The Holy Days are coming, those occasions that by the rhythm of once a year but all our lives mark the seasons of living. We live in a country that has the double whammy of Thanksgiving followed a month later by Christmas. We have double helpings of feasting and double visits from family. One raises our cholesterol and the other our anxiety.
I have learned that while the Holy Days are Holy they are not always happy. In fact I am convinced, particularly this time of year, that only orphans think that having a family would solve all their problems, the rest of us know better. How to survive the Holy Days? I suggest that you might want to read (or go back and read) Screamfree Parenting. “Ah,” you say, “It’s not my children that are the problem.” To which I say, “Take out the word parent and put in living.”
Screamfree is a way of thinking that focuses on our own functioning rather than the functioning of others. To prepare for the Holy Days, we might ask ourselves some of the following questions. On Thanksgiving and Christmas when families gather:
Who will experience the most anxiety and who the least?
- What amount of “space” is between me and the family? Am I stuck or cut-off?
- How much energy is spent on the “issues” of being together?
- How do you stay “loose” in the family so that you can risk being an adult?
- How can I plan ahead so that I know what I will do/be when the family member begins doing what he/she “always does.”
- How can I define myself, sometimes by keeping my mouth shut?
- How can I focus on the reasons that I love my family even while being with them?
- Can I go into “research mode” and seek to learn from my family, resisting the temptation to give advice and fix them?
The country is anxious, states, cities, neighborhoods are anxious. How to do deal with this anxiety during the most anxious time of the year? As my teacher, Ed Friedman, used to say that, “consistency is only possible when we Focus on our own functioning. Breathing in and breathing out is a good focus when anxiety rises. Getting more oxygen aids thinking and breathing may be the only thing that we can control. Stick to the facts not what we think they meant by the words they spoke. If things get more than we can take find an excuse to take a walk or visit a sick friend and then come back later. If you are out of town, hotel rooms are neutral.
Now I will see if I can take my own advice. In addition to the national and religious holy days we also have the annual parish meeting on this coming Sunday, December 8th. Please come and join us as we take council in this annual gathering of the parish.
Let’s focus on the things that matter so that we are not distracted and miss them.