Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which as we all know, conjures up an array of emotion. Family time can be a mixed bag. If you are lucky enough to have family, you know about the usual drama associated with who is hosting and who is and isn’t coming.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. To make it even more special, I got married on a Thanksgiving weekend at the age of 21. We also celebrated Chanukah then as well because we were all together. We called it: ThanksChanukah.
This time, however, my family won’t all be together, the first time in my 63 years. My father recently passed. My nieces can’t come. And my sons decided to take separate family vacations.
I won’t tell you I wasn’t initially upset. I thought the family tradition would last forever, and to me nothing is more important than family. But I have learned to let things go. It may not be the way I would have scripted it, but it is the way it played out. My sisters and I are going to my Mom’s before the holiday and then I’m off to Puerto Rico with my son’s family for a brief vacation and then back again to see my mom. Still, imagine the interruption of 63 years of a beautiful family tradition.
But enough about me. I want to give a few tips for making the family holiday more pleasant.
First, is to stop stressing about what might have been and be grateful for the family and friends you have. Recognize how fortunate you are in the scheme of things. Gratitude is a game changer, more than words we utter around Thanksgiving. Take a moment and a breath and breathe in the gratitude for your family and friends, your health and all else for which you can be grateful.
Before leaving for the holiday gathering elsewhere or people come over to yours, make a list of the people or the situations that usually cause you stress. For example, what are the issues about who will eat what? Some people are vegan, non-dairy, gluten-free, nut-free, organic-only, and on and on. If you need to bring your own food, let people know, and if your guests have special requests, let them know they are free to bring some of their favorite special food items themselves. Where you can comfortably, accommodate them. It is less about the situation, then your reaction to it.
The same goes with a sibling or parent who tends to trigger you. You control how you let it affect you. Here is my tip for the holidays. It is called the R Factor.
Jack Canfield coined the phrase, E + R = O. Event plus Reaction equals Outcome. This means that the event may not be within your control but the reaction 100% is, and that determines the outcome. If you want a different outcome, focus on having a different reaction.
I invite everyone to make a list of their holiday triggers and a plan to deal with them before they have a chance to erupt. Knowing that your reaction will determine the outcome, set some boundaries for how to respond and how you let people get to you. It’ll be much easier if you work on yourself and your reactions before you get together. You have total control over that much. Like planning how much pumpkin or apple pie you’ll eat, plan how you’ll react to your sister or brother when they do X, Y or Z. Because we all know they will!
Another tip is keeping in mind that family members trigger us more than anyone else. This is because we are more similar than we think. Family member qualities are often the qualities we have disowned in ourselves and often don’t see. My sons use to hate that I planned everything months in advance. Yet both their wives reported that the boys plan everything in their family. The quality that triggered them in me was a quality they didn’t see in themselves.
Often in a family, one child sees a quality in a parent and makes an unconscious commitment to never be “that” way. Growing up they try to do everything to the contrary. Maybe the parent was lazy and never kept a job, so the child becomes an overachiever and a workaholic. They “disown” their lazy self and can’t imagine how they could ever be called lazy. At the same time another sibling becomes like the parent. That explains why two children in the same family can trigger each other so much. One child portrays the quality the other child has hidden from themselves and the world.
Because we have disowned qualities, the universe brings them into our lives as triggers to show what qualities we need to take back and own. This is a more complicated conversation than this blog can undertake but for today, look for the qualities that upset you in the other person. Then see when you have been that or could be that. Ask yourself what’s the gift in that quality for you?
For example, I had difficulty owning the quality lazy because I am an A-personality and uber athlete. But when I looked closer, I realized I too can be lazy whenever it isn’t associated with exercise. If I leave something in the house once I am in the car, I won’t go back. I love to binge TV shows. Both are forms of lazy, and for me, the gift of lazy is I get to rest, or give my body a break from always running. Sometimes the gift is that you became the opposite so the gift of lazy was also becoming a hardworking person.
It is a lot to take in but if you want more support you can always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Instagram @nancypickardlifecoach
For now, enjoy the holiday and lets your reactions keep all the outcomes calm.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,