For those of you who read my blog regularly I have no explanation for why I haven’t written a post in a long while. I just didn’t feel like it. That’s all. Some days…or months! are like that. We are all doing well, including Anna.
Thanksgiving in the US is tomorrow. Normally my family has a large gathering. This year it is not happening. I know this is the case for many others. Our plans have changed in order to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. We are also trying to be mindful of the impact this pandemic is having on many medical facilities. Given all that, what can we do to honor the reality of the changes this year while still celebrating the holiday?
I think it’s helpful to be aware of what you are feeling and why. This is not new to anyone who reads this blog. I frequently write about the importance of awareness: knowing what you are thinking as well as what you feel physically and emotionally. Stuffing our feelings inside does not taste nearly as good as the stuffing we shove inside a turkey! It might make the moment easier but in the long run you are setting yourself up for some kind of unhealthy leakage or explosion. I know this first hand 😉
So start by honoring your true experience but not letting it dominate you. You notice what you are thinking and feeling. You find the parts of your thinking that are based on made up stories or predictions i.e., “We’ll never have another family gathering!”, “Thanksgiving is ruined forever!”, “This pandemic is never going to end!” Those predictions could come true but we don’t know for certain. All we know right now is it is safest to limit our gatherings, our usual Thanksgiving traditions will need to be altered, and we are living in the midst of a pandemic. Keep your thoughts reigned in to what is true. The truth is painful enough for us. We certainly don’t do ourselves any good by adding the emotionally crushing predictions.
Next, consider what you are grateful for. When the pilgrims celebrated their first harvest celebration, they had already endured tremendous hardship, illness, and loss. Sometimes the less we have, the more grateful we can become. The little things begin to take on more meaning. Many of us have a roof over our head, food to eat, and technology that allows face to face communication. We can step back and be grateful for those. We can look around us, at nature, the sky, sun, moon and starts and marvel at their beauty. Take a moment, breathe as deeply and slowly as you can, and soak in the beauty…the gratefulness. Let this moment bathe you and nourish your soul. Carry it with you and share it with others.
As we approach Thanksgiving in the US, it’s a good reminder to shift our thoughts toward gratitude. Sometimes it seems as though there’s very little to be grateful for. If you’re reading this blog chances are good you have electricity, internet, a smart phone or a computer. Be thankful for them. It’s also likely you have a roof over your head, somewhere warm to sleep, and food to eat. If it’s hard for you to find things to be grateful for, start with these. We sometimes forget to be thankful for the basic necessities of life.
Watch the sunrise or sunset and notice the beauty it casts across the sky. Take pleasure in what nature has to offer you, even a weed poking though a crack in the cement. Observe the unique qualities in the people whose paths you cross. Look around you and find what you can be thankful for.
This is an exercise in seeing the positives in your life rather than focusing on the negatives. When we shift our attitude toward gratitude we open up space within to find contentment and joy. Try it 🙂
Here we are! Thanksgiving is tomorrow! You may be on your way to your Thanksgiving destination, preparing to travel, preparing your own home for the arrival of friends and family or already on the dysfunction train. Isn’t this exciting?! You are given the opportunity to practice a few skills this year. This is the first marathon you will be running over the next several weeks. Whether this is your inaugural run or you are a seasoned pro, be gentle with yourself. Do not expect perfection; it isn’t attainable.
You are ready to pay attention to what you are thinking and feeling. You will be noticing your sadness, hurt, anger, frustration and fear. You can also notice the good feelings, too. Some things will be pleasant. You are ready with the stance of seeking to understand the other person and experiencing compassion for him. A mind-set that can help with understanding and compassion is curiosity. Approach situations from a gentle position that asks the question, “Hmmm, what is going on here?”
You don’t need to come right out and ask the question aloud. You can simply observe. For years you have probably been sucked into some of the craziness going on around you without realizing what the heck was going on. This time, stop. Be aware of your own thoughts and emotions, then begin to observe the connections and disconnections, the snappy comments, the barbs. With the curiosity of a child piecing together an unknown world, begin to compassionately notice.
This is not permission to judge. I don’t mean that at all. Simply observe. Gently wonder about how Aunt Sally might be scared that you are choosing not to be married right now. What might be going on for your brother that he chooses to consistently drink excessively? You can gingerly step onto the ice of actually asking people your wonderings. You could begin going down an entirely new path for you and the people around you if you remain in that sweet spot of seeking to understand laced with compassion, staying away from judgment or trying to solve and fix the problem (previous post on this).
Big caution here: Not everyone likes to answer questions about themselves. They may find it intrusive. They might not want to be that vulnerable. Vulnerability probably contributes in some way to their pain. If so, just let it go and throttle back to simply observing without judgment. If you try to push someone into opening up, you could potentially start World War III. It is not your job to heal another, it is your job to be aware of yourself, to seek understanding through curiosity, to bring compassion. If doing your part sets the table for another to open up and allow you in to their pain, healing can happen but it can never be forced.
A second caution: If Aunt Sally does open up to you, that is trusted information. You will not be showing compassion if you go around telling others her story. If she opened up to you, then you must hold onto that information as you would a fragile treasure. It is her story to share, not yours.
I am hoping this Thanksgiving you take at least one step toward a relationally healthier you!
If you missed the first two posts on dysfunction and the holidays, here are the links: Dreading the Holidays and Understanding and Compassion