I come from a large Italian family. Holidays were mayhem – good mayhem. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents came from everywhere. We got to sleep on the floor to let our guests take our beds. There were dishes of every kind of food everywhere – foiled-covered treasures that were the specialties of whomever arrived. The driveway was filled with cars. The lights in the house were always on. The house smelled of amazing pasta, candles, wine and baked desserts. There was always someone in the bathroom when you needed to go. Ah… the holidays.
I love the “frenetic-ness” of the holidays. The several different conversations going on all at once, getting shooed out of the kitchen to get food on the table, the singing around the piano, the decorating of the table and the house… it just brings up the greatest of feelings. There is something magical about having company over and what it can do for us.
I talk to many, many people each year in my role as a speaker. Holidays and families frequently come up as discussion topics because I generally allude to something about my big, loud Italian family in all of my programs (because they always have some wisdom or inspirational gem to share). I frequently hear that holidays and families can be challenging and disappointing. Forced to be in the space of a sibling or relative you don’t agree with (politics, religion, food, clothing, jobs, school, tattoos….) can test your patience and make you wonder why you came to visit. Bring in years of resentment, disagreements or whatever life’s challenges are playing in our heads and we are bound to get caught in some (negative) holiday mayhem.
I have learned that it is up to each of us to shift the negative to positive by better preparing how to approach and show up to the holidays. Remember, life just sends us information (opinionated family members, delayed flights, dry turkey, weird gifts, bad weather) – we choose how to respond to it – what effect it can have on us and how we feel about it. To offer some ways to be ready for the family holidays, I thought I would offer three “survive the holidays” mantras:
- “Either way I win.” If you can’t stand someone or something, in very short time, the endurance test will be over – you can get back to your normal and sane life. Or, you love and miss those you are spending the holidays with; your time with them is wonderful, heartwarming and a good thing – you can be more present and treasure the moments. Either way you win.
- “Life is great.” Commit to seeing the good in everything. When others want to talk trash about someone (seems to be something families do at holidays), offer a kind word or abstain from the bashing. When others are negative, be positive and optimistic. Not only will you change your internal energy and you’ll enjoy things more, but you get them wondering what could make you so happy (something else for them to complain about when you leave the room)…
- “Celebrate! is the word.” Some people like to use affirmations or mantras to focus their attention on things that matter. Your word is “Celebrate.” See something to celebrate in all you encounter. Celebrate your favorite food. Celebrate a special someone. Celebrate your favorite music. Celebrate spending only 2 hours with your aggravating and opinionated uncle. There is so much to celebrate at a holiday – focus on these.
As you see that these bring you safely and sanely through the holidays, perhaps they will serve you outside of holidays. Really each one is a reminder that we create our happiness in the moments of our lives – whether they are littered with family and guests or alone on a commute to work. We choose. Choose to celebrate. Choose to be optimistic. Choose to let people be who they are and accept and appreciate them as they are. There is always more right than wrong with your life – even at the holidays. Focus on the right, particularly when they include family…
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season. May you be calm, sane, happy, optimistic and committed to celebration.