Does anticipation of the holidays fill you up? Or squeeze the breath out you?
I can almost hear the soundtrack from Jaws in the back ground when I think about the quickly approaching holidays... da dum, da dum, da dum dum dum.....
Thanksgiving and Christmas pack a one-two holiday punch. Music, baking, shopping, you know the drill. Our culture tells us over and over again that this is a time of joy and happiness, that anticipating the family being all together will bring feelings of deep contentment, and that "real" families love and admire each other.
We greet each other on the street and at work with "You must be so excited to have everyone home! Have a fabulous holiday!"
So how does it feel when it's not that way in your family?
What happens when one grown child doesn't want to come home because another grown child is battling addiction issues? Or when one child has mental health challenges that negatively impact others in the family? Or when parents don't see eye-to-eye on working with a child's eating disorder? Or a child suffering from primary, complex trauma is deeply depressed?
While we can more easily navigate relationships at other times of the year, the holidays can squeeze the breath out of us.
And here is why...
We are still "ourselves". And so are our children. Family relationships are often confusing and complex and that doesn't change just because it's holiday time.
We long for ease in our relationships and we struggle to see through the fog of emotions to find the path.
Our natural inclination is to rush, to try to fix, and to continue to rearrange the confusing puzzle pieces into a semblance of holiday joy, in order to alleviate the discomfort we are feeling.
It is only in doing the opposite, though - when we let go of the illusion of control - that the path emerges. It is counterintuitive and it takes practice.
It is slow medicine for our hearts, and it works.
Instead of closing down, we can choose to remain open.
Instead of responding with anger or fear, we can choose to keep our emotions soft.
And instead of running around attending to every last detail, we can make it a priority to find time to sit in silence, preferably in the sunshine, so that the spaciousness of possibility can emerge and be heard.
We can take solace in knowing that leaning towards healing, though we may not be able to see it today or tomorrow, is the natural way of the world.
Practicing spaciousness, softness, and resilience is important for our own health. Modeling it is critical for our children's.