If you’re anything like me, you may find yourself lashing out or making snide, biting remarks a little, or rolling your eyes into your brain a little more during the holidays and always a little more when you spend time with close friends and family. Family can be hard sometimes, but you know you love them most--that’s typically why it’s harder. Chosen family (like dear friends) is a little different… you likely didn’t grow up in the same house as your chosen family--part of why it’s easier to get along with them.
It’s so wildly important, however, to attempt to set ourselves up well in pursuit of depth and transformation prior to our time with close friends and family in order to cultivate our whole person and therefore show up more loving, more transformed, and more amiable.
We love these people, we want them to know it. I don’t think anyone ever feels as though they’ve had enough time with their loved ones when they’re on their deathbed. I know we could all work on being a little more present to the loved ones we have while we’re here.
A small way to gauge if you’re in a better place, or if you’re pursuing higher ground is watching your responses. I live with a goal of whole-person responses in my life. Is this starting to sound a little too granola for some? Bear with me. It’s more logical than it sounds. In Western culture we’re used to compartmentalizing our different portions or sectors of life: spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, etc. When we’re talking about the whole-person, we’re talking about all of these different sections of life. We’re also talking about the good and the bad of all your experiences: this means both humility and courage. I know you’ve been humbled by experiences in your life--you bring those with you so that ego can’t run amok. I know you’ve had wins and have been praised for other things too, we bring those with us so that we don’t live out of a less-than-dirt mentality either. We bring our strengths and non-defensively admit to our faults or shortcomings, because in all reality, we’re looking into the face of a human (and all humans experience these things AND we all need grace).
It’s easy to walk into your Aunt Ellen’s house with your emotional hand on your holstered emotional gun, but it’s whole-person posture to leave the past where it lay, in all ingenuity, and hope for a good encounter with a human that you hold deep in your heart.
And so, start a habit of taking captive of what comes out of your mouth; gauge your defense levels within yourself (and get used to pausing and taking a deep breath before any response); attempt to in-the-moment inform anything that comes out of your mouth with a heavy-handed siphoning of your past experiences, where you are now, and all the different sections of your life. If you know you fly off the handle when politics is mentioned, maybe go into the event knowing that when someone mentions politics, you’ll need a deep breath and to bring the same grace, level-headedness, and calm to the conversation as if you were talking about a friend’s newborn baby. Also, have grace. Have grace for the humans you’re talking with and you’re sharing space with, they’re just trying to figure out this human thing we’re all doing. They may act like they’ve got it all figured out--but none of us really do. Hold space.
Some really great ways to pursue the self-awareness and in-the-moment mindfulness it takes to present your whole-person in tricky situations are contemplative exercises like: meditation, gratitude practices, prayer practices like breath prayer or centering prayer, yoga, exercise, and eating well. Take care of yourself too. Self-care helps get rid of our harsh and rugged edges so that when someone rubs up against us, it doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s hurting us. We can take things a little more realistically without our own loaded baggage of physical ailments or emotional complexes.
What do you do to help show up to family events as your best self?
What would you want to read more about whole-person responses?