I’m often told by folks how difficult the holiday season is for them.
Sometimes it’s losses we’ve suffered and the people who won’t be with us for the holidays.
Sometimes it’s bad childhood experiences which are amplified evermore by the general emotionality and intensity of the season.
And sometimes it’s simply the great buildup of expectations, energy expenditures (and other expenditures), family reunions and celebrating together, and earnest hopes for joy and good, lasting changes for the new year which put stress on us.
It’s this third scenario which I’d like to talk about.
How good are you at defining and handling your expectations of special occasions?
What DO you expect this holiday season? Have you, in a deliberate way, given yourself just a few minutes to ask this question?
It seems so ironic that one of the first things that happen to us humans around more intense, special times like the holidays is that we disconnect from ourselves.
You know the way it goes:
You’ve waited so long for the Big Event, there’s been so much buildup and so much fantasizing about how it will go, who you’ll see or won’t see, the impression you’ll make, the things you’ll talk about or do together…all of this and more.
THEN, by the time the actual day or days come, you’re so riled up and disconnected that you don’t even enjoy it.
This is often the dynamic behind the “holiday blues” which so many people face each year; there’s just no way that the reality can match the fantasy, and disappointment abounds. That, plus the disconnect within ourselves by that time, all adds to the distress and unease we feel.
LEARNING TO BE PRESENT AND DELIBERATE
What if, the next time you face a Big Event or holiday, you make a promise to yourself to remain present and to deliberately experience the people, places, and things that surround you?
You don’t have to control it.
You don’t have to perform or please.
And you don’t have to expect.
How would this be different for you?
I’ll never forget back when my wife and I planned our wedding (read: she planned, I nodded yes a lot).
One of the most striking parts of the experience for me was hearing my wife say that she planned to enjoy her wedding day.
As a budding psychiatrist, still in the turmoil of medical school back then, the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind; nowadays, it never leaves it.
SOME THINGS ARE MEANT TO BE ENJOYED, NOT JUST SURVIVED
Can you imagine, this holiday season, letting yourself enjoy the ride?
If you are playing host to some of it, can you be true enough to yourself not to totally exhaust yourself and disconnect from yourself while preparing?
When we are exhausted and disconnected, we not only seldom enjoy the event itself, but our behaviors towards others is also less intimate and true. After all, if I’m totally stressed out and over-tired, I really won’t have anything left to actually connect with anyone.
And if I haven’t the energy to connect, then I may miss an important chance to re-connect with some important people in my life, and that includes myself.
FORGIVENESS AND EXPRESSION OF LOVE DURING THE HOLIDAYS
With some of that extra energy and connection with myself and with others, I may even be in a position to do what we hardly ever get to do in a deliberate way in our adult lives: forgive and express love.
When is the last time you told a sibling you loved them?
What about the last time you helped one of them (or someone else) understand that you forgive them, either in words or in deed?
Can you picture yourself giving them a big hug, maybe even a kiss (okay guys, stop laughing), and telling them that you love them and wish them good health and happiness? Life is short, and, unfortunately, the generations come and go so quickly. As the old Italian saying goes, “They grow up and we grow old.”
So many of our disconnects, both within ourselves, and within our families, begin with neglect of these relationships in addition to any actual affronts which may have occurred. This means that when we do not tend to these relationships, eventually bad feelings can seep into them even when nothing in particular is wrong, leaving us disconnected and estranged.
BEST WISHES TO YOU
Let me help you start the ball rolling by wishing you a loving, warm, healing, and connected holiday season!
Now, go out there and pass THAT on to your loved ones!
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.
(I want to remind you that I will be doing a book signing at the Borders Books in Clifton Park, N.Y. on January 22nd 2011 from 1-3pm for my new book, Don’t Get Married! (Unless You Understand A Few Things First). We’d love to see you there!)