If you're in the U.S., turkey is on the menu this week. My parents prefer chicken.
A bird is a bird to me, just let me prepare cranberry sauce with flecks of orange rind in the fanciest bowl I own. Let something anything be fancy, after two years ago when one family member who will remain nameless decided not to change out of his pajamas to sit at the table with all of us. Sitting at the table was a chore in itself.
I could go on.
This is exactly the reason why I'm here. To talk to you about your family.
How much we want them to be different.
[box]I bet that most holiday prayers whispered during long car drives and while hiding in quiet corners of a full house are us hoping and begging that our families will be different, better this year.[/box]
You know you're setting yourself up, right?
The heavy sighs when someone does that-thing-they-always-do, and how you apologetically warn friends visiting your family's annual gathering for the first time...are You Setting Yourself Up to be disappointed.
Your family is going to be who they are, because that's who they are.
Tough love this season, huh Lauree?
A little, because I love you so much.
I do, I love you. I want you to have the happiest, healthiest holiday season that you've ever had.
Wishing you a cornucopia of special moments that you will treasure forever. To receive them you need to do this little, or rather big, thing first.
If you need help, here you go:
1) Forget the fairytale
Your family will never become the perfect TV family from your childhood. Claire Huxtable, Carol Brady and Donna Reed are not showing up wearing cute aprons to make everything okay. You may not even realize that part of you -- a very young part of you who also wants to throw a fit when your uncle touches your food for the tenth year in a row -- has a tight grip on this dream and doesn't want to let go.
Loving your real life, the one you're in right now, is about seeing it fully.
That means seeing and accepting your family for who they are, and seeing and accepting yourself too.
2) Admit what will happen this year.
Part of that acceptance is seeing the tough stuff, instead of ignoring or wishing it away. No silent prayers while hiding in the bathroom during family gatherings.
Take a moment, and a few breaths, to admit the following:
- Your family will do that thing you wish they wouldn't, perhaps several times.
- You will feel annoyed by something, perhaps many things.
- You will want to scream, cry, leave, tell someone what you really think, perhaps all of these.
It happens! You get your feathers ruffled (had to say that).
Part of the fairytale we tell ourselves is that none of these things will happen. Shattering the fairytale means you get to meet yourself and your family where you all are.
That's where the cornucopia of love happens.
3) Keep your eyes open.
See everyone in your life for who they really are. See yourself fully, too. Your disappointments and struggles are adorably human. Their strange habits and off-color comments are part of what makes them, them.
Even acceptance can be done imperfectly.
You may walk out of the room at one point, because you just can't take it. It's okay, it happens.
We're not going for perfect this year, we're going for real. You have real feelings and sometimes they bubble over and across the table before you're able to reign them in.
Keep your eyes open to see what's really there. Not the fairytale, or the disappointment that it's not the fairytale. The real people who have gathered together. They are all here. You are here. See it.
4) Spiral up, not down.
When those real feelings get the better of you, it's what you do next that counts.
I tend to spiral downward. One false move by anyone, and the entire holiday is ruined. We all might as well pack up and leave. I have grieved my way through dessert on more than one occasion, missing the fact that we still had twenty more minutes together.
It's not over. I need to give myself a solid pep talk when I feel that way in order to send my spiral upwards.
"Now that that's out of the way, let's have pumpkin pie!"
No matter what happens, you get to choose how you feel in the next moment, because the previous one is already in the past.
5) Hug like you mean it.
The holidays wouldn't be complete without solid hugging.
Please know that you don't have to put your arms around anyone you don't want to. When I say hug, I mean showing and sharing love.
Sharing love like-you-mean-it is about the five minutes to five seconds before it happens.
- See the person in front of you, warts and all.
- Recognize how much you care about them.
- Show them in the most generous way you know how.
Kind words, firm handshakes, and a genuine smile all count.
Even if the middle gets muddled, how you greet and say goodbye to your loved ones can fill your heart with the joy you dreamed of in those fairytales, only this will be the real kind. You'll feel the warmth in your chest, and across your face.
Wishing you real love from the real people in your life.
Make it your job this holiday season to accept everyone, every single wart, rumpled hairdo and uncomfortable outburst --- even your own!
Give yourself an extra squeeze from me. You deserve it.