You’ve probably started the grocery shopping. Ordered the turkey and picked up the Brussels sprouts, which your sister will remind you, she hates. You’ve planned the table décor and invited the guests and soon you’ll vacuum the floor while praying that the kids don’t track wet and rotting leaves across it before guests arrive.
You’ll spend time getting excited for the festivities, perhaps. And feeling grateful for the people and food you’ll enjoy. Grateful for the goodness in your life.
Then, if you’re anything like me, you’ll start freaking just a bit at the thought of all that there is to do, and all the people and personalities that will bear witness while you work to do it all without splashing gravy on your only good blouse.
But this year, I’m aiming to replace the side of stress by surrendering to the joys and quirks and curiosities and gratitude that makes the holiday great, or at least memorable.
Just Let it Go
Let it Go. This mantra isn’t just for Disney movies anymore, it can work for you whenever you need to remember to lighten up, stop the fight, give up the worry, and smile when your mom looks at you and says “Honey, weren’t you going to wear some lipstick today?”
So often the stress and drama we experience during the holidays and other times of the year are self-created. Products of impossible, self-imposed expectations and mental musings about what others are thinking or doing or implying when all anybody really wants to know is when will dessert be served.
So, pour yourself a glass of red and follow these tips to to enjoy the holiday.
Go with the Flow
Now, there may be plenty of good reasons not to celebrate certain individuals – so don’t invite those people. But, if you have opted in by extending invitations to family members and friends or by accepting an invitation to join others, then be prepared to go with the flow.
This doesn’t mean nodding and laughing off crude jokes or endorsing the bad behavior of others, but it does mean not taking it personally. Thanksgiving Dinner is not the time to fix family issues that have persisted for decades.
If you chose to share the day with these people, then don’t judge them or the experience. Just observe it as though you are an archaeologist searching for insight as to how these little Homo Sapiens can cram so much food down in a single meal or as to why the centerpiece is so big that no one can see over it.
Just let go. Let go of all that the drama, the judgment, the criticism and choose peace, and kindness and gratitude.
Let Go Of…
1. Your opinion. You don’t need to have one. Engage with others. Be open to new ideas. Grateful for those who have come and the food and festive time you share. You don’t have to judge as good or bad or happy or difficult or easy.
You can simply observe, accept the moment as it is and get curious about the entire experience.
If your sister brings a casserole that isn’t all that, you need not offer an opinion. If your dad mentions he liked your hair better when you were 12, you can smile and move swiftly toward the red wine in the kitchen without suggesting his nose hair need plucking. You don’t need to weigh-in on every detail, just let go.
2. The timeline. If dinner isn’t ready right on time or your aunt shows up late or the football game runs long, let it go. If the guests want to rest a bit before dessert, let it go. Have a loose timeline in mind to keep on track, but be okay if things change. Life is dynamic and celebrations can be too.
3. Making everybody happy. You can’t, so don’t. Do what makes sense for you and your family. Do special things for others because you want to, not because you are obligated. And give your best effort. The let up and let go. Not everyone is going to love your sweet potatoes, or the bean casserole. Who cares? At the beginning of the day set the intention for a fun, peaceful, and loving holiday, then do what you do, in a way that aligns with that intention and your values. Let the rest of it go.
4. The pursuit of perfection. So here’s a shocker –you aren’t perfect and you wouldn’t have any friends if you were so get over it. Let go of the need to be right, best, perfect, and be real, honest, vulnerable, funny, joyful and quirky. Just be you. Be authentic and you’ll feel less stressed.
5. The behavior of others. How others act is not your responsibility nor is it your business unless they are hurting people in your presence. If tough stuff happens and others are being threatened and hurt, then get support and end that situation.
But for many families, the holidays just present a stage for familial weirdness and quirks to emerge. We can all be loving and kind and silly and stupid and downright inappropriate at times and often all of that stuff bubbles out when the people we shared our formative years with are all at the table.
But let go of how others should behave and how they should talk and what they should do and wear and eat and just be present for whatever emerges.
When we can release the stress-producing stories and expectations we are guaranteed to have a more fun, interesting and all-around peaceful celebration.