How to have the holiday you want: Part 2 ~ Practice your Boundaries

This is the second part of a two-part series about having the holiday you desire. You can read Part 1 here.


I’d like to suggest that this holiday can contain way more of what you love and less of what you loathe… and that you already have the power to make it so.

Step 3: Practice your Boundaries

One of the most powerful holiday-wreckers is the crazy/harmful stuff that some people in our lives believe they are allowed to say to us. {It’s not you… it’s them.}

Let’s imagine that you say no to an invitation. You’re feeling tired, or busy, or you’d like to spend more time with your family… or you know that what’s best for you is opting out of the toxic dynamics of a particular group of humans. Try this: “We won’t be joining you but thanks for thinking of us.” That is a complete sentence; both gracious and true. No further explanation is required. If you are not a person who has said no in the past, you’ll probably feel a bit guilty. That’s okay. The other person might pressure you into attending by saying something like, “You must come! It won’t be the same without you” to which you could simply smile and say, “Thank you.”

It’s true. People won’t like it. They might kick up a fuss. They might talk to their sisters or your sisters and speculate about the reasons why you’ve declined the invitation. The truth is that people who like to gossip were already gossiping about you… even when you went to that annual party that you dreaded… annually. What they think about you is not your business. Make a decision to stay in your own business where it’s calm… or whatever feeling you want to have.

Recently, a number of women have told me that they dread holiday gatherings because someone in their family feels entitled to pass loud, public judgment on their weight, appearance, relationship or job. Within the nuclear or extended family, this kind of “for your own good” talk may have become normalized and seem acceptable. But you get to decide what is acceptable for you. It can be incredibly challenging to speak up when this behaviour has been going on for years/decades but perhaps you are developing strength and skills that you didn’t have in the past.

Coach Susan Hyatt recommends using the line, “Why would you say something like that to me?” This puts the onus back on the person to explain themselves which they probably won’t be able to do. I also like a slight variation on this question: “Why do you feel/believe that you can say something like that to me?”

Of course, there’s a possibility that the person won’t get it… that they won’t understand how their words are offensive or hurtful to you OR they believe that you need to hear them for the good of your health/relationship/career. It’s time for you to try something more like, “I can’t allow you to say that to me anymore.” Be specific about what you don’t want them to say and tell them what will happen if they violate this boundary. You don’t have to tell them how their words makes you feel unless you want to.

Your inner lizard might be acting up like crazy right now… telling you that there’s no way you can stand up for yourself like that… that you’re not allowed… that it will make other people uncomfortable. These feelings are completely understandable and yes, you could absolutely choose to have this boundary conversation in private. You are the person who knows what is best for you. I have observed, however, that when you draw a boundary at a family gathering, other family members also learn what is and what is not okay for you. They might even learn how to do this for themselves.

However you move forward, please take action on behalf of yourself. Do for your own glorious self what you would done for a friend years ago. This person with his/her judgmental comments has probably been making you feel uncomfortable (and possibly in front of others) for a long time now. Isn’t it time to stop being polite?

So there it is.
1. How do you want to FEEL this holiday season?
2. Think about what specific activities, events and people would help you feel that way.
3. Draw boundaries with people who are disrespectful and unkind to you. It’s time.

I’m wishing you a very happy holiday filled with more of what lights you up.
 


This post was first published as The Sunday Reader. If you’d like to receive these posts directly in your mailbox, every two weeks or so, you can subscribe here. I’d love for you to share this post with your tender-hearted, like-minded friends.
 

How to have the holiday you want: Part 1

Most of us experience a great deal of pressure to make the holidays AMAZING. And through a sort of collective amnesia, we also forget all the ways in which past holidays have been challenging, frustrating or even disappointing.

I’d like to suggest that this holiday can contain way more of what you love and less of what you loathe… and that you already have the power to make it so.

Step 1: Desired Feelings
Start by asking yourself, “How do I want to FEEL this holiday season?”
*Note: I learned this question from Danielle LaPorte’s work.

When I asked myself this question, I decided that want to feel:
* Peaceful
* Joyful
* Connection (to others and myself)

Step 2: Getting Specific
Once you’ve chosen HOW you want to feel, think about what specific activities, events and people would help you feel that way. In this step, we are employing our powers of discernment to choose both what we’d like to do and what we don’t want to do. We are choosing wisely.

Under each of your desired holiday feelings, make a list of specific things to do and NOT do. Note: You may want to include small turtle steps you’ll need to take to make an item on your list possible.

Here’s my list: {Note: DP is my partner.}

PEACEFUL:
* Create spaciousness. Not too many things in any one day.
* A cathedral of time on my own to dream about projects including my podcast
* No devices in our bedroom at night
* More quiet in the house + less music, television, podcasts that don’t feel special/meaningful
* 8 hours of sleep + early to bed
* No alarm clocks
* Fewer distractions: less email and social media
* No coaching or structured work during this three-week holiday
* Gift giving: only with DP and on a very small level
* Living this holiday entirely within our financial means
* At holiday meals, I’d like to be nicely full but not stuffed

JOYFUL:
* Loads of time with DP
* Talk to family and friends via phone/Skype/chat
* Sit by the fire (Learn how to use our wood stove + get a temperature gauge)
* Walks down to the Point in Blue Rocks
* Read
* Take photographs
* Read out loud to DP at night (Start with Harry Potter series)
* Have a Christmas tree in Nova Scotia
* Put up Christmas decorations in Nova Scotia + in our apartment in Japan
* Make a yummy meal on Christmas Day
* Watch films that make me happy (Family Stone; Arrival; Guardians of the Galaxy; About Time; La La Land; Moana; Salmon Fishing in the Yemen; Star Wars + Star Trek films)
* Christmas music in moderation (one member of my family enjoys it more than the other): Simply Christmas by Leslie Odom Jr. and White Christmas by Bing Crosby

CONNECTION (Others + Self):
* Give + receive love
* Social time with people we really enjoy
* Meet some interesting new people
* No to social obligations if we are tired or if they feel like work (Listen to my body)
* Christmas cards are completely optional
* Less time online
* Write in my journal

Our Christmas Rituals:
Last week, DP and I had a conversation over breakfast about the kind of Christmas rituals we’d like to observe and create this year. We decided that we’d like to make a traditional Christmas dinner which we’ve never done. We’ll spend Christmas and New Year in Nova Scotia where we have a large, sunny kitchen and an OVEN. {This is not the case in Japan.} In choosing our menu, we talked about the kinds of dishes our mothers prepared for Christmas dinner and, in the next few days, I’ll contact our moms and ask them for recipes so that we can make the most authentic versions of those dishes. When we get to Nova Scotia, we’ll buy a Christmas tree and decorate it ~ another thing we’ve never done. We decided to have our small gift exchange on Christmas morning, followed by a late pancake breakfast which will leave us the whole afternoon to make Christmas dinner at a leisurely, low-stress pace. We’ll attend a neighbour’s party on Christmas Eve and, on Boxing Day, we’ll go to the cinema in Bridgewater. On January 1st, we’ll have Chinese take-out which is a tradition from my father’s extended family. I actually started a Google doc to keep track of our plans and the preliminary steps we need to take before we can create those rituals.
 


Join me tomorrow for Part 2 of How to have the holiday you want.

This was first published as The Sunday Reader. If you’d like to receive these posts directly in your mailbox, every two weeks or so, you can subscribe here.

I’d love for you to share this post with your tender-hearted, like-minded friends.
 

Befriend Yourself

When planning my gap year for grown-ups, I made a conscious decision to put myself in the way of as much beauty as possible. Paris. Florence. London. Edinburgh. Museums + galleries. Epic walks along historic rivers. Plays + play. Live music. Talks by writers. The luxury of time to write and think and create.

The thing I could not have predicted is how very much I’m also putting myself in the way of new challenges. And how much I’m growing.

As I shared in our Sunday Reader a month ago, I’m an anxious sort of bear. Regardless of how together I seem from the outside, it takes a lot of effort and courage for me to travel on my own, to learn new neighbourhoods, to navigate the metro and to fly solo.
Please know that I’m not complaining. I signed up for this and it is mostly glorious… but some of it is not. Actually, that seems like a pretty good description of life. Mostly glorious. Sometimes not.

Yesterday was a bit of a day, travel-wise. I flew from Charles de Gaulle in Paris to London Heathrow (neither of which are famously wonderful transportation hubs) and everywhere there was a line, it was long and filled with really angry travellers. At CDG, the wait at Customs was epic but I knew it would be so I had left myself lots of time. The people around me, however, were furious. The woman directly behind me was in a terrible hurry and, every time we took a step forward, she bumped into me with her suitcase. A man at the front of the line yelled at an airport employee who took a traveller in a wheelchair before him. I felt overwhelmed but there was nothing I could do. As I peeled off my sweater, I realized that I was starting to panic even though I knew I had lots of time to make my flight.

The first thing I did was to breathe. {Sometimes we forget.} I inhaled deeply through my nose and held that breath for about three seconds. Then I exhaled slowly through my mouth and relaxed my neck and shoulders. I breathed deeply, in this way, for a few minutes. Then I found a spot on the floor about ten feet away from me and just rested my gaze there. Gently. I continued to breathe and emptied my mind as much as I could. Of course, random thoughts popped up, and the sounds of Charles de Gaulle intruded from time, but I just let the thoughts and noises come and then go and I went on breathing. I meditated in the best way I could in the middle of the line at Customs.

After ten minutes, I felt calm. I was able to think more kindly about this woman behind me who might be feeling panicked about missing a flight and the man who lost his cool at the front of the line. It’s not like I gave them a hug or anything that dramatic, I just changed the way I was thinking. A few minutes later, I noticed that the woman behind me had stopped bumping into me.

I shit you not. It was magic.

By befriending myself first and then extending that circle of calm, I was able to make a situation that felt tough and jagged a bit better. Softer. Adopting an attitude of love and patience created more space in that line. {I love the word “spaciousness.”} It certainly felt like magic to me.

How could you befriend yourself today to create a little magic for yourself and the people in your life?
How would it feel to speak to yourself a little more gently? The next time you feel tempted to criticize yourself (I’m so stupid! | I never learn | How could I have forgotten this? | I’m so disorganized | This is all my fault), try to breathe and say something kind to yourself.

Try something like: “I know you’re feeling really frustrated right now. You are really doing your best though, aren’t you? And you love your family so much and you always want to do your very best for them. What do you need right now? Shall we sit for a minute? Shall we have a cup of tea?”

Have a cup of tea. Breathe. Befriend yourself. You can call it self compassion or kindness or even magic, if you wish. I promise it will help.
 
 
*This post was originally published as a Sunday Reader. To receive my love letters directly in your inbox twice a month, you can subscribe here.
 

Conversations with Your Life | Challenge: Day 6

“I like stories where women save themselves.” ~ Neil Gaiman

Hello there, dear one.

This is the sixth and final day of the Conversations with Your Life Challenge. Thank you for taking part in this experience.

So, do you have a dream or goal that you’ve been keeping to yourself? Lots of us do… and we make up these elaborate stories to explain why it’s not possible. In today’s challenge, we examine the magical space we create when we stop believing our own lies and begin taking action. That’s such a powerful intersection of our lives.

During the course, I’ll be teaching some very specific skills to help participants dissolve those unwanted thoughts that stop us from taking risks and moving forward.

Big news:
I’ve created a self-study option for this course which includes the lessons and workbooks only. This option is a different price as well. Check it out here ~ the details for the Self Study Course are the bottom of the page.

Over this weekend, look for a short video on Facebook explaining the course.
 

Conversations with Your Life | Challenge: Day 5

 
Challenge: Day 5
1. Think of some way you’ve been hard on yourself lately.
2. Write yourself a loving note of encouragement. Write to yourself in the same compassionate way you would write/speak to a friend.
3. Read it out loud to yourself. {Don’t skip this step.}
4. How did that feel?

 
Tomorrow is the final day of the challenge.

If you’ve found these mini-lessons interesting, each of the six modules in the course will feature three essays and accompanying exercises for a mindful walk through your life. You’ll identify what’s not working, clear up some thoughts and take action.

It’s like a loving and mindful house cleaning for your life.

I’d love for you to join us.
 

Conversations with Your Life | Challenge: Day 4

Today, you’re invited
to make a list of all
the amazing things
your body does for you
and allows you to do.

List at least 20.

Then celebrate
+ say thank you!


Week 4 of the course with be all about conversations with your body. This is really yummy stuff.
 

Conversations with Your Life | Challenge: Day 3

Day 3 is about sending some love out into the universe.

There’s absolutely no better time than now. xo

You can learn more about the course, which begins on August 30th, over here.