a few ways to take that energy and convert it into different patterns by being present.
1. Avoid alcohol
If you get nervous or stressed at family functions or social situations, it can be tempting to drink a few glasses of wine and numb yourself a bit.
I encourage you to drink water instead.
Alcohol distracts you and dulls you. It might seem like it “takes the edge off.” But that’s just an illusion. It can also lower your awareness level, making you more vulnerable to drama, dysfunction, and getting triggered.
2. Take walks
When you’re traveling, it’s easy to blow off exercise. Holidays and travel combined make it even easier to skip exercise.
You can take small exercise breaks by getting outdoors. Invite some family members to join you. Take some vigorous walks. It’ll do wonders for your mindset. I like to walk over to the park near my parents’ home and swing on the swings.
3. Take the conversation deeper
As you’re talking with people, be a listener and an asker. Try to do both things without judging or fixing people. Lead the conversation into places of enthusiasm and passion. Ask questions that focus on the other person’s dreams and goals…
“What’s one thing you’d love to do in 2008?”
“What’s one thing you’re proud of yourself for accomplishing this year?”
“What do you love about what you do?”
If you ask someone these kinds of questions, they’ll probably show genuine surprise and delight.
***Cool Gift Idea*** A great option is to get a fantastic little game called Gab To Go. It makes a cool stocking stuffer. It’s a question game designed to generate deeper conversations and create connection. A fun thing to do on Christmas night!
4. Look at your parents and siblings
Have you ever actually looked deeply at your family?
Now, I’m not proposing that you get all weird during Christmas dinner and ask each person to gaze at the others.
Do this for you. Just quietly look at each person during the holidays. Notice them as if you were an artist. Lovingly take them in.
It is so easy to look at family through the eyes of judgment – “Oh geez, here comes this tangent again.” Or the eyes of apathy – “Whatever.” But to really take someone in moves you into delight. It moves you out of judgment and into the present moment. See them as they are.
A few years ago, I did this with my parents during Christmas. At one point, my dad opened up a present and cheered. It was a moment of sheer bliss. He had a kid-like smile on his face. I made a mental snap shot of it. I can call it up at any moment in my day. It makes my eyes fill with tears, even now. My dad had a stroke over a year ago, and he doesn’t look the same anymore. I am so grateful that I really saw him that Christmas. It’s more powerful than any iPhoto shot.
5. Being kind vs. being right
I come from a family of academics. There have often been heated discussions, political debates, and theological rants during holiday gatherings. At one point, I just stopped. I stopped trying to prove my point. I stopped trying to be right. If someone confronted me about my froo-froo new-thought vegan beliefs, I didn’t defend myself. I didn’t try to convince anyone of anything. In other words, I stopped trying to make myself right and make someone else wrong.
Now, let’s be careful about this one. It’s easy to use it so that you can feel morally superior to everyone else. You can sit back and say to yourself, “Look at these losers. They’re all trying to out-do each other. I’m better than they are. You know why? Because I’m kind. I’m not trying to be right.”
This doesn’t help. You’ve just flung yourself into the same pool of energy when you do this.
Just decide to stop campaigning for your opinion. Listen to people around you.
6. “Love them.”
Years ago, a family member was visiting me. I got very triggered. I called a friend and told her the in’s, out’s, up’s, and down’s of the story. And then I asked her what to do.
She told me about being a step mom to her husband’s boys. She told me that she wrote these words on a post-it note and put it on her bathroom mirror: “Love them.” She said that there is no better answer.
So, I decided to do that. I let the situation go. I let go of the need to “express my truth.” And I just “loved him.”
Miracle of miracles, it worked. It was simple, but it worked.
In many situations since then, I’ve learned that “expressing my truth” is so not necessary. I can just love the other person. After all – “my truth” is just “my spin on things.” And that can get so exhausting after a while.
So, when all else fails, you can try this option. You can just keep reminding yourself to “love them.” There really is no better answer.
And of course, there’s always the final option – which is to plop down in front of the television and watch all 24 hours of “The Christmas Story.”
And don’t forget “A Very Brady Christmas!'”