I had an emotionally messy weekend. I finally realized that the holidays are officially HERE, and that I need to start planning my travel down to Portland, Oregon to honor my familial obligations.
This did not sit well with me. It’s my first holiday season without my mom, who LOVED cooking, decorating and generally doing everything to make the season special. My dad and sister have never cared about the holidays as much as my mom and I, so things will definitely be different this year. This weekend I spent a lot of time anticipating how crappy things are going to be without her and starting getting my buttons pushed all on my own (fun, right?).
The thing is . . . I have a choice. I can make myself miserable holding onto the past, or I can move forward into this new reality. This doesn’t mean I let go of those feelings, but I remind myself of how to process them.
Reframing Your Perception
I run into this all of the time with money issues; people get their buttons pushed because they hold on so strongly to the past (good AND bad) that they can’t properly move into their current money reality. Or, there’s a part of you (and me) that actually ENJOYS complaining . . . I was certainly there this weekend, thinking of all of the ways I already expected that my father and sister would disappoint me.
Here’s the thing: Ruminating on what I think will go wrong will most definitely get my buttons pushed, but doesn’t make me happier OR make me look forward to something I must do. Never mind that I am probably correct in my predictions about family dynamics. But “right” hardly ever leads to happy.
Reminder: No one else can “make me” feel anything I don’t want to. It’s your decision as to how you perceive the external environment—people included—that creates your reaction, nothing else. So, in reality, when you feel like you’re getting your buttons pushed, it’s always about you, and never the other person!
If I don’t own up to how much I am resenting what’s coming, and reframe my perception, then I run the risk of engaging in addictive behaviors, yelling at people who don’t actually deserve it and making the holidays a pretty sucky season for myself. I don’t want that.
Own Your Darkness
After I finally realized I was spiraling downward into a mucky mudhole of holiday resentment, I followed these 5 steps:
Write your story. For me, it’s easiest to get my entire story out as if I am writing an email to a friend who isn’t familiar with my family. I list all of the things that I resent, expect and annoy me about my family members. I don’t actually send this to anyone but myself.
List all of the buttons being pushed. After I read my own email, I identify the things about my dad and sister that push my buttons . . . for example, my father hates having “bad” food in the house that he is afraid he’ll overeat. Or my sister makes zero effort to spend time with me or deepen our connection in any meaningful way. These are only examples; I could probably list MANY more things about both of them that push my buttons!
How does it make you feel? With my dad, it makes me feel sad and lonely, like he isn’t considering my happiness during the holidays (the way my mother did?) . . . and maybe he isn’t. When I take responsibility for my own feelings, I realize that it’s MY responsibility to make myself happy over the holidays, not his. Therefore, I need to consider what that looks like. When my mom was here, I could just default to what she wanted to do, but from now on, I’ll need to be more conscious about what makes the holidays happy—for me and only me.
With my sister, I was feeling hurt that she doesn’t know me better, but even as I wrote that down previously, I realized that if I want her to know me better, there are PLENTY of things I can do to help that along. I can go over to her house instead of waiting for her to visit. I can force her to go places with me—which brought the realization that when we were younger, that’s what I would do. I’d say, “Come on, we’re going to X!” and she would go with the flow, whatever I wanted.
How do you WANT to feel? That last step took me a long way toward feeling more empowered about my holiday visits (notice I didn’t feel compelled to use the word “obligation” anymore!), but I still have a ways to go to make the season fully satisfying. Even though my family plays a large role in the holiday season, I won’t be with them all of the time. Throughout the season, I decided that I want to feel connected, grounded, happy and peaceful. If I can achieve those feelings on a daily basis, I’ll consider the season successful. So . . .
How can you do that for yourself? This is where I (and you) need to translate those feeling states into specific behaviors:
- Connected – plan visits with friends, attend group events
- Grounded – maintain exercise routine and self care, schedule hair appointment, get massage
- Happy – plan holiday activities (as small as having a Peppermint Mocha at Starbucks, driving to look at holiday lights in the evening or strolling through a holiday bazaar to see the crafts)
- Peaceful – stick to daily meditation routine even when out of town, schedule downtime to just sit around and enjoy my decorations
Find the kernel of appreciation. In order for my changed thinking and commitment to self-responsibility to stick, I have found that I need to go a step further with my family (don’t we all) and reframe their annoying behavior so that I can perceive the ways I can admire and add to our relationship.
- Rather than become angry at my father for being a freak about keeping food in the house, I can appreciate his commitment to healthy eating and use that to balance my own over-indulgent tendencies.
- Rather than become irritated that my sister can be so distant, I can admire the way she really is the queen of all her domain. She can teach me a lot about loving myself and putting myself first in all things.
Actions This Week
Are you feeling the expectation and obligation of the season start to stress you? Make sure you take these 3 steps this week:
- Don’t be afraid to “go there.” We have to acknowledge our darkness before we can avoid getting our buttons pushed. If you’re feeling down, own it and forgive yourself—we’re all right there with you!
- Schedule time for weekly self maintenance. I can’t just do this exercise once and be fixed. In fact, as I was writing this post, new stuff about my family came up that I need to process! I will probably need to journal and process weekly or more throughout the season. This isn’t a bad thing.
- Find some way to honor yourself daily. Commit to delighting yourself every day, even if it’s something small. I experienced a huge shift yesterday from a single yoga pose. I also get a big charge out of people watching. Let yourself do that fun-weird-odd private thing you don’t like people to catch you doing :o)
And in the comments below, tell me …
How can you honor your light AND darkness this holiday season?
And thanks for being part of the Creative Money Community!
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