Let me be clear that I really love my family. Many of them read this, and I am incredibly grateful that I have so much support. (Hi Mom!)
But it’s like Anna Karenina said, “...each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” There is no such thing as a perfect family. “Unhappy” is pretty normal, actually. If your family is at all like mine, they know exactly how to push each other’s buttons and everyone has a set “role” to play. Holidays bring extra pressure and stress, plus extra unhealthy calories and booze. This is a recipe for drama.
And me, what role do I play? I adopted the role that it’s my job to take care of everyone’s well being by trying to make everything smooth and perfect. I overstep boundaries, butt my nose into places it wasn’t invited, and I defend people that didn’t ask for it. I can clearly remember being on vacation in Scotland and my sister was driving on the left side of the road for the first time. My mom and aunt were in the back seat offering advice, and doing their share of freaking out. I decided to put them in their place and told them to be quiet, to close their eyes, to leave my sister alone. My sister didn’t ask me to do this, and quickly shut all of us down. No one was helping, and it was stressing her out more.
I realized in that moment that I take on my mom and sister’s problems as if they are my own, and I make myself responsible for keeping them happy. When mom is freaking out, I think it’s my job to control it and make it better. When Mary is getting picked on, I try to set boundaries for her.
It’s exhausting. And it’s ineffective.
You probably have a very different family dynamic. I bet you have your own patterns that cause stress for you in your own life. And as we come up to the Thanksgiving holiday and the other winter holidays, I can feel stress levels rise around me. People are getting tense as they prepare for extended periods of time with the family they simultaneously love and hate.
I’ve pledged to myself to have a drama-free holiday. Here is the agreement I made with myself so I can do my best to keep calm.
I pledge to stay on my side of the street. I will not offer unsolicited opinions and advice. I will ask if someone would like to hear my opinion before offering it, and I will not take offense if they say no.
I pledge to take a break and walk away to get air when I need a time out. I will recognize signs of stress in my body (tight jaw and grinding teeth, uneven breathing, tight neck and shoulders, queasy stomach) and I will notice that as a sign to take a break.
I pledge to ask for what I need and want. I will be aware of my need for space and quiet time, and ask for those moments when I need them. I will ask for the things that I want, without apology or guilt.
I will not throw shame around. I will not yell. I will not participate in behavior that I already know makes others feel bad.
I will not traingulate. (Triangulation is talking to a third party instead of talking directly to the person I have a problem with. For example, if I’m mad at my sister I could talk to my mom about the problem in hopes that my mom will bring it up to my sister.) I will practice direct communication.
I will listen with an open mind and open heart. Just because my family holds different opinions from me does not mean they are automatically wrong.
This covers a lot of the behavior that I know has caused problems for my family in the past. What would you add to your list? Will you join me in pledging to have a drama-free holiday? Tell me in the comments below!
Did you find this blog post helpful? Do you want to increase the love in your life? It all starts with yourself, which is why I created a simple self love meditation. Claim yours here and get more love immediately.