Pulled from chapter 22
Never a Victim: Cultivate a Consciousness of Choice
It's hard to be a victim if you're standing firm in choice. It's hard to focus on what someone else or life itself is visiting upon you or withholding from you, if you're standing firm in choice. My pep talks about choice over time have come to be distilled to five basic points:
Let's look at the December holidays as an example of how people lose track of choice and cause themselves all kinds of stress in so doing. “I have to go to the office party,” “I'll be expected to host my in-laws again,” “We need to make this super special,” “I have to buy more princess outfits for Muffy.” You don't have to do any of those things; you may certainly choose to do them—or not.
If attendance at the party isn't or doesn't seem to be optional, then by all means, choose to go. Choose it because you value this job: it's worth it to you to attend the occasional required gathering. (You could just as well choose to quit your job, or to simply let your boss know you won't be attending and stay tuned for what happens next.) Choose to visit or host family members because you want to foster connection with these specific human beings, and this season looks like the best time to put that into action. (Do I need to say it's a valid option not to visit or host them?)
Remember you have choice, and choose consciously. So many people automatically go by duty and tradition to plan their holidays. If this is you, consider this: You get to define duty. You get to follow, toss out, or recreate tradition. If you want to continue to visit certain people during this time of year, that's a fine choice. But it is a choice: embrace it as such. You're someone who wants to do your duty, who wants to follow tradition. Maybe other things motivate you: you don't want to be disowned, or you don't want to deal with disappointing your family or having them be mad at you. Any number of factors may inform your choice. (These factors can be questioned and challenged; they can also simply be noted.)
All things considered, you're still in choice. Don't lose sight of this! It's an option to disappoint, or to anger, or even to be disowned. Do realistically note that you may equally disappoint or anger family members in your presence and participation! And if being disowned (or some less extreme family threat) is a land mine in your reality, then it probably represents a whole cluster of land mines that a whole lot more than the holidays could set off. You get to choose how and whether to let tricky or toxic issues inform your holiday choices.
If you choose to host or visit family—whatever your reasons—get 100 percent behind your choice and stop talking about everything that's a pain about it. Remind yourself that you actually want to be with family for the holidays. Become a master of extracting from the experience all there is to enjoy.
It may help to consider more deeply why you choose what you choose. How does it serve you to maintain good relations with those you work with? Can you best do that through sugar, alcohol, and tiresome conversation? What do you value or even love about being with family? What is it doing for you and yours to take a trip during vacation time in December? What's behind the choice? A very simple question to ask yourself is, What do I hope to get from this? A nice follow-up question would be, Is this the best way to get it?
If you're out of touch with the underlying aim or value, you may sabotage the very thing you're after. For example, let's say you want your kids to have grandparent time. If you focus on everything your parents or in-laws do that makes you crazy, the kids may get grandparent time, but they may also get a confusing experience of divided loyalties; they may wonder if it's really okay for them to cozy up to these people you seem to despise. ... Choose clearly and consciously, and get behind your choice by connecting to, speaking about, and interacting with what you love and appreciate about these grandparent figures.
When it's hard to get behind your choice, choose again. You can leave in the middle of a visit, or make a judicious note to self to do something else next year. But if you want to hold to your choice, in this instance or as a way of life, learn to pause to consider what supports you need in place to do that—to make the choice sustainable. It may even be a matter of making ongoing choices to support an important choice you've made. You might support a holiday choice by choosing to take excellent care of yourself while in someone else's home or while others are in yours: carve out alone time; eat in a way that doesn't throw you off or make you feel bad about yourself; tune in to your true yes/no on/off responses so you're not perpetually doing what you don't really want to do.
Emotional support may be important too. Since you could get thrown off despite your best clear choice-making, have someone in place you can call or pull aside so you can vent to a kind listener who will love and support you. When I need an ear, I go to someone who can compassionately hear whatever I'm feeling but won't treat me like a victim or support me in vilifying someone else. (This is very important to me.)
Taking such measures makes it possible for you to get 100 percent behind your choice by making sure your choice is humanly possible or sustainable. It also makes it possible for you to take full responsibility for your well-being during the holidays—victim no more. And why be a victim of the holidays? It's pretty absurd that as a culture we treat a time of vacation, sacred celebration, gift-giving, and downtime with loved ones as if it were a time of war.
Love & blessings, Jaya