No matter what
progress we may have made in taking better care of ourselves in our day
to day lives, we are in danger of leaving that progress behind when we
pack for our holiday trips – whether the trip is cross country or just
across town. Consider the strange phenomenon of instant age regression
when you step across the threshold of your parents' home. You may be 42
when you step onto the porch, but once inside the house your psyche
automatically shrinks to 12. Or think about the certainty with which you
feel that you "have to" be at a certain place, or with certain people,
just because it is Thanksgiving or Christmas or Hanukah. You may have
been successfully breaking the dysfunctional "have to" rules throughout
the year, but when November comes, you suddenly, mysteriously find
yourself standing on the all-too-familiar square one.
Well, consider this your reminder that practicing your healthy
independence is just as important during the last two months of the year
as it is for the first ten months. Take a few notes with you as you
navigate the sometimes turbulent and tricky waters of family gatherings.
(I suggested that metaphor to a client recently, and she said that going
home for the holidays for her was like sailing into the Bermuda
Triangle.) You don't have to have a Bermuda-Triangle-level of
dysfunction in your family to benefit from a little refresher course.
Put these reminders in your pocket, and/or write a list of your own.
Remember that every day has only 24 hours –
no matter what you call it.
Love them (family, friends, whoever), but
don't take them personally.
Break some family rules just for the fun of
Keep a list of supportive friends' phone
numbers with you ... and use them.
Take a walk periodically by yourself, or with
a relative you really like and feel comfortable with.
When in doubt, say something bizarre. (Again,
for the fun of it. For instance: proudly announce that you have 90
days clean in your Homicides Anonymous program.)
If you really don't want to be somewhere,
don't be. Check the birth date on your driver's license to remind
yourself you are an adult. Make decisions based on what you think and
feel, not what your family might think or feel.
Write a brief holiday mission statement for
yourself – something like ... "I will treat others with respect,
starting with myself."
or "I will enjoy myself by spending time with people I really
want to be with."
Add to this list, and share it with others in
your support system.
THE HOLIDAY GRASS is often greener on the other side of the
fence. Some people grumble about "having" to spend time with family
while others are hurting because they don't have family to be with.
Whatever your circumstances, remember to express gratitude for what you
have, and look for opportunities to be of service to others. Have a
peaceful and enjoyable holiday season.
Rutledge is the author of several books, including Embracing Fear. For
more information, visit www.thomrutledge.com or email email@example.com.