I’ll admit it. I get a little sucked into the romance of the holidays every year.
Yes, it’s a time for traveling to see family, a time of giving and being with those we love and soaking in all the beauty, the baking, crackling logs, sentimental carols and twinkling lights. Yes…
There is another experience of the holidays where, on one hand, we want to be with our families, friends and co-workers to share joy, peace and laughter – but that just isn’t how it goes down.
There are traditions and sometimes, obligations that have us interacting with people we consciously choose not to socialize with most of the year because they include awkward conversations, small talk, tolerating bad behaviour and pretending it’s not a big deal. They are stressful, full of judgement and more.
It’s worse in some ways that we know we are conscioulsy walking into these situations navigating a mine field of possible unpredictable and undesirable experiences.
We begin to hope this year we will be in a better place, stronger, more assertive and bullet proof to all triggers. Or that so-and-so will have their shit together.
We clamber to read blogs, self-help books to find out how we can prepare and protect ourself from such uncomfortable interactions – wishing boundaries were this magic suit of armour preventing any bad mojo from ruining our ‘feel good’ vibe. Or the belief we need to surround ourselves in white light and affirmations hoping we don’t get slimed by the emotional vampires of the world.
Nobody wants to admit that the holidays can be a time of hope and dread combined – hoping they will be everything you want them to be and at the same time dreading they might be exactly the same.
My wish is that we stop trying to survive and “get through” these days as unscathed as possible.
The way I see it, the holidays amplify the human experience. It’s a time of excess – more parties, more people, more food, more booze and it can get messy.
I hate confrontation as much as the next person but I am also aware that these moments serve to help us recognize and pay attention to our reactions because these are the areas that are in need of our love and attention. It’s less about who is doing the poking and more about the part of us that wishes it wasn’t being poked. This is where we should be focussing.
The following poem captures the choices we have in these undesirable moments and reminds us we can maintain and ride out the status quo or switch trains entirely. We have the ability to empower our own experience.
Funny how one battle can take the day in a negative direction.
Funny how one let down can divert you from your true path.
Funny how one solitary criticism can take your focus off the big picture.
Funny how one slump can last and last and last.
Funny how one rejection can bleed into other areas of your life.
Funny how one poor choice can freeze you in your tracks.
Sometimes you can tell where you are headed before you even get there—and the destination is less than desirable.
This train is bound for an argument.
This train is bound for a blow up.
This train is bound for a breakdown.
This train is bound for disconnection.
This train is bound for bitterness.
This train is bound for resentment.
I’ve been on that train. For two miserable years I rode it with arms crossed, not realizing that train stopped every once in awhile and I could hop off and change the direction I was heading.
I could hop off.
So I did.
I stopped at Ask for Help instead of futilely heading toward Try to Do it All.
I stopped at Only Love Today instead of pointlessly heading toward Listen to Your Inner Critic Tear You Down.
I stopped at Lower the Bar instead of tragically heading toward Perfection at Any Cost.
I stopped at Forgiveness & Grace instead of uselessly heading towards Bitterness & Grudge-Holding Where Nobody Wins.
Funny how I ended up in a better place when I hopped off that train going to those less than desirable destinations.
This train is bound for peace.
This train is bound for compassion.
This train is bound for authenticity.
This train is bound for connection.
This train is bound for reconciliation.
This train is bound for love.
It won’t be a perfect journey by any means,
And I surely won’t get there overnight,
But this time I like where I am heading.
Where are you heading today? If it appears you are heading in a less than desirable direction, do whatever you can to hop off. Call a friend. Bow your head. Say, “I am sorry, can we begin again?” Let it go. Forgive. Move on. Step outside and feel the sun on your face. Do something for someone else. Consider how far you’ve come. Consider where you want to go. Hop off the train and leave the baggage. Leave the baggage. Live.
(by Rachel Macey Stafford is a New York Times Best Selling Author of Hands Free Mama.)
More to come on loving ourselves and our reactions as we navigate these hot-button interactions during the holidays and every day.
Until then, this train is headed to bed.