It’s so weird some of the “persona” that my inner-voices take on when my writing style is basically of the expository kind. I thought “characters” talking to you in your head and dictating what you wrote were left to either schizophrenics or fiction writers or perhaps schizophrenic fiction writers. But once again I’m wrong because the minute I began typing the title for this post, the comedian Lewis Black entered my head. I don’t necessarily agree with him a lot of the time and he’s so rabid about most everything….but I could see the intelligence of my brain for picking Mr. Black to talk to me about dysfunctional holidays and how to recognize the “dys” (so you can take it out….)!
One really does have to almost go to the other side of extreme to reverberate back to the middle when pondering how to take the dys out of functional holidays. Like any good scientist would do, we first have to set-up our controls for what would represent a “functional” holiday in our own minds and what we would interpret as a dysfunctional holiday. Turns out, we all have varying degrees of tolerance, wants and needs for this one, so the first thing we have to do is know ourselves. This may take some time. In fact, you may even find yourself cycling through several years of holidays before you figure out what you consider sane and insane or even what you want to tolerate (albeit “if” you want to tolerate anything!). By the way, this is where getting older can have its advantages (another thing “we” never talk about) because when you’ve done the inner work what other people think about you becomes less and less important. Some people have even arrived at the pinnacle of sane thinking with the ability to think that “other people’s opinions of me are none of my business”.
So on that note, here are some tips that I’ve learned along the way:
1.) Either don’t drink, smoke or imbibe at all or go all the way into black out. Now that may seem a bit extreme for someone who has been sober for as many years as me to say but there’s really no half-way point here. Even a moderate drinker is going to find the alcohol’s magnifying effect in crazy situations. Keep your wits about you or sleep through it all.
2.) Repeat after me, “there is no they”. Take a moment or two everyday to really listen to the thoughts circling through your brain. You might be surprised to hear many sentences containing the word “they” in it in regards to “what will they think” or “what would they want”. In some cases, this can be good—even altruistic, but in many cases you’re carrying the weight of a judge and jury around in your head. Your brain is not a bus, unload the freeloading passengers of judgment and misconception.
3.) Eat your veggies. Seriously, eat probably the healthiest you would ever eat at this time of the year. Make sure you get plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains and protein. If you must have flour and sugar, do it in moderation. I’m one of those people who lost (or never had) the moderation button when it comes to flour and sugar so I don’t partake of either. The big secret is that my body feels so much better without them gumming up the passages. But then again I was the kind of flour and sugar eater that turned every bowl of cereal into a pool of sugar cement at the bottom. Pretty much, if I could have mainlined sugar….I would have.
4.) Go for a walk, get exercise. Whatever form of exercise is best for you, do it. Did you know if you looked at the clock before you walked out the door and walked 15 minutes and then returned home you would put in a 30 minute walk? Endorphins are your friend this time of year.
5.) Drink plenty of water. This has been told to me all of my life from my health conscious mother to my fighter pilot Dad. I always “knew” it was true, but very rarely followed through on making sure I got 8 glasses of water every day. Then in my young adult hood when I did a lot of spiritual and psychic exploring I learned that we exerted a lot of energy from that kind of work and how important it was to help your body, mind and soul assimilate what you had learned by drinking plenty of water. That got me into the habit of drinking water. Eh….whatever it takes, right?
6.) Get plenty of sleep. Maybe it’s because of how much energy I exert each day just living or maybe the sheer amount of activity I do is exhausting but whatever it is, I know that I need 7-9 hours of good sleep everyday for me to be at my optimum. If at all possible, and you’ve got some time off for the holidays, naps are so underrated. My father likes to say that the best nap lengths are either 20 minutes or an hour and 45 minutes. I’ve tried both and prefer the hour and 45 minute ones but I have been refreshed with just a 20 minute nap when that was all I could squeeze in. Throwing a lack of sleep into a holiday is like emptying a whole bottle of fire starter on to a grill. Get your sleep!
7.) Acceptance is the key to all our problems. It is. And I have battled and battled with what acceptance means to me for years and years. What helped me with the concept is that just because we are accepting life on life terms doesn’t mean we have to like it. You see I always confused the idea that if I accepted something or someone as they were then it meant that I liked or agreed with it or them. Not true. It really is about getting it that “what is, is”.
8.) Bring in some humor. Just this morning my mom and I were remembering a dysfunctional holiday that we shared several years ago and laughing in amazement about it. At the time, pretty much all of us who shared that weekend were in pain and it felt yucky but today after lot’s of growth it seems like the more absurdity that we can recognize about ourselves the more humorous it gets. You truly can’t make this stuff up. I always think of it as great material for my one-woman stand up comedy show that I may never have, but love to think about it anyway!
9.) Do something for someone else. Okay, okay, you better know me well enough to know that I certainly ain’t no Pollyanna!!! But, it has been my experience that when I get out of myself long enough to do something for someone else it ends up making me feel better. A good friend of ours lost one of her sister’s in a freak blood clot episode over Thanksgiving. We invited our friend and her husband over for dinner and games last night just to hang. We talked about the incident with her sister and how her family was doing and then proceeded to get really silly playing game after game of Dominoes making each other laugh. Helping someone else feel solid in today and creating a safe place for them to “be” however they feel is a nice thing to offer when we’re able.
10.) Bust out the walls. Not literally, well, unless of course busting out the walls was on your list of things to do over the holidays. The walls I’m talking about are the walls of marketing genius and media spin. I have to remember that one of my favorite movies starring Natalie Wood as a child actor about Santa Claus was made by marketers to bring awareness and customers to Macy’s Department Store. All the angles are covered to pull at our heart strings and sympathies. I love the movie, but there were more than a few years there when I had to distance myself from watching it because my expectations of myself and others during the holidays seemed to blow up into exponential disproportions!
Just a few ideas from your friend Lynn about how to be functional during the holidays. How about you? What have your holidays of yore been like and how do you take care of yourself?