I used to be always in a rush to get it done, especially during the holidays.
I would entirely focus on helping with cooking and cleaning (omg, the damn dishes are endless with my family!) and getting everything just right. By the time the family would come over, I would be exhausted, and the socializing had not even started. If you are an introvert like me, you know how draining social atmospheres can be, primarily after you have worked so hard to get everything clean, set up, shopped for, marinated, decorated days before the holiday. The funny thing is, no one expected this of me. It was completely voluntary.
In a half daze of exhaustion and too much wine, the conversations I’d have would be lackluster if that, and after four hours, the family was gone, and the dirty dishes in the sink, smell of rosemary lingering in the air, and a few slices of pie remained. My time with the family would be fleeting, just like a good manicure after washing the dishes.
I cared more about the holiday show than actually spending time with the family. How messed up is that?
However, when I changed my perspective and thought, “This is the only time of year, I see these people, and maybe next year someone might not be here.” This thought pattern truly changed the way I approached my time with the family. I now spend less time in the kitchen (by voting for simpler meals instead of the traditional Thanksgiving meal spread) and more time asking questions to family members beyond the surface pleasantries.
And here’s the thing, even if I don’t get the same treatment or attention back, I have the internal satisfaction that I took full advantage of this moment with them. Remember, we can’t control others but we can control our behaviors and reactions. Maybe I learned something new; maybe I learned this person is struggling, and I could offer a listening ear. Or perhaps I heard the same story I have listened to for years, but I got to see the sparkle in Grandma’s eyes when she told it. I know that I won’t be able to see that sparkle in her eyes forever, so cherishing that moment is priceless.
When we stop and pause to enjoy the moment in front of us and the people around us, it’s incredible how much you actually start to learn about a person or even feel more compassionate, even if they drive you bat sh*t crazy. But most of all, I know that when I am with someone, and I am fully present, I won’t experience as much the guilt of the what-ifs when they are gone. This isn’t a sad thing; this is an uplifting concept because you are taking advantage of the now. You can remember the times you were fully present with that person with no regrets. And if we are sincere, most likely it’s not your last conversation with them, but no one knows that for sure.
When you lose someone, there are a plethora of emotions you will experience during the grieving process – sometimes, it’s stronger than others. Some of those feelings are the guilt of the coulda, woulda, shoulda – the guilt of not doing, not saying enough, not forgiving them, not telling them you love them, not listening to them, etc. Even if you aren’t very close to a family member, you will most likely experience some kind of guilt – “Why didn’t I call her more? Why didn’t I tell him how I feel? Why did I make every excuse not to spend time with this person?” The list goes on!
By accepting that everything is temporary, this won’t make losing a person any more comfortable. The focus here isn’t about everyone dying; it’s more of being present with your friends and family this holiday season as it if were your last with them. Why not put in the effort to love and appreciate that person now, rather than letting life teach you to love what you lost.
All I am saying is to be more present when someone is with you. Take this holiday season to step back when you are with your friends and family, and enjoy it for what it is not what it was. There are so many benefits to this approach – when you realize everything is fleeting, you appreciate it more. When you appreciate it more, you live more fully, and that is worth it.
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