This time of year has a particular way of creating sadness and resentment.
Does this sound familiar? You go to a holiday family gathering (or maybe you host a family dinner). You so want this year to finally be the year that your family gathers with laughter and good cheer, kind words and camaraderie, togetherness and love for all. It will look like the families you see in holiday catalogs and ads on TV.
This year will be the year that…
…your in-laws can be together for just a few hours without having the same fight they’ve been fighting forever.
…your sister doesn’t roll her eyes at everything you do or say.
…your cousin doesn’t drink too much and rant loudly about politics.
…your father doesn’t sit on the couch the entire time tuned out watching football.
…the kids don’t argue, sulk or meltdown.
Can you picture it? What you wish for every year? Why can’t they be nice just once so you can have the longed-for holiday you want??
Because that’s not who they are.
They’ve shown you who they are, over and over again. If you expect them to be different, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. And you know what? That disappointment is not their fault.
It’s not your family members who are causing your hurt feelings. It’s the story you have about your family members and how they should behave when you spend time with them. You want them to change and become who you think they should be.
There are two problems with this way of thinking:
1) When you hold onto a story about what a holiday family event should look like, you’re arguing with reality because in reality they are who they are, doing what they do. When you argue with reality, you lose every time.
2) You’re outsourcing control over your feelings when you hold others responsible for when you feel bad. This leaves you waiting for and counting on others to make you feel better. That’s going to be a mighty long wait.
This year, how about trying something different?
What if you let them be who they are, and instead you pay attention to who you want to be while with them and the holiday you want to create for yourself?
To be clear, this isn’t about condoning their behavior or tolerating abuse, it’s about ending your inner argument with who they are and dropping the expectations that inevitably lead to frustration.
They can still have their drama and conflict and eye rolls and football trances.
You can show up with laughter and good cheer.
You can offer kind words and camaraderie.
You can hold love for all.
It’s your choice!