Recently a friend and I were talking about family and the drama that often accompanies the holidays. “I’m getting better at detaching,” she said, “but it’s hard not to feel responsible with family.” It’s true.
So much we want our loved ones and ourselves to feel happy during the holidays (and any time else, for that matter). And yet, when people disagree or are in bad moods, it’s difficult to not do everything in our power to “smooth things over” or try and cheer them up so our world looks like a Norman Rockwell painting. It’s equally difficult when we are the ones upset not to blame others for our anger and outrage.
For years, I’d become anxious anytime my dad was in a sullen mood or made, what I considered, judgmental remarks. I’d boil inside, wanting to tell him all the reasons he should be grateful and how lucky he was that we put up with him and loved him anyway! I was sure that if he just made some effort, we would all have a better time. It felt good to be so self-righteous!
Only it didn’t. It left me with a lot of anger, resentment, and lack of connection to this man I loved.
I am the only one whom I can ever change. I had to learn to “let it begin with me”. I had to learn to admit my disappointment, while acknowledging my deeper desire for that connection.
Instead of judging, I accepted he was doing the best he could. I also accepted I was doing the best I could. And if I needed to leave the room or disengage in order to keep my heart open to us both, I could do that. Unconditional love does not mean unconditional limits.
There’s a cost anytime we jump in to fix someone else’s emotions or justify our own. We take the risk of feeling anxious, resentful, or upset if things don’t work out the way we want or they don’t see things our way. There’s only one way to love the people that you are with, and that’s within limits – your limits.
Loving yourself means knowing your limits, what you can and cannot control and accepting that fact. It also means accepting other people’s limits and what they are and are not capable of at this time in their lives.
It means traveling the higher road and taking responsibility for your own anger, hurt, or other needs. It means validating yourself instead of seeking validation. It means acknowledging your deeper fears and hurts to yourself and someone you trust instead of spewing out accusations on someone else in the heat of the moment. And it will most certainly mean giving someone else the dignity of making their own choices whether you approve of them or not. And making your own.
When we are able to accept our own desire for love along with our limitations as human beings, we are better able to accept another’s. And then a miraculous thing begins to happen – we experience unconditional love right where we are, in the mix and jumble of being perfectly human.
This new year, love the people that you are with unconditionally, and love yourself enough to know your limits. Accepting both opens our hearts to divine love while still accepting our humanness.
Bring in 2018 with love for yourself and others, and watch for miracles!