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 families to feel happy during the holidays, 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 cheer them up so we can feel like a Christmas card or Norman Rockwell painting.
For years, I’d become anxious anytime my dad was in a sullen mood or made 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! It felt good to be right! Only, it left me with a lot of anger, resentment, and lack of connection with this man I claimed to love.
The past few months, I’ve learned to admit my disappointment, feel my wish for a loving connection, and accept that if he’s not going to change, I can. I can accept when he is afraid and closes his heart, and understand he’s doing the best he can. I can also accept that if I need to leave the room or disengage to keep my heart open, I can do that as well. Then I’m able to come back, and love us both right where we are.
There’s a cost anytime we jump in to fix someone else’s emotions. We take the risk of feeling anxious, resentful, or upset if things don’t work out the way we want them to. 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 able to do at this time in their lives. That may be seeing someone else’s point of view, taking the higher road, or being compassionate toward another’s struggle.
When we are able to accept our own desires along with our limitations as human beings, we are better able to accept other’s. And then a miraculously thing begins to happen – we’re able to love right where we are, in the mix and jumble of being perfectly human. And that is something we all can relate to.
This season love the people that you are with, and love yourself enough to know your limits. Accepting both opens our hearts to being human.