The Story Is Not Over

This blog post is part of #blogmarch2017, organized by the brilliant Robin Renee. This month, we are blogging in celebration of freedom of expression, knowledge and information.

Each Day in May, a new writer will join the March. Visit Robin Renee’s blog to read more about the Blog March, and find the master list of blog marchers. There are some fabulous posts in there!


Dear one,

It’s hard right now. Really freaking hard.

The news, the death, the illness, the housing instability.
The uncertainty about health insurance, the rising wave of hate.
The family stress, the relationship troubles, the fear about the future.

These things are real. Your pain is real. The difficulty is real.

But it’s not the whole story.

There’s more happening right now than you can even imagine.

It takes some effort to see it, effort that may feel beyond you right now, but it’s there.

This isn’t “focus on the bright side” or “cheer up, it’s not that bad.”

IT *IS* THAT BAD.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is either uncomfortable with how bad it is, or trying to sell you something. Things are hard right now, and that is a true thing. Another thing that is also true is that this isn’t the whole story.

The whole story includes sunshine, and bugs climbing on leaves.
The whole story includes people helping each other out, and pushing back against evil.
The whole story includes folks doing everyday things, just trying to get through it.

It might seem like there’s so little to go around, but there’s still a light shining, however dim. Because so many things are happening right now, all at once. It’s mind-boggling, really.

When shit gets bleak, I like to climb up a hill near my house. From there, I can see a whole giant swath of the Bay Area. Thousands of houses, cars bustling along on the freeway, planes taking off and landing. Birds float overhead on the updrafts, and I think about how they don’t operate on a clock, and they know and care nothing about who is president or what congress is doing. I think about all the people down below, and what is happening in each house….

Here is a harried mom and her two rambunctious kids on their way to soccer practice.
Here is an 79-year-old man, who looks forward to the mail carrier coming each day.
Here is an immigrant who came the the US in the 80s, checking on his rental property.

I sit there, making up stories about the vastness of experience happening across all those houses, putting myself into others’ shoes, living their lives for a few moments….

Here is 36-year-old man, taking a nap before he starts his afternoon driving Lyft.
Here is a teenage girl, whose dad works for the port, wondering if they are going to watch the Warriors game this week.
Here is a 12-year-old boy, freaking out about his math test tomorrow.

It’s almost incomprehensible how much is going on at once, how many people are going about their business, living, surviving, thriving….

Here is a 14-year-old girl, sobbing on her bed about her crush not responding to her text.
Here is a copywriter, scrolling through Facebook on BART on her way to work.
Here is a nighttime security guard, sleeping until the Oakland A’s game starts.

Most of these are moments they won’t even remember tomorrow, much less a year from now….

Here is a hairdresser flirting with the barista as she buys a cup of coffee on her lunch break.
Here is a bus driver silently cursing the double parked van in the street.
Here is a 71-year-old woman pulling weeds in her garden, singing songs from Hamilton.

I make up stories about all the people in all the houses and cars and planes, then I start thinking about real people I know. …

Here is a disabled single mother of one, sending her genius child off to school in another country.
Here is a lawyer with the brain injury, who just argued and won his first case since the accident.
Here is a man who has a pretty cushy life, who dropped it all to be with his sick mom indefinitely.

And I start thinking about things I’ve seen recently….

Here is a group of Muslim women in hijab, laughing with a woman with purple hair and a giant parrot.
Here is a meter maid writing a parking ticket on a Tesla.
Here is a guy riding a bike with no helmet on.

It’s not about accomplishment. It’s about living, and the myriad lives lived, even in a single lifetime….

Here is a suicidal teenaged girl who just got a dog, which makes her stick around.
Here is a queer 20-something, who can’t find work for months, no matter how hard she tries.
Here is a happy 30-something, who had her heart broken hard a year ago, and is delighted at the fun and sexiness this year has brought.

And I remember that nothing stays the same….

The kid who was arguing with his brother 15 minutes ago is now happily eating Cheerios and talking about Guardians of the Galaxy.
The 49-year-old lesbian who was at the gym 15 minutes ago, just got on the bus.
The office manager who was sure she was getting fired 15 minutes ago is walking out of her boss’s office with a sense of accomplishment.

The dandelions that were yellow yesterday are now puffy white. The birds have moved from their updraft soaring to perching in trees. The ground that was soaking muddy wet a week ago has hardened and cracked.

So much is happening at any given moment.

Whatever it is that’s going on for you right now, just remember: It’s not the whole story.

No matter what it is that’s happening, if you wait, something else will happen.

Wait and see what happens…


Tomorrow’s post is by Poet On Watch.

Previous #BlogMarch17 posts include:

Diana Adams’ Guide to Staying Healthy in the Resistance Marathon

Tom Limoncelli’s “Personal Drumbeat of #Resistance”

Jazz Goldman is a Recovering Male Acolyte

You can check out the other posts in the blog march here.

Mother’s Day Is Complicated

Mother’s Day is complicated. Nonetheless, I hope you have a happy day.

For those of you who have good relationships with your mother… Or have good relationships with your children… For those of you who have lost your mother… and those who lost your child… For those of you whose babies weren’t born…. For those of you whose mothers weren’t the mothers you needed or wanted… For ambivalent mothers and mothers who are certain they aren’t doing what’s right for your kid because you have no idea what that is… For mothers flying by the seat of their pants… For women who are pressed to be mothers when they don’t want to be… And those pressed to not be mothers when they DO want to be… And those who are trying, TRYING so hard right now to become mothers…

For those who want to be mothers but for whatever reason can’t be… For those whose children are driving you legitimately bonkers right now… For those who have good relationships with their mothers and are partnered with someone who does not…And vice versa… For step moms and adoptive moms and foster moms and the people who step in when there’s no mom available… For those whose mothers are sick right now… For mothers who are worried about their children’s health… For those who wanted more children… and those who wanted fewer…

Happy Mother’s Day. May you have the space to feel the complexity of grief, bitterness, love, gratitude, anger, joy, peace, frustration, loss and fulfillment that comes from navigating these relationships.

Self-Love Takes Practice

There are two memes I’ve seen go around in the last little while that got me to thinking about self-love.

The first goes…

“If I asked you to name all the things you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself?”

When I saw this, it stopped my in my tracks.

I have a pretty high opinion of myself (which by itself is something we’re not supposed to admit, but it’s just us here, right?) and yet, if I engaged in this question of naming the things I love, earnestly and for days, I bet it would have taken me a really, REALLY long time to put myself on the list.

What about you?

This isn’t a criticism, by the way. We’re taught to think of ourselves as inherently unworthy, needing of fixing up, and maybe someday, finally, if you do enough “self-help” or buy the right things, perhaps then, we’ll be good enough to love unconditionally.

So it’s no wonder it might take us a while to add ourselves to a list of things we love.

The second meme was a bit more manageable to chew…

"Name five things you love about you"My dear friend Kendra tagged me in it and I took it as a challenge. Could I, the advocate for recovering Good Girls and champion of Asking for What You Want, publicly name 5 things I love about myself in front of a bunch of people I don’t know on the internet? Kendra went first, which helped.

Here’s what I wrote.

After I posted it, my mind swam… what would people think? Was it arrogant to say that? Was I inviting trouble by talking about my boobs? The self-doubt monsters growled their growls, but I didn’t let them take over.

Self-love, as it turns out, is a practice — one I recommend you engage in at every possible opportunity. It can feel intimidating at first, but it’s so worth it to practice. See what I shared, and share your 5 self-loves here.

“OKAY” Is A Four-Letter Word

nookayTalking about what you want in bed (and for that matter, in life) is scary, tricky business. Admitting something you want takes guts, and no one wants to be laughed at or rejected for sharing something tender with a loved one.

Sometimes though, the pull toward intimacy and connection wins out and you get up the guts to ask for the thing you want. You share a secret desire. You make your move and then…

“Is this okay?”

“Was that okay?”

“Are you okay?”

That dreaded four-letter word rears its head. When it comes to sex and intimacy, I absolutely, without a doubt, hate the word “okay.” What’s so bad about okay? Let me explain:

1. It’s unclear.

When you ask if something is okay, it is maddeningly unclear what you’re asking. Are you checking for permission? To see if you’re still loved? To find out if your partner is willing to tolerate whatever it is you want or are doing?

What do you mean by “Okay?”

Usually, it’s some combination of the above. There’s a lot of complexity wedged into that four-letter word. And only two answers: “Yes” and “no.” (I guess silence or “um…” would be other options.)

What the heck are you actually asking?

And what is it that your partner is hearing?

You might be checking to see if your partner is on board with doing the thing, but they might be hearing that you’re asking if they will put up it.

Or, you might be needing reassurance, and their brusque “yeah” isn’t exactly doing the trick.

You might be asking if a thing is allowable in the context of your relationship, and your partner might be hearing you ask if they think you are okay, as a basic human being.

This lack of clarity leads to endless fights involving the phrase “but you SAID it was Okay!”

Sure. But nobody actually knows what that means. Asking about “okay” sidesteps more honest questions. Figure out what you really want to know, and ask about that instead.

2. It encourages gatekeeping.

“But what about consent?” you’re wondering. “How am I supposed to know if something’s okay, unless I ask if it’s… okay?!”

I’m thrilled with the attention that consent culture is getting lately. There are many people out there educating and advocating for clearer and more open expressions of consent out there, and it’s awesome.

We’ve already covered how “okay” is unclear, but there’s another problem with it.

When asking “is this okay?” one person is asking permission and the other person is acting as the gatekeeper. It’s like one person wants the sex and the other person has sex to give out. (Mainly in our culture, we act like men want sex all the time and their manliness depends on being able to get it, and women have to act like the guardians of chastity and virtue, and certainly not like sexual creatures with agency of their own, capable of co-creating a fun sexy time with their partners.)

This sets both people up to lose.

Consent is about agreements between equals about how they want to play together. When one person is trying to “get” something from another who “has” it, it’s more like applying for a permit in a bureaucracy. It’s like you sort of assume the person on the other side isn’t having any fun or pleasure.

And so we ask if it’s okay. Which leads to my third reason for hating “Okay.”

3. It’s a sadly low standard.

“Okay” is a really, really low standard to hold your relationships and sex life to.

If all the time you’re asking if thing are okay, and your partner says yes, then over time you have an … okay relationship. And an okay sex life.

You deserve better than this. So does your partner.

A whole lot better than this.

Most couples have never taken the time to talk about how they want their relationship or sex life to be. What if the standard was pleasurable, or enjoyable, or fun, or good? What if you made a game of finding things that rocked one another’s world, instead of aiming for okay?

Breaking the Habit

I still catch myself asking “Is this okay?” “Was that okay?” “Are you okay?” a few times a week, particularly with people I’m just getting to know, or when don’t know where I stand with someone. But it’s getting easier to notice and to ask something else instead. When you feel unclear or unreassured after an “okay” exchange, it’s a clue to stop, and be more precise about what you (or the other person) is asking for.

Up next: 27 Alternatives to Asking “Is This Okay?”

The Naked Truth About Desire Smuggling

The world is not friendly to our desires.

In over a decade of relationship coaching and sex ed, I’ve talked with thousands of people about why they don’t ask for what they want. Reasons include: not knowing what to want, not having the language to ask, and “why rock the boat when it’s good enough?”

But by and large, the main reason we don’t ask for what we want is fear.

Fear of rejection, humiliation, and judgment.

Fear of disappointment, shame, loss, or guilt.

Fear of repeating the past, missing out, hurting your partner, or feeling like a failure.

Fear of “what they will think,” not getting what you want, or putting too much at stake.

Fear rules our desires.

You know to be afraid of these things because you’ve experienced them.

  • The look of disdain on some adult’s face when you expressed curiosity about masturbation.
  • Being laughed at for your youthful eagerness and enthusiasm.
  • Hearing someone say “Ewww” after you shared a vulnerable truth.
  • Watching helplessly as a friend got judged for wanting something that seemed just a little “outside the box.”
  • Seeing people’s hearts be torn apart on reality TV, and their imperfections shredded to bits on the internet.

The world is hostile to the sweet, fumbling, imperfect nature of desire.

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And so, to cope, we hide our desires from ourselves and from the people we love. And in the process, we become desire smugglers.

Desire Smuggling: Hiding what you really want from yourself and/or a loved one, then, finding cover strategies to get (at least pieces of) what you want.

We do it to stay safe. It’s a reasonable response to a toxic environment of shame and judgment.

At the same time, desire is powerful. Even in the face of fear, rejection, guilt, loss… we want what we want. And through better or worse means, we will try to get it.

Desire smuggling is something that we all do. The stakes are high around what you truly want, and being direct can seem outright terrifying in the face of these (often well-justified) fears.

What does it look like?

How to Spot Desire Smuggling

When I teach about smuggling desire, a class of 20 people can easily come up with 50-80 examples of ways we try to get what we want when we think it’s not available. From the merely annoying to the truly toxic, techniques of smuggling desire are endlessly creative.

desirepersistantDesire is persistent and will not be denied. When it doesn’t feel safe to want what you want, you will try to get it anyway. Here are some things you might do:

  • Expect telepathy
  • Make wishes
  • Fake spontaneity
  • Get drunk/high to remove inhibitions
  • Hint
  • Ask if the other person wants the thing you want
  • Rationalize cost/benefit
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Send articles about the thing
  • Give statistics about the thing
  • Say “people like…” (instead of owning it yourself)
  • Try to convince
  • Try to get the other person to say it
  • Complain that you don’t get it
  • Be “nice” and hope to be rewarded
  • Make unspoken deals
  • Issue ultimatums
  • Emotional blackmail
  • Tack on obligation to a “gift”
  • Minimize by saying “just” or “only”
  • Guilt-trip
  • Be passive-aggressive
  • Blame
  • Want the other person to guess
  • Wait for the right time
  • Wait for a sign
  • Buy into a romance myth (“If you really loved me…”)
  • Assume they should “just know”
  • Withhold
  • Force
  • Non-consensual taking
  • Be macho
  • Be loud and bombastic
  • Punish your partner for not giving it to you
  • Attack/judge someone asking for what you want
  • Attack/judge someone getting what you want
  • Look for other, less-scary places to get it
  • Shame yourself for having that desire
  • Shame others with the same desire
  • Avoid it altogether
  • Make sugar-coated demands
  • Compromise
  • “Purchase” it by doing other things
  • Get needs met without owning them
  • Tell a story about the thing desire
  • Martyr yourself in hopes of getting it
  • Substitute something else
  • Don’t explore internal dissonance
  • Bully
  • Criticize after the fact
  • Spiritually bypass
  • Settle
  • Play options roulette (where one option is the one you want)

Desire smuggling is a clue.

Looking at this list, it’s easy to criticize, blame or shame yourself (or your partner) for doing these things. After all, some of them are pretty shitty behavior, and others are just not terribly effective for getting what you want.

When you catch yourself (or someone you love) smuggling desire, the last thing you want to do is to criticize. Instead, have some compassion for yourself, and recognize two things:

  1. These behaviors are a totally sane and rational response to an environment where desire is discounted, rejected, ridiculed, shamed and otherwise devalued.
  2. Desire smuggling is a clue that there’s something you want.

When you catch this clue, then you can do something more effective with your desire. You can ask for what you want. You can bring it into your relationships. You can share with a community of trust where your desire will be celebrated. You can explore it safely. You can apologize for not being straightforward and find new ways of creating connection with the people you love.

When it’s safe to have desire, you no longer have to smuggle it. 

photo credits: OUCHcharley, Ray_from_LA

Relationship Survival At Burning Man – What You Need To Know

bmcoupleDear Marcia,

I’m going to Burning Man this year for the first time with my partner and I want to make sure our relationship doesn’t implode. What are some things we should watch out for?

– Playa Bound

Dear Playa Bound,

Burning Man is a weird and wonderful place where all sorts of mind-blowing stuff can happen. However, some things are predictable. Here’s what to know ahead of time. 

You will fight and it will probably be because you’re dehydrated. If you catch yourselves fighting doesn’t assume it mean the end of the world, and instead check your self-care. My camp has a rule that if you saw two people getting snippy with each other, separate them and make them drink water and sit in the shade for a bit. This rule saved several relationships that I know of. Make it your own. 

Time works differently on the playa. When you’re making dates with your sweetie, try to schedule them according to the sun, rather than the clock. It’s much easier to meet up back at camp “around sunset” than to try to do something at 4pm. Clocks have little meaning in an environment of immediacy, and you’ll only cause yourself frustration if you try to keep both of you on some sort of schedule. 

Expectations will fuck you up. If you think something is going to be a certain way, or your sweetie is going to do a certain thing, you will almost always be disappointed. It is far better to set some intentions, do the best you can, assume others are doing the best they can, take responsibility for getting your own needs met, and then roll with whatever shows up.

Mushroom People at Burning Man 2010There will be eye-candy. Lots of it. Sweaty, scantily-clad eye candy. Get clear ahead of time what is and isn’t okay, and what your intentions are in regards to this eye candy. Do you want to make out with strangers together on Threesome Thursday? Look but don’t touch? Plan one day where you go your separate ways and whatever happens happens? Talk ahead of time about what you each want, but don’t push each other’s boundaries. Burning Man is a strange, magical place, but you want to be on speaking terms when you leave. Respect your boundaries and agreements. 

You will need lube. It’s the desert. When it’s time for the two of you to make sweet, sweet love, make sure you have lube, water, condoms and baby wipes ready to go. 

For more handy tips, check out the Burning Man Relationship Survival Guide.

Talk things through ahead of time, but stay flexible and spontaneous. Be nice to each other and enjoy the ride! 

Love,

Marcia

photos courtesy quantamlars and michael holden via flickr

16 Ways to Talk About Consent (That Are Pretty Sexy…)

yesbymadhavaHere’s a stack of wonderful ways to check in with your partner, to find out more of what they want, and to communicate your own desires. Try some today!

  1. “Do you like when I…?”
  2. “I like when you…”
  3. “Will you…?”
  4. “How does this feel?”
  5. “Do you want me to…?”
  6. “Do you want to…?”
  7. “Is there anything you want to try?”
  8. “Show me what you like.”
  9. “Do you want to go further?”
  10. “Do you want to stop?”
  11. “Can I…?”
  12. “Does this feel good?”
  13. “Are you happy?”
  14. “Are you comfortable?”
  15. “Are you having a good time?”
  16. “Is this good for you?”

* I found this floating around the internet without citation. If you know who gets original credit for this, please let me know!

 Mighty fine thanks to Madhava for the pic.

What I mean when I talk about love is…

valentine-heartLove is confusing. It’s messy and unpredictable and wild and untamable. It obeys no laws, adheres to no restrictions. It’ll knock the socks off of you and everyone around you. And the wind out of you too.

What with the wind and the socks, it sort of feels like being in a tumble dryer.

But no one puts that on a Hallmark card.

___________________________________

The Greeks had 4 or 7 or 8 words for love… like ἀγάπη, ἔρως, φιλία, στοργή, μανία.

Wikipedia has a bunch of them. But you can’t find love on Wikipedia.

___________________________________

What I mean when I talk about love is so many things but many of them point to being kind.

Being kind and not being attached.

Being kind and not being attached and expanding. Expanding into something you didn’t know you could be.

And there’s also something about being curious. Endlessly, hopelessly curious.

And devoted. Which implies LOYAL but also implies SURRENDER. (Well, shit, that’s scary.)

Yes. Love is kind and not attached and expanding and curious and devoted and loyal and surrendering.

All that. While not getting lost and keeping your center. With, like, boundaries and stuff(Because if you can’t say “I” then you can’t say “I love you.”)

What I mean when I talk about love is being kind and not attached and expanding into the unknown and being curious and being devoted and loyal and surrendering.

I mean all of that. But what I really mean is being kind.

___________________________________

A lover once said to me, with wonder in his eyes, “Love feels like love.”

Love doesn’t feel like obligation, or coercion, or fear, or doubt, or a battle to be won. Those things might be there, but those aren’t love.

I wanted to take him into my arms and say, “Of course it does, dear.” But he was already there.

___________________________________

Love is safe. Profoundly safe. But it FEELS dangerous…

Can I trust this much? Can I really let go? Can I surrender? Is it okay? Is it okay? Is it okay?

Is it okay?

I don’t know. Is it?

You have to answer that for yourself.

___________________________________

What I mean when I talk about love is that it’s scary to love and it’s scary to be loved and it’s scary to let go into someone loving someone else, and it’s all very vulnerable.

I spend my life helping people navigate all the things around love: fears and boundaries and desires and what about me? and how do you build a life with somebody that you love and what do you do when there is more than one person you love and what if you love someone but the sex isn’t working, or what if the sex is working but you want something else too and so on.

But none of this is love.

What I mean when I talk about love is that it’s worth it.

 

(Originally published on the Successful Non-Monogamy mailing list.)

Who are your role models?

513px-Katharine_Hepburn_promo_pic“She was independent. She chose her way of life – hurting no one and never vying for approval.”

This is what Lauren Bacall said about Katharine Hepburn after her death.

I love this quote for so many reasons. I love it when powerful women build each other up. I love that it reflects Hepburn as the kind of woman who neither needed to be “good” to be great, nor “bad” to be noticed. And I love that it points out that women have the opportunity to choose how we live.

In a time when most Hollywood actresses played to stereotypes, Katharine Hepburn dared to go a different direction. She was labeled “box office poison” early in her career and rejected the Hollywood publicity machine but she made her own (massive!!) success outside of these power structures.

Hepburn donned mannish suits while never caving on her femininity, and found ways of playing powerful characters even as she aged out of being a starlet. After her first marriage ended in divorce, she never remarried, but did have a 26-year committed relationship with Spencer Tracy that she kept firmly out of the public eye.

All of these things point to what it means to be a Great Woman instead of a Good Girl. A good girl would have tried to conform to what the publicists and studios wanted. A good girl would have tried to stay young, and she certainly would have worn gowns and dresses at every turn. A good girl might have tried to reject these constraints by rebelling. But a Great Woman stays in her center, even as life throws its difficulties at her.

(I don’t know about you, but even THINKING about all that “trying” exhausts me!)

The world is full of people and messages that are all about telling you to be unfailingly nice, not “too much,” and ever-accommodating. That’s why it’s crucial to have examples of women who have done it differently. Not necessarily “bad” girls, but actual, grown-ass women who have found their own path and built their own lives on their terms.

In other words: role models.

Katharine Hepburn is one of mine. Who are yours?

The AFWYW Guide to Holiday Sanity (In 4 Easy-ish Steps)

The Donner Party.
The threatening hordes.
The family hurricane.
The microscope parade.

What do these words have in common? They’re all terms I’ve heard my clients use in the past week, referring to their families and the holidays.

319693504_bd75a21dfaNo matter how much “work” you might have done on yourself, spending several days in close quarters with people who really, really know you (but also kinda don’t) can be crazy-making. There are explicit obligations and implied “shoulds.” You may find yourself slipping back into old behaviors like people-pleasing or not speaking up. You might have spent all year practicing asking for what you want, but when it comes to the last Christmas cookie, or making sure that you and your partner get some alone time, “what you want” slides to the bottom of the priority list and you find yourself curled up in a ball wondering what the hell happened.

Keeping your center and staying grounded, even in the chaos, can make for the best holidays yet. In that spirit, here are four questions to help you navigate the holiday season, whether you’re spending them with your blood family, chosen family, or some crazy batch of strangers you haven’t decided if you’re going to keep yet.

Question 1: What can I let go of?

Around the holidays, there are tons of rules and things you “should” do, many of which fall under the heading of “tradition.” The problem is, as you go through life and come into contact with more and more people, the traditions, obligations and expectations multiply. The pressure to participate sometimes comes from other people, and sometimes comes from ourselves. But ask yourself: Do I really HAVE to bake 4 different kinds of cookies? Could I let go of some of the decorations this year? Would the world REALLY end if I don’t go the Boxing Day brunch? What would actually happen if I took a nap instead of going to the movies this afternoon with 12 relatives?

Simplify your holiday season by opting out of the things you are doing for no good reason. Check out what you can legitimately just let go of. Ask the people around you how it would be for them if you did things a little differently this year. Remember too, that a no to one thing is a yes to something else.

Question 2: What can I accept is so?

Your ex has always been a bit of a space cadet.
Your mom knows EVERYTHING. (Or at least acts like it.)
You know your dad is going to grumble about making dinner.
This is the third year your partner has tried to quit smoking for New Year’s and he’s ALWAYS a jerk for 3 days.
And the kids never fail to wake you up at 5am Christmas morning.

iStock_000002245591XSmall

Getting angry with people for being who they are, and not being what you want them to be is a massive source of stress, especially over the holidays. Wishing they were different is one thing. Getting angry because they’re the way they are is like getting angry because it’s raining when you want to go on a picnic. If you find yourself saying that so-and-so “always” or “never” does something, then maybe it’s time to consider that that’s how it is, and make an alternate plan or adjust your expectations.

Much like a rainy day picnic, accepting what’s so is about finding workarounds and alternative plans. Which means – get creative! If your dad is going to grumble about making dinner, maybe it’s time to find a different chef. If the kids will wake you up at 5am, plan for quiet time after all the presents are opened and squeeze a nap in. If your mom wants to tell you about all of the things, be curious and ask her questions about things she actually DOES know a lot about. And tell your partner that you support his non-smoking, but you’ll be taking a little space for a few days.

Question 3: What can I do for me?

It’s so easy to get swept up in the spirit of giving that your bank account shrivels, your waistline expands, and you start to feel haggard and grinch-y. Before long, you’re snapping at the people you care about, and you’re wondering if it’s too late to return all those gifts and buy a ticket to Tahiti (or Tallahassee). Alone.

It’s time to do something for yourself. Take a page from my dad’s book and buy something you really want and wrap it up with a note from Santa. Or, take a deep breath every 20 minutes. Schedule a real vacation for a few months down the road. Go to a yoga class. Trade babysitting with the neighbors to get a night alone. Go for a run. Set aside some of those cookies you made into a special “me only” tin for you to enjoy after the hordes descend.

(If you find yourself saying, “but there’s no time!” may I refer you back up to the first question: What can you let go of?)

Question 4: What will I opt out of next year?

Much of the time we end up doing stuff over the holidays because someone else set it into motion before we had a chance to figure out which way is up. You can get sucked up into another person’s vision for the holidays, and before you know it, you are trapped in a three-day “It’s a Wonderful Life” marathon.

This is really about setting expectations early and often. If it’s too late to salvage the holidays this year, plan for next year and start setting boundaries now. Appreciate what’s good about being here or doing this thing now, while you’re in it, and then, tell the relevant person that you won’t be participating next year. Think about what you’d rather do instead. Set up a reminder for yourself for next year, so that it pops up between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

(Note to self: DON’T commit to Aunt Edna’s Handel-Messiah-sing-along-and-all-you-can-eat-buffet next year. DO schedule with Jamie and Casey EARLY.)

Best wishes for a very happy holiday season and a spectacular New Year.

 

Mighty fine thanks to Dylan Tweny for the elf pic.