Rule One:†Protect yourself from mean people.
If going†home for the holidays means not being yourself, love yourself enough to not go home.
When push comes to shove, youĖthe real youĖis all that you really have. If you need to pretend to be someone else in order to feel welcome, donít go. Find a new place, a new tradition, a new way to be you because you are perfect just the way you are. If the people in that place you call home canít love you for the truth of who you are, then that place isnít your real home.
Home is a place where we are loved completely.
Home is a place where the love of others teaches us how and encourages us to love ourselves.
Home is a place that exists deep within us, and also far beyond us.
Home is a†safe place.
So, there it is. No more. Ever. Stop allowing people to be mean to you. I donít care if they were drunk. I donít care if they ďdidnít mean itĒ or if they were all stressed out because of the whateverthehell was going on that day. I donít care if youíre gay. I donít care if you donít eat meat on turkey day. I donít care if you donít want to pray the way they do, or if you do want to pray and they donít. I donít care. I donít care. I donít care.
And what I really want is for you to not care, too. Any questions?
Rule Two:†Ask for what you need.
If you want to decorate the tree, tell the people you live with that you want help decorating the tree. If they are unavailable to help, then decide if you want it bad enough to recruit a friend to help you, or to do it alone. If you donít, for the love of all things glittery, do not hold your decision against everyone else.
Just donít do it. Just admit that you donít have the time or energy or patience, and donít decorate the tree. And if the idea of not doing it is absolutely unbearable, then say no to something else and honor yourself.
Our needs are our responsibility.
Forgive me, if thatís old news to you but I promise that when everybody gets it, I will quit saying it. And until then, itís important enough to repeat.†Ask for what you need.
This might mean staying home instead of attending the third holiday event this week. It might mean buying green beans from the Chinese buffet on the way to your mother-in-lawís house, dumping them into a fancy baking dish, and reheating them before the big, serious family dinner because you dropped the ball on buying fresh ones before the stores closed Christmas Eve (a gift from my second marriage).
It might mean taking a nap.
What would the holidays be like if you spoke of your needs, simply and directly, and the people around you could just respond, simply and directly, with the truth about whether they can meet that need or not? What would it be like it everybody quit trying to be everything for everyone and you got to put yourself first on the list? What would happen if you didnít do what you didnít want to do?
Rule Three:†Give from a place of love (and never a wound).
Am I giving from a wound or from love? Asking this question invites me into a world of deeper exploration. Am I doing this because itís expected of me, or because Iíve done it in the past, or because I want to be accepted or loved? Am I trying to buy security with this yes, and if so, is my yes really going to result in the security I long for? Am I afraid of what I might lose if I donít say yes? Am I tempted to say yes because of guilt or shame, or because Iím afraid of disappointing others?
Rule Four: Release your expectations.
I once sent a woman dangerously close to the brink of insanity because I was on a sugar-free diet and didn’t want to eat either of the pies that she’d made for our fancy family dinner. I was nice about it, “No thank you,” but she wasn’t having it. She huffed and puffed and finally picked one for me. She actually set a piece pie down in front of me and said, “Well, just sit with it then.” Now, that was a shock and awe holiday moment.
For the record, I was fine. I’d long since stopped allowing her to be mean to me (see Rule One above) and didn’t allow her expectations of me (or anyone else) to be my concern. Whether it’s the way people behave, how they respond to your gifts, or how they split their time between time with you and the rest of their holiday plans, it’s not about you. Take a deep breathe and release your expectations because freedom is the greatest gift you can possible give yourself.
Rule Five: Cultivate magic of all kinds.
My children are with their father every Christmas Eve, that’s our tradition. They will come home Christmas day and we’ll do our thing. Sharing custody of your children during the holidays, and a million other things, can totally suck. It would be easy to be sad and feel robbed of a sacred family tradition. And while I am not going to try to say that it’s always easy to be without them, I truly believe that the suffering is optional.
Instead, I choose to make this time special for me. My wife and I are wrapping presents, watching football, and we’ll head to the theater later tonight before going to the midnight service at a friend’s church. Do I miss them? Yes, absolutely. But this is a different kind of sacred, a new kind of tradition.
There are a million ways to allow good to flow into your heart. Be nice to others. Smile at strangers. Put your favorite music on, crank it up loud, and dance your butt off. Volunteer. Make something delicious and take it to someone who might need a little pick me up. Call somebody you love just to tell them that you do. Go be with the earth for a while–take a hike, hug a tree (with permission, of course), pull weeds, drive with your windows cracked and smell the fresh air.
The key to holidays that do not suck (or a life that does not suck for that matter) is remembering that you are the key. You are not a prisoner. You are in control. This is your life. Live it.