The holiday season is a time to go home and be with family or friends, a journey that begins with the best of intentions. We look forward to all those parties and shared meals, all those gatherings where the room is abuzz with conversations as everyone catches up on news. We love the inside jokes and friendly teasing, the Christmas carols around the piano, that fuzzy warm feeling of closeness, of belonging, of care.
Well, not quite.
Despite our good intentions, what we imagine as wonderful family gatherings don't often meet up to our expectations. A moment comes along, perhaps several, an elusive, opaque moment of feeling disconnected from the ones you want to be most connected to.
A moment, perhaps, when imminent intimacy seems palpable and suddenly evaporates -- leaving you behind in a desert of isolation. How did what was meant to be a comment suddenly morph into a criticism that was not of your making? Or that joke that leaves you wondering if they are kidding or truth-telling. Or an offering you make somehow gets twisted into being taken as intrusive. You begin to question yourself, wondering if you are being too pushy or a pushover.
Then of course, there are the hot button moments when you grit your teeth as that certain someone has to take control of everything, or that other someone just can't keep quiet about their biases or stop bragging about their kids. Or you feel resentful that you have to walk on eggshells around someone because of their defensive or explosive nature. Or everyone is a wee bit stressed from our ridiculously-busy lives and therefore a wee bit touchy. Or maybe you are becoming part of a new family or circle of friends and don't quite know how to find your way in. In the midst of all these holiday hopes of feeling more connected to others, when disconnection happens instead, it feels even starker, more barren.
When we think of home, we often look for home outside ourselves. It sounds trite, but home really starts with yourself. When we are feeling misunderstood, angry, annoyed, or upset at how people are reacting or not reacting to you, or when we feel excluded, shut out, invisible, how do we find our way home to our better selves?
There is a kernel of truth that opens a path to home, a truth that is our shared humanity: Our shared need to love and be loved.
People's unhappiness can often be traced to a failure in being loved, a failure that creates disconnection from self and others and results in a feeling of isolation. Much of our personality and behavior choices can be traced back to how we were or were not loved.
When we are caught up in feelings of being shut out, we need to reframe this feeling. Rather than being an orphan in need of rescuing, we can include ourselves. How do you do that? When a person is being rude, or dismissive, overreacting, or unresponsive, remember that this person, like yourself, wants to be loved. And although you can't make someone love you, you do have the power to love another.
Asking yourself, "What can I love about this person?" gives you an intention to be in the moment, rather than brooding about how you feel left out. Asking this question engages you in an intention of discovery. Ultimately this discovery of what you can love is a gift for yourself because you feel and are your best when you are in a place of love. Love is home.
At home with yourself you can now pursue that feeling of home with others. Appreciation opens the door, light spills in and overrides the ultimately-petty differences that impede that feeling of closeness. Rather than thinking, "What is this person's problem?" see what you can appreciate about them. Appreciation is such a powerful gift we can give, and people are so hungry for it. A small appreciation holds the potential for quieting the most cantankerous bear. When you think about it, it takes so little, really, to find your way home to yourself and to others: a little self love, a little appreciation of others. Here we can find a place of mutual care and appreciation. Here we are finally home.
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