I used to think I had to make the holidays simple, happy and joyful for everyone. Everyone other than me that is. I’d over function, over extend, over do, over indulge, and over think everything. I felt I had to show up with all the relatives, with food, have “it” all together, and be cheerful in their homes, no matter what! Didn’t matter if I was sick. Didn’t matter if I didn’t have the time or energy. Nothing mattered except what I thought others wanted me to do. I decided early on to take what I thought was the easy road, which was to never say no. Sound familiar?
Unknowingly, I adjusted in my childhood and family dysfunction. Somehow I knew to keep silent when my mother would turn from a loving person into mean and angry monster. Right before my eyes I would witness this transformation. I’d brace myself [stop breathing] and try to stay out of the line of fire, but, also try to get the love I needed. It was a confusing and impossible task. The routine was constant crisis. That is when I began caregiving for my family. If I could lighten the load for my mother, then she’d be better; then she’ll love me. Over functioning grew into a way of life for me. The more I’d do, the more I’d pretend and the more I’d abandon my needs. Once it started, I couldn’t turn it off. Very much like a drink or a drug, this developing dysfunctional strategy changed my brain. Over functioning was an effective medicator for my anxiety. And, I learned about caring for others, running a household, working, and observing life. In fact, I learned so much that I moved away from home the day after high school graduation and our world gained a chief codependent. I was so adjusted to over functioning that I could manage both sides of a conversation and intuitively knew what others wanted and needed without them ever speaking. A gift and a curse, right?
I spent much of my life making choices that I thought would please others. Making choices that I thought would make someone else happy. Choosing to do more to be accepted and to be loved. I used to spend every holiday thinking that if only I could do more or be more, then they’ll be happy. And if they are happy, then I’ll be happy. I finally learned that’s not exactly true.
After many years I began to do my work. That means I’ve walked alongside you all to connect my past to my present. I have dug deep to feel and re-experience the emotions my over functioning numbed out for me. Now, I honor and release some of those behaviors that no longer work for me or my relationships. I’m working to release the old message that “it’s all up to me.” Who knew? It’s not all up to me? Even my daughter knows! She certainly doesn’t want me doing for her what she can do herself. Thankfully, she has the language and emotional courage to let me know when I creep over into her hula hoop. I want to continue to change, become more aware, and learn from you and listen to your stories. At the depth of my soul, I believe that by honoring and appreciating all I have experienced will continue to change and grow within me . . . if I keep doing my work and have that desire. And, if I stay within my own hula hoop!
This year, Thanksgiving came and went rather quickly and softly, for me anyway. I so enjoyed my time on and off work, my daughter being home, laughing, sweet time with our dogs, and connecting with a couple of family members. I had special time with my Dad, even though he left this world in May. Our relationship is different, but still loving and ever present.
I’m looking forward to the rest of our holiday season. Some time with treasured friends, some time with [some] family, dogs, movies, rest, a little shopping [mostly online], a little cooking, a little travel, living fully in the pain, the joy, the laughter and the gratitude. This moment, I’m most grateful for simply slowing down so that I can enjoy my time and make a few healthier choices. Choosing how I want to show up. And, so-o-o grateful that I don’t have to be a mind reader or guess what everyone is thinking and know what everyone one needs. I can simply ask! So, what do you need and want this holiday season, for yourself?
Wishing you love, light, peace and joy,
Outreach and Alumni Relations Director