The holidays are upon us! While we are busy with shopping, menu planning, and all of those holiday parties, this time of year can feel quite overwhelming. At the same time it can also be a light, joyous, and festive time – it all depends on how we approach it. When it comes to family gatherings, this year, let’s plan ahead. I’m not talking about what gifts we buy or the kind of food we serve, I’m talking about how we can approach our next family gathering with all of the diverse personalities, unsolicited opinions, and yes, even that one relative that drives us into a state of emotional panic with a few select words… want to avoid the family drama? Try this.
While wrapping the presents and imagining the warmth of the holiday season, think about that person who is causing you to feel, well, not so jolly. And instead of focusing on how they might make your holidays miserable, be the bigger Santa and give them your thoughts of appreciation. This may seem like an impossible task at first because the negative emotions that pop up when we think of certain people can be strong and disarming. Yet if this happens, just take a few deep breaths and try again. Attempting to detach our emotions from the situation helps us to imagine being joyous in their presence. And no matter what they say or do, understanding that they have no power to control us, our thoughts or our reactions frees us up to enjoy the party no matter what happens. We don’t need to agree with this person, be their best friend, or even like them. But what would happen if we just embraced the contrast that this person brings to the party? We all have personality traits, differing opinions, specific preferences – that is what makes us all unique! So by attempting to embrace the contrast that our uniqueness brings to a gathering, we can learn to appreciate each and every person at the party. There is no need to be dramatic, partake in an argument, or even allow people to push our buttons. We can simply observe the interactions of others with a detachment that takes nothing personally and just enjoys the contrast for what it is – contrast! And if we can take it one step further without losing our cool, we can quietly ask ourselves, “What can I learn about myself from the contrast this person is expressing?” Maybe the need for more patience and understanding? How about the strength in knowing and loving who we are no matter what someone else might say or think of us? Or the contrast could even act as a catalyst to open us to the process of loving ourselves more and forgiving ourselves for our own flaws. Usually, the family member who irks us the most is the one holding the greatest lesson for us to learn. So wish them the happiness of the holiday season and try to be open to finding out what lesson they might be holding. In the spirit of giving, we can choose to let go of the negativity we feel about them and give them the gift of our appreciation. And the most wonderful thing about this approach is that we can do all of this ahead of time and without ever having to say a word!
We all have choices to make, especially during the holiday season. We can choose to be in the holiday spirit and enjoy the contrast that others bring into our experience or we can choose to be miserable and suffer through it all, drowning our sorrows in that bowl of spiked holiday punch. No matter the sense of obligation or expectation, we all choose our own holiday experience. So if you made the choice to be a part of your next holiday family gathering, whatever your reason to attend, know that you can experience the lightness, joy, laughter and festivities of the holiday season without all the drama. Be the bigger Santa by giving the gift of appreciation, keeping it light, and saying, “Ho Ho Ho, thank you for contrast!”