Although both my parents have passed away, I vividly remember the experience of going home for the holidays. I loved my parents very much, and they shared amazing qualities: intelligence, talent, humor, joie de vivre, and a complete adoration for me, their little girl.
They were also highly opinionated, drank too much, and were nothing short of manic.
When my mom was up, my dad was down. When my dad was down, my mother was at her best. My childhood was an emotional seesaw, and I reached the point of nausea at least once a day. Each year after I'd left the nest, I worked hard to make my peace with their behavior so I could enjoy our next vacation together. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes--often--it didn't.
The positive feelings would start in September, and build in velocity until I walked through their door the week before Christmas. But before I could get a good aerobics class in, chant my spiritual mantra ("Please God, help me accept my family just the way they are!"), or read my favorite passage from Rumi ("There is a place beyond right and wrong. I'll meet you there -- after I tell you how I really feel!"), the agony of our family karma (the crap we're here to work through) would begin. Despite the fact that we loved each other, our personalities clashed like Drew Barrymore ram-rodding her roller derby opponents in Whip It.
We were like a volcano only pretending to lay dormant. By the first dinner (and sometimes sooner), irritation, misunderstanding, judgment, blame, and often times statements we'd live to regret began to spew from the Robins crater. Here are a few of the beliefs we had about one another that caused hurt feelings:
* I thought my mother shouldn't be a snob because it embarrassed me
* My mother thought I was too nice and should be tougher if I was going to make it in this world
* My mother thought my father was a horse's ass and shouldn't watch hours of football and bet on the games
* My father thought my mother shouldn't nag and simply ignored her complaints and demands, which infuriated her
* I thought my father should show his love for me more - we never did anything together besides an occasional game of tennis
* My father felt beaten down and believed he shouldn't have to try harder
* My mother judged my fathers professional choices and thought he should make more money
* My mother criticized my professional choices and thought I should go back to school
* I felt my mother should never have given up on her career when she had me and that it was a pathetic choice
* I found my mother anxious and unnerving and thought she should find more inner peace
* She found me tense and quick to snap and told me I should give up my spiritual path because it clearly wasn't working
* I didn't like the person I became when we were together and felt I should be able to handle the holidays better
Family crap, as I like to call it, permeated every holiday. We talked civilly, we talked not so civilly, eventually we yelled, then we screamed, often we cried, and after all that, we made up. It was fun to be together. It was confusing to be together. It was exhausting to be together. I'd leave, needing a vacation from the endless drama of my family karma.
If any of that sounds familiar--and if you're a typical family, it probably does, then I encourage you (humbly so) to buy my new book: Shovel It! Kick-Ass Advice To Turn Life's Crap Into The Peace And Happiness You Deserve. I devoted an entire chapter to the word SHOULD and my first Crap Shoveling Technique is called "FREEDOM FROM SHOULD". It will dissolve your "should's" in under 60 seconds and return you to the peace and happiness you deserve. Here's how it works:
- Identify what pissed you off. (Example: my mother commented that my hair was too short and it hurt my feelings)
- What was wrong with what happened? What would have been right?
- (Example: What would have been right would have been for my mother to tell me she thought I looked pretty)
- How did this make you feel?
- (Example: angry and like crap!)
- Take a moment to experience the energy in your body. What's going on?
- (Example: I feel really tense in my stomach)
- Take three deep breaths and let the energy release. Envision you are a dragon letting your fire drain. If it takes more than three exhalations, no worries.
- Now ask yourself, is there another way to see this situation that would make you feel more positive about it? Share/write down that new vision/perspective/point of view.
- (Example: My mother had a very critical mother too. My grandmother showed her love through negative comments. My mother is mirroring that. Which means it's not a put down but a slightly twisted way to say: I love you!)
- What might you do differently now that you see it that way?
- (Example: Thank my mother for caring enough about me to comment on my hair!)
- On a scale from one to ten (one is no peace, ten is Gandhi time) how do you feel now?
- (Example: Seven, which is better that the two I felt when I started this crap shoveling technique)
Now it's your turn. Get our your shovel (and a pad of paper) and start to dig!
May your holiday be blessed with the wonders of home, hearth and holiday cheer. Also the learning that is necessary to know how to see past personality differences to the love, agree to disagree, regardless of how passionate you feel about your position, and experience gratitude for the not so good times, knowing that they arise for your advancement.
If life has crapped all over you, BUY: Shovel It! Kiss Ass Advice To Turn Life's Crap Into The Peace And Happiness You Deserve
THE BEST CURRENT PRICE: AMAZON $10.17 -- I think your peace and happiness is worth that!
Visit my website at: http://www.kickassadvice.com
• Buy the book!
• Book me as a coach -- I have a pay by the minute model to help you successfully deal with life's crap! (email@example.com)
• Write to me at my personal advice column, Kick-Ass Advice for the Washington Times Communities section
• Your question and my answer might appear there or on my Kick-Ass blog for the Huff Post