Deck the Halls, Not Your Mother

Keeping The Holidays Happy

I know it should be fun
But I think I should have packed my gun
       Billy Joel, "The Great Suburban Showdown"

Do you dread going home for the holidays? Is more than Jack Frost nipping at your nose?

Ram Dass says, “If you think you’re enlightened, try spending a week with your parents.” Making peace with our parents is, for most of us, our greatest challenge. Is there an alternative to fight, flight, or just shutting down? Do the histories of families, like nations, have to consist of repeated conflict and exile, or can there be reconciliation? Can we learn to get along without having to leave?

Here are sixteen tips for staying sane at the family visit. Heck, you might even enjoy it. The last gathering may have been frightful, but this one can still be delightful. In the Christmas spirit, we've made a list. Now check it twice. Here's what to remember not to do and what to not forget to do.

Sounds complicated? Healing decades of strained relations can take years, but it's worth it. And ultimately, all it takes is an open heart. Like water, love that flows cannot remain frozen, even in the coldest winter.

This holiday gathering, come prepared to enjoy it. Replace Christmas fear with Christmas cheer, and let it snow!

    S slow down
    A pay attention
    N hear needs
G go, go, go
T tell the truth
R require A accept
I ignore    
N be negative C connect before you correct
C criticize L laugh
H hold back A appreciate
    U understand
S love your self

G - go, go, go: first and foremost, slow down. A Chinese proverb says, "if you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow."

R - require: either you try to have the best relationship you can have with someone, or you try to make them be a certain way or give you what you want. You cannot do both.

I - ignore: when we rush in and push people to meet our expectations, we pay so much attention to what's wrong that we overlook how much is right.

N - be negative: we don't see the world as it is; we see it as we are. Staying on guard keeps us safe, but it also treats everyone like enemies.

C - criticize: you have a choice, says A Course in Miracles. You can be right, or you can be happy. Whether you're blaming others or shaming yourself, you're playing a losing game.

H - hold back: are you keeping score? As the saying goes, "if you can't forgive, dig two graves."

Ultimately, you love your family and your family loves you. It's the way humans naturally feel, says Harvey Jackins, unless something has gotten in the way. So how do you get past the past?

S - slow down: we live in a loving world. Be patient and the solution will find you. Wait and it will come.

A - pay attention: turn off the electronics. It’s called “media” because it mediates our experience. It gets in the middle, separating people.

N - hear needs: needs are why we do what we do. They are the key to you and your family understanding each other. Ask yourself, "why are they acting this way? What am I needing?" Here's a list.

T - tell the truth: when you can be vulnerable enough to share what you are feeling and needing, you pave the way for true compassion.

A - accept: when you start where people are at, you can actually get somewhere.

C - connect before you correct: "You don't learn nothin,' says Doug Elliott, "by telling' whatcha know." Listen to the last twelve seconds of this interview from Bowling for Columbine.

L - laugh: humor, like baking powder, brings opposites together, bubbling up joy. But avoid jibes. Ridicule, like gun powder, blows people apart.

A - appreciate: choose to see the good in people. Water the plants you want to grow.

U - understand: whatever happens, there are lessons to be learned. Take notes for next time.

S - love your self: above all, remember that everyone is always doing the best they can; no exceptions. And that includes YOU. Don't worry about loving others; when you love yourself, there are no others. That's what it means to "love others as yourself."

This holiday season, give yourself the only gift there is. Love isn't something you get from someone else. It's what we're all made of, so just be who you really are.

We're not held back by the love we didn't receive in the past
but by the love we're not giving in the present.

Marianne Williamson, Return to Love