At first mention of the holidays each year, my husband quips,”Oh boy, let the dysfunctional family follies begin!” He then inquires as to which “cast of characters” we will be seeing. What he is imagining is the predictable behavior of each family member and the interaction among us. It’s as if each member of the cast comes with his or her own script.
How we look at the situation will determine our experience. Of course we want to picture the best and rosiest of times- the ideal of a warm, loving, fun family celebration. After all the planning and work to make things special, it seems the relationships should also meet that mark. What usually occurs is less than perfection-because, well, we are all who we are, and we are all so different.
My husband’s comment reflects upon what his Quaker grandmother used to say, “Everyone is queer but thee and me- and thee is a little queer.” Meaning, each of us thinks we are the benchmark for being normal.
The challenging personalities all show up: The one who talks about themselves and doesn’t ask about you. The one who wants to control everyone else’s behavior. The one whose life is better than yours-always. The one with the subtle put downs. The one who interrupts and seeks attention. The one who is downright critical or nasty.
What makes for successfully navigating this mix? Remembering these few things:
- Other people are not here to fulfill our needs or meet our expectations. There is no guarantee they will treat us the way we want them to.
- Failure to accept this will generate feelings of frustration, resentment, or anger.
- Peace of mind comes with taking people as they are, not the way you think they should be.
Most of us see our disappointments as emanating from those around us. We can point a finger at the other person or situation that causes our bad feelings. It doesn’t occur to us to change our own thinking or behavior. We keep on approaching things the same way for better or worse. What might the others be thinking of us?
I’ve heard it said that happiness is an inside job, and that it is a decision made in advance. If we are responsible for our own good time, it would be a good idea to prepare for that just as we would our décor, menu or gifts.
- Expect what you can expect. That way you’ll not be disappointed. (Chuckle to yourself when you are proven right.)
- More so, look for evidence of what you want to see, not what you don’t want to see. Look for the good.
- When you find the good, express it. Let someone overhear something nice about them, or tell them directly. Watch what happens!
Heartwarming qualities reside in the same people: The one who cares deeply for family and tradition, The one who is eager to help, The one who is a role model for the kids, The one who has enthusiasm for life, or The one who dances best.
People are who they are. Who else could they be? Deciding ahead to look for and compliment the best in everyone might make the difference this year. After all, they may be a cast of “crazy characters”, but they are your cast of characters!