The holidays are filled with memories, joy and a sense of wonder that is so special to that time of year. I’ve always loved the holidays, but since I’ve been on my own personal development journey it’s looked a little different. It’s as if now that I’m awake I’m seeing clearly and learning a lot.
Being around family is when our initial programming is heightened. Our triggers are more sensitive and a good amount of people notice a higher level of resting anxiety.
I want to share my experience for a few reasons;
First, I think most of us weren’t taught how important it is to take stock of and understand our internal world. This leaves us feeling dissatisfied, and following patterns that can be destructive.
Second, most of us weren’t taught that we need to take care of ourselves before others or at all. There might be some messages about health that were received, but how to take care of our mental health wasn’t openly discussed for most.
Third, getting to know yourself can be a lonely journey, so just in case I’m not alone, maybe my experience can help someone understand a little.
When COVID hit my husband was offered a job in Florida. We were living in Chicago before and the idea of living somewhere warm always excited me so we jumped on the opportunity.
Some could argue good timing, some could argue bad. Regardless, we were now living further away from our families than we have before. With the distance we learned a lot about ourselves. My husband and I both noticed old patterns that kept us stuck that we repeated when we were around our families.
With this new distance we felt a strong urge to call more and still be a participating member within the family dynamic. My coaching journey prepared me for a lot, and I noticed a lot. But when it comes to your internal programming, there is so much hidden in the subconscious.
It has now been 2 holiday seasons since I moved away and this past holiday season I learned the most.
I’m blessed to have a big family. They are a crazy, passionate, fun and caring group. We like to refer to our holidays as organized chaos. With so many people running around trying to get everything together it can be overwhelming.
It never used to overwhelm me because I grew up with it. I recognized it was a lot of stimulation, but it fed the ADHD in me and kept me entertained. As the years went on and we became adults our personalities formed.
Old disputes were never settled and certain people like to stir the pot. I’m pretty sure every family has those people. It always makes me curious about what they were craving within that interaction, but that is not how we communicate in my family.
As I grew up and noticed how my amazing family was evolving I adopted a role of peacekeeper and protector. I would stand up for the cousins who wouldn’t stand up for themselves or tried to disengage people within gossip.
This most recent Thanksgiving was the first where the whole gang was back together since COVID. My system wasn’t as regulated to the chaos. I was overwhelmed with all the stimuli. Certain events transpired and I found myself in a challenging situation.
I didn’t understand the context of the situation at the moment, but I was put in a situation where I had to lie to someone I love. The following day my family went ice skating and as we started the cousin I lied to called me out.
It’s moments like these that I’m grateful for. She told me my lie hurt her feelings, and that really sucked. But she loved me enough to confront me about how my actions hurt her. It didn’t feel good, but it did show me she cares enough about our relationship to talk with me about my actions.
We skated and talked for an hour and I think I’ve thanked her so many times she might be annoyed with me. But during the day I found myself observing certain people, people pleasing and approval seeking. I noticed people falling into old patterns and making hurtful jokes, but hey they were funny……does that make them ok?
The problem was I was observing the wrong thing. I was looking out instead of looking in. I actually didn’t have a great idea of how I was feeling or where I was. And because of that I operated on autopilot and lied to someone I love which ended up hurting them.
It was the wake up call I needed to have the Christmas experience that I did.
Again my family is very big so we celebrate our family Christmas the weekend before actually christmas. Living in Florida, my husband and I decided to work from our parents house for the week instead of flying back and forth.
I don’t know if any of you have moved back in with your parents after living on your own, but it is DIFFERENT!!! I’m grateful that my parents are completely awesome and mostly let me do my own thing.
However, thanks to my cousin for expressing herself I received the message from thanksgiving and was prepared to observe internally. Throughout the week there are a few things I noticed;
I create most of the pressure I feel based on my programming
My parents aren’t the problem, the unspoken message I’m attaching to them is the problem
I am responsible for my experience and need to communicate my boundaries more effectively
Throughout the week I noticed I felt rushed, anxious and guilty for working. My parents knew I had to work, at no point did they make any subtle comments about time. Actually my Dad was working and my mom was busy planning for Christmas. Even if I had time, they weren’t available, but yet I still felt the angst of not spending time with them.
When I slowed down and listened, I learned why. I had been telling myself a story that because I live further away now my parents really miss having time with me and I miss having time with them. So it doesn’t matter that I’m working, when I have any spare time I need to try and spend it with them. They didn’t tell me that, I created that story and I created my own emotional experience.
I found myself feeling insecure and fearing judgment from my parents because I was following my EST schedule which in CT meant waking up at 3AM to get my workout in and going to bed by 8:30PM…..it was crazy.
I heard them say surprising comments, but that was all it was. Anything more I interpreted from a space of defense. Clearly a familiar space from my initial programming.
Finally on Christmas Eve my mom had planned to have my in-laws and my brothers over for a big family Christmas celebration. My mom is a planner and perfectionist and this occasion was no different. She spent all week getting out the right dining set, planning the menu and shopping for the necessary foods.
She asked me if I’d be willing to help with the vegetable dishes and I was happy to. However, on Christmas day my internal balance was less than optimal. Because of the internal pressure I had been putting on myself I was depleted.
So Christmas Eve rolls around and instead of enjoying the day I was put to work. I kept feeling the urge to cry so I went upstairs and did an inner child healing meditation. This helped me understand what was going on. I felt used and invisible.
There was nothing my mom or dad did on that day to create that, they expressed nothing but appreciation. But I had depleted myself, I had agreed to take on responsibilities without reflecting on my internal space.
WHAT I DID RIGHT + LEARNED
The main takeaway I had from this Holiday season is how much my internal programming is driven to please others over myself. Subconsciously I found myself agreeing to things and adding pressure to myself to make people I care about happy.
Along my journey I have learned a lot. I don’t judge or bully myself because I was never taught to observe my inner world. But all I can do is continue to learn and grow.
So let me touch on the highlights of what I did right this year:
I stuck to my morning routine despite the crazy hours which helps me feel balanced
I meditated more than I normally do
I was more observant of my inner world and took time when I felt challenging emotions
I had good conversations with both my parents about where I’m at in my process
I took more breaks within holiday celebrations to not get overwhelmed
I’m proud of myself for all the actions above. And overall I’d say I had a good holiday, but the lessons are what inspire me. What I learned was;
Self care at home can’t be a check box→ I meditated more because I knew I’d be more triggered, but I didn’t quite get it to be a habitually cued response. The truth is I needed more than I even did.
My parents communication currently is loving and accepting, it’s my conditioning that created stick emotional situations for me
I put pressure on myself to be the daughter I know they want me to be, instead of just being who I am
I need to strengthen my acceptance of myself and not be afraid that the people I care most about won’t love me. They’ve given me no reason to believe that.
Personal growth isn’t perfect, it’s actually the opposite…..it’s messy. But how I show up is my choice. I’m grateful to have such a loving and accepting family. My journey this holiday season just shows me how much I’ve grown and how much I still have to grow.
I hope my story can help enhance the connection you can feel at the holidays or at the very least minimize the anxiety we can get around our family. The main takeaway I hope you receive is that a majority of my challenge at home all came from within me. It’s my conditioning that created the narrative, and it’s my responsibility to work through that.