Going Home for the Holidays? Nope. Just stay away from the crowds, eh?
Maybe next year…
So, what might you do for yourself this year? Or for yourself and your home circle? Here are a few ideas.
I suspect none of us are going to forget 2020. Masks. Isolation. Thousands upon thousands of deaths, millions afflicted. And “stay at home” suggestions that sane people take seriously.
Usually at this time of the year, I write about surviving the dramas that going home for the holidays typically generates. This year, a few self-care suggestions you can do at your own home.
1. Examine your pictures
No, really. Go through old photos, either low tech (photo albums) or on the electronic device of your choice.
- Take a look at photos of the people you would normally spend time with.
- Also have a look at “oldies,” featuring those who are no longer with you… whether dead or moved on to greener pastures.
- Lastly, dig up photos of you… from when you were hatched to today (do the same with photos of your significant other — if you have one…)
Let your eyes flow over all those faces, all those situations.
Pay attention to the stories that pop into your head. Likely,
- many of the stories will be “inflated…” stories you designed to create warm, fuzzy feelings.
- Others will be “conflated…” stories you designed to confirm your worst thoughts about the person featured.
Because, and this is the point of the exercise, all of the stories between your ears are put there… by you! There’s nothing real or true about your stories.
That’s how drama happens at family gatherings, as people argue over the “truth” of their version of past events.
For now, just let your stories be, and have a breath.
The thing to “get” is how easily the stories pop up, and how, if you decide to, you can choose to focus on one story (go ahead! Pick one!) and really flesh it out. But notice how inflated or conflated it is… how, the more you focus in, the more guesses and judgements pop up.
It’s just what minds do.
Now, have another breath.
Let go of the stories and judgements, and have another look. This time, pretend you’re looking at strangers… or pretend you’re looking at someone else’s family.
Don’t try to do anything… just look.
This is how we start noticing our story-making, and how “judgey” we are. It’s how we notice our unreal expectations.
For example, family dinners with Darbella’s family is decidedly different from my memories of Allen family dinners. And of course since different people were involved…
But judging one gathering “good” and one “bad” would be silly, as it’s based not on reality, but on inflated or conflated memories that only exist in my head.
This season, practice seeing your stories as just that… stories. Not true, not false, not good, not bad. Just inventions designed to put things in boxes.
Breathe, relax, and work on letting one or two go!
2. Try a little tenderness
Some decades ago I briefly counselled the mother of a friend of ours. She really didn’t like her husband, and especially didn’t like him around the holidays.
She had all kinds of stories about how, every year, he “ruined Christmas.”
My favourite: she told me that he was, as we were talking (it was October…) at home, putting up the Christmas lights. She said. “He always puts them up wrong, just to spite me and ruin Christmas!”
I said, “Why don’t you go home and help him by telling him what you want him to do?”
Silence, with a glare.
Then: “I’ll be damned if I’ll tell him. We’ve been married for decades, and he should just know what I want!”
Well, no. Not unless you want to keep your story going.
And the kicker: she had never, not once, told him what she wanted. Because she was deeply invested in blaming him for her self-inflicted pain.
Many of us do the same.
We have mucho invested in how hard-done-by we are. Evidence to the contrary is ignored or demeaned.
Because… poor me!
Tenderness isn’t just for meat anymore. Give the drama and “poor me” a rest. Ask for what you want, without judgement or rancour. If person “a” won’t or can’t do what you ask for… wait for it… ask someone else!
This Season, create a drama-free zone. Then, keep it all year!
3. Develop Your own Holiday Traditions
Since this year is not a great one for going home for the holidays, see about setting up one tradition for your principal family (with your partner/spouse, and your kids, if any.)
And pledge that next year, if you don’t much like your Home for the Holidays trip, you’ll shorten it, eliminate it, book a trip elsewhere… in short, change it.
In my family of origin, by the time I was a teen I was expected to help out with family dinners. In Dar’s family, not so much. My 30-something niece and nephew and their significant others mostly just sit there. And don’t get me going on my brother-in-law…
But see? There it is. Everyone gathered, repeating the past, and me, wanting to grouse about it.
Another option, which will happen eventually anyway, is for the next generation to start planning their own events. You know, their own dinner parties, featuring them… doing all the work.
Stop looking backward and trying to recapture or repeat something. Instead, create ceremonies, activities and timetables that are meaningful for you today.
Your task is to create a memorable life, for you. This requires actually doing something different.
4. Take it Easy, Baby
Since you’re staying home this year, how about using this time for reflection and renewal?
There used to be a Zen Centre in Buffalo that Dar and I drove down to as often as we could.
One thing they had was a Buddha’s Birthday meditation session December 8. We went, and sat for some hours.
Best gift I ever gave myself. Quiet time, reflective time. A chance to wind down, as opposed to the endless tearing about that the holidays seem to engender.
Not sure how our lives turned into an endurance contest, but hey… you can call a halt by calling a halt. Take a break… take some time for yourself. If it doesn’t all get done, who cares?
5. Deepen, Deepen
This season is either a thing to be endured, with a fake happy face, or a time of reflection, self-knowing, intimacy and sharing — a deepening. You pick. You choose.
All moments are bare of meaning. We add meaning. Or, we go brain dead and numb and run (literally and figuratively) ourselves ragged as we attempt to avoid the pain we create.
Instead, capture this season and make it your own. Provide meaning to everything you do, real meaning, meaning significant to you. Use this time to deepen your commitment to your spiritual path, and to find more groundedness. This opportunity exists in each moment, and it’s up to you to use it.
In the end, your path is yours, and you make of it what you will. Strive for more depth, more understanding. Bring yourself back to bare presence. Invigorate and enliven yourself.
Celebrate the gift of living and being!