While we all might desire the kind of holiday perfection we see in a TV movie or all over Pinterest, we will inevitably fall short. We live in the real world, after all, not in the movies or someone’s whitewashed home-crafting highlight reel.
It can be even harder to make holiday magic when you know you have a truly dysfunctional family. We turned to a few of our experts to find out how you can enjoy your holidays without letting the humbugs ruin your plans.
Ask the experts
“Holidays are tough,” says Connie Podesta, author of Life Would Be Easy If It Weren’t For Other People. “You’ve got high expectations, childhood memories we either want to duplicate or totally forget. And we have family members that literally drive us crazy, all smashed together at a table eating lots of carbs and sugar. It’s a recipe for disaster.”
And Pat Pearson, clinical psychotherapist and author of Stop Self-Sabotage, says it’s important to remember that, come holiday time, no one has changed. People on the whole stay who they are. So, what do you do?
1. Don’t expect to heal old wounds
Don’t use holidays as a time or place to repair old childhood wounds, Connie suggests. With difficult family, keep conversation simple. Don’t start a debate or get drawn into their drama. If you can’t answer without wanting to lash out, then just excuse yourself from the conversation and don’t come back. Don’t apologize, defend yourself or make excuses. Just hang near the people you like and that like you. Also, don’t forget to breathe.
“No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Robin Williams
Dead Poets Society is one of my favorite movies. I love all of its messages …
Seize the day.
Constantly look at things in a different way.
Find your own voice.
It’s not easy to find your own voice–especially on a stage. Now keeping journals? That’s easy. My thoughts flood out on paper and it’s how I think and process. (Ever since I got married I journal a lot less because my husband is now my journal–poor soul.) Keeping a journal is such freedom. Blank pages. Space to write and think. And no one judges what you have to say or how well you write it. Writing for a big audience is an entirely different story. People aren’t always kind in the comments section, and as much as I can pull up my big girl panties, I can’t always let go of what people think. Even though it can be difficult to write the truth and serve it up for public consumption, I feel compelled.
I know our stories can change the world.
Lately, I’ve received a lot of kind emails from strangers about my stories. Strangers thanking me for writing openly about finding my birth mom or overcoming my battle with my weight. Recently a woman said my story about seeking counseling in my twenties to overcome depression led her to seek professional help so can have a chance at a happy life. I felt so grateful to read that email. To know we can even help one person is the greatest gift. Helping just one person makes the vulnerability of writing and sharing our stories so worth it …
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ― Brene Brown
Here are some of my latest stories . . .
Make your life extraordinary.