Gentle Relief from Occasional Holiday Irritation
These are the days of newly returning light, when families of many faiths and cultures gather to celebrate in their own special ways.
And as wonderful as it is to connect with family during the holiday season, one of the things that's also pretty consistently part of these luminous gatherings is ...
irritating the sh*t out of each other.
Whether it's our beloved or our cousin we see once a year, who drives us up the wall. (Or both!)
Somehow we got the message that something's wrong if we don't enjoy every single thing that every single person ever says or does.
So, either we're the jerk if we don't like what others are doing or saying (or NOT doing or NOT saying) ... or they are.
Either way, somebody is wrong.
Sadly, these Cuckoo Culture beliefs create enormous pressure on everybody not to really be with ourselves and each other, to not make respectful room for what's really true for each of us.
No wonder it's so hard to stay happily connected in general. And no wonder the holidays in particular are so stressful.
To help bring some relief to those occasionally irritating holiday moments, here are four reminders that leave us all with a lot more room to human, while enjoying each other a lot more -- as is our birthright:
1) We're all a Culture of One.
Our bodies, minds, and spirits don't experience the same things the same way. So, what feels good to me may not feel good to you. It's wonderful when we do feel the same way, but we can't ever expect it as a given.
And we can't make each other "wrong" for having a different experience than we were hoping for.
(Well, we CAN. But it only pushes us farther apart. Which is pretty much the opposite of what we're going for.)
So, we need to be willing to feel that little bit of loss, in those moments of uncomfortable difference.
Paradoxically, doing this enables us to embrace and stay closer to each other. Just a little bit more vision in those moments becomes the bridge that transforms unwelcome differences into deeper presence, respect, acceptance, safety, trust, and intimacy.
Either way, we're going to experience some discomfort.
Let's choose the discomfort that brings us closer.
2) We judge what we don't enjoy and (believe we) can't get away from.
Would we need to judge anyone or anything if we could simply step away from having to experience it? ( Presuming it's not inherently disrespectful or harmful.)
What would it be like, to let ourselves simply, quietly leave the room (or excuse ourselves to the bathroom, if at table) when Uncle B. starts telling that blech story for the thousandth time?
What if we gave each other permission to decline to participate in what we don't enjoy, or what doesn't work for us?
What if that's what real love looks like: to truly want someone's thriving, and to respect and honor whatever that might look like for them?
3) Introverts and ambiverts need breaks. It's not a criticism, we just run out of "social energy."
When I was a kid, teen, and young adult visiting from college, my mother would regularly express some pain over how, after a few hours of one of my parents' wonderful parties, I would "disappear into my room." She'd mourn, "Why can't you be more social?"
I truly didn't know why. But as much as I loved the first few hours of those parties, it was literally intolerable for me to stay after a certain time. I had to go be alone, in the peace and quiet.
Then a few years ago, it hit me: I'm an amibvert! A noticable chunk of the time I'm an extrovert, but I also have a huge introvert side. So, a few hours into a party, I morph from an extrovert into an introvert. It's exactly like running out of gas, or draining a battery: at some point, my social energy is simply gone, and nothing but some alone/down time will replenish it.
What's more, if I push myself to be social after that point ... UGH! Nobody is going to enjoy having me around after that, because I become increasingly impatient, fussy, irritable, and annoying.
It's so much better for everyone, for me to manage my energy and my sociability, and to practice both good manners and good boundaries and let people know that, regretfully, it's time for me to go.
It makes a huge difference for my mother, to hear that this is what's going on for me. And, understanding this, it's not a big deal for her any more.
So, to all us introverts and ambiverts: let's practice healthy boundaries and recognize and honor and care well for our "social batteries," including letting our loved ones know what's going on, when we need to go recharge.
And if you love an introvert or ambivert, let your love be a verb and respect that this is how their energy systems work. Let us come and go as our energy flows.
We'll all have SO much better of a time.
4) Some of us are so annoying because we're starved for Life energy ... and we're desperately trying to get it from other people.
Many of us don't know how to nourish our own energy system through our own inner, direct connection with Life (or the Quantum Field, or God, or Source, or whatever you prefer to call it).
When we're taught to avoid, distract from, suppress, numb, deny, or otherwise disconnect from our own feelings and life-needs ...
instead of following the guidance of our feelings to learn how to abundantly meet our life-needs (augmented with the willing cooperation of others) ...
we cut ourselves off from that internally-sourced fountain. And that leaves us dependent on other people to get life-energy.
This is the essence of (co)dependence: we look outside ourselves to "steal" energy from others, instead of staying connected to our inner source, and then requesting -- rather than demanding or stealing -- energy contributions from others.
It's important for all of us to awaken to those times when we start reaching outside ourselves first, for what will fill our cups. Instead, we need to restore and sustain our primary relationship, which is between ourselves and Life Itself (God, Source, etc.)
And when it feels like someone else is trying to demand or steal our energy, we can practice having compassion for their very painful, unconscious dilemma. And then discern whether we have the energy and inspiration to willingly share a little of our own energy, OR realize what's most healthy and honest for us in that moment is to practice our healthy (even if awkward or unskilled) boundaries, to honor and preserve our own energy stores.
(For a more about healthy boundaries, click here.)
I hope these offer you some honest companionship and gentle relief from the almost inevitable irritations our holiday gatherings can bring, so you can enjoy the people you share the season with as much as possible.
Because it's these gifts of authentic, compassionate presence -- for ourselves and each other -- that bring more joy to the world.
Blessings on us all,