Holiday Sides: Guilt and Blame

Along with the turkey platter why not fill a couple of side dishes with sweet potatoes and stuffing instead of years’ long simmering resentments?
Working in mental health has allowed me a bird’s (turkey or chicken- your choice) eye view of the horrors of the holidays. I rarely take off at this time of year because, unfortunately, many of my clients become suicidal and, occasionally, homicidal.

Invited to listen to multiple stories of fathers throwing turkeys across the room, mothers taking to their beds with migraines and uncles becoming too casual with the touch after a few too many, I’ve learned some things. You are not alone! You’re not the only one who has witnessed your parents go at each other with the electric carving knife. You don’t have to be paralyzed around the thought of Thanksgiving. You may allow yourself to enjoy the holiday- even if you spend your sophomore holiday with friends, leaving your little brother to deal with the madness at home-alone.

If these stories sound personal to you, they are in some ways, but they are universal- contrary to what Wal-Mart, Givenchy and Macy’s would like us all to think. Glittering gold decorations, that new down jacket and vest, or a few glasses of eggnog filled with white rum really may make you feel better about everything that you’ve experienced in the past. Instead, for some, it leads to an uncontrollable craving of buying more, drinking more or eating more-MORE!!! More eventually turns on us and we feel like LESS.

The people I’ve spoken to are usually in some phase of change. Old coping patterns no longer work. New ones seem hard to begin. A simple suggestion of taking a short interval jog/ walk to clear one’s head is often met with “I’m too busy” or “My knees hurt.” Eating a salad for lunch or a Clementine as opposed to an ongoing carbohydrate extravaganza may not seem very appealing. I’m still frequently surprised at the familiar sentence, “I don’t eat vegetables.”

You may wonder how these suggestions may help you endure the holiday season. They can be used as gateway methods of taking care of yourself in a healthy and positive way. There can be comfort in attending support groups, 12 step meetings, or individual psychotherapy. One of my favorite mottos is that “You don’t have to do anything alone”- even if you’ve been taught by example to do it that way. Getting caught up in the wreckage of the past or, as my friend Steve says- the wreckage of the future, gives us one certainty-we deny ourselves the beauty of today.

Instead of passing a side of bitterness, why not pass along one of love and compassion for yourself. If you decide that one more sparkling glass of white wine or another five butter cookies is what you want- go for it. They can be delicious, fun and happy making indeed. If your intuitive side nudges you and tells you that partaking of these will add to more misery why not, instead, grab for the true gold of love and life- it’s yours for the taking too!

Happy Thanksgiving all… now about that gratitude list…