My Dear Friend,
Have I told you lately that you’re magic? That your brilliant way of loving kindles a light that gets me through overcast days? Take 2018. This year, despite a dizzying news cycle dominated by disasters and the very worst of humanity, you managed to get out of bed nearly every day and meet life with its pile of responsibilities. You endured some tough losses, earned that true wisdom born of grief. You accompanied your kids through growing pains as well as the anxieties of a nation flush with guns, fear, and violence. You took them by the hand and reminded them of who they really are. You worked your marriage like a Stair Master stepper with no “off” button. You accepted what your younger self might have thought unacceptable, because your compassion for humanity’s propensity to fuck it all up has deepened over the years. You breathed through anxiety, you weathered major life changes, you advocated alongside someone nearly lost in the shuffle, you spoke your truth and--after all that--you even managed to show up for yoga.
Well, it’s almost over, 2018. You’re nearly at the finish line. There’s just one more thing. The holidays. I made a checklist just for you, because it’s hard to care for ourselves in the bustle of obligatory events, amid the dysfunctions of extended family. So just read it real quick. Maybe write down the ones that are most important and put them in your pocket. When your hand brushes that scrap of paper, just breathe deeply and remember your Holiday Self-Care Promises:
I will take time away from family. Especially if I’m an introvert, I’ll take time to re-charge my compassion and be gentle with my heart. Especially if I’m an extrovert, I’ll step away from the masses to pause, reflect, and go quiet. It’s good for me.
I’ll get outside. I’ll walk the dog, or invite someone I love to circle the block. Maybe I’ll venture into a path on the woods. It may feel colder than Michigan in January, but I’ll get outside for just a few moments, because walking outside revitalizes the body and mind.
I’ll return to my breath. Every time the doorbell rings, a timer dings, the phone pings, a child screams, I’ll pause ever so slightly and take a deep breath. Inhale, exhale, in, out. I’ll return to my breath, return to myself, and recover a shred of gratitude for the moment.
I’ll be mindful of alcohol and drug use. If I’m in recovery, I’ll do what I need to do to survive sober. If I’m not in recovery but drink/use more than I should, I’ll set limits for myself and find someone to hold me accountable. If someone in my family drinks or uses too much I’ll make a plan ahead of time for how to handle this tricky dynamic, taking time away or having difficult conversations.
I’ll be mindful of food, remembering my body feels best when I stick closer to whole foods cooked at home. I’ll sometimes say no to all the sugar and mindless snacking. I’ll enjoy the foods that mark special family traditions and share them with those I love.
I will faithfully employ healthy boundaries. When conversations veer into harmful patterns, when my mother or yours tries to triangulate, when grand-dad demands a hug or kiss from a reticent grand-daughter, or some racist-sexist-heterosexist-transphobic comment flies across the table, I will put my hand up and simply say, “Stop.” “No.” “Not today.”
I will honor my grief, even ritualize it. I will light a candle for the one who can’t be with us around the table anymore and say their name. I will speak my despair at what’s happening in the world when difficult topics crop up, and then I will release any need to convince others. I will help my children remember family stories of old, to know they are loved and safe, even in the pain of loss. I will let tears fall when grief surges through me like a storm, and I will grasp the hand beside me with gratitude.
I will move! I will walk, run, play, stretch, lift. I will dance with someone I love.
I will laugh! Preferably, with a small child.
I will conveniently lose my narratives. Misplace them where they cannot be found. The narratives I have about...Every. Single. Family. Member. About what’s wrong with them or their lives, about how they have wronged me, about the unstoppable patterns of old. When those old stories spring to mind, I will release them.
I’ll find a care partner. Someone who I can check in with when my in-laws are driving me insane, when I’m craving something I can’t have, or when I’m up to my armpits in grief. I’ll even ask them ahead of time if I can check in with them when things reach a frenzied pitch.
I will make room for wonder. I will lay down my chicken-scratch calculations about how everything will go, and welcome the mystery of what love makes possible. I will look for beauty. I will invoke compassion. I will enact grace (even if it’s just one time, I’ll make it glorious).
Well, dear friend, just know I’m in your corner. With all you’ve survived this year, I trust you will make it to 2019 in one piece. Just know I’m here if you need me. We’re in it together.
All my love,