I think we can all agree “there’s no place like home for the holidays” – though whether or not we sing that phrase with anticipation and joy or mutter it with suspicion and resignation can largely depend on who and what we’re heading home to experience. No matter which camp you fall into, I have a tip for you to tuck into your back pocket before you tuck into the turkey this month. It’s called reframing, and it – plus perhaps a glass of good Pinot – can get you feeling more gratitude this Thanksgiving.
Some of us, I know, head into the end-of-year holidays looking forward to special traditions and connections – but along with the annual gatherings come lots of expectations and a ramped-up case of the “shoulds,” which can send those of us with tiny control issues into something of a frenzy.
Others of us head into the holidays as though girding for battle: What irritating thing will your mother nag you about this year? How will your boyfriend let you down again? How will you be disappointed by the holiday? How will you even get through the day?
Whether you embrace the holidays or grit your teeth through them, reframing your situation can help you cultivate gratitude no matter what’s heaped on your plate along with the stuffing. There will be challenges, certainly, but reframing reminds us that though we may not be in control of a certain situation, we can always be in control of how we think about it and respond to it. And new thoughts almost always lead to new behaviors.
Let’s say you know your Thanksgiving Tofurky is going to come with a heaping side of unsolicited advice from your parents about what you should do differently with your career. It’s an ongoing, contentious conversation, and you dread the moment they’ll bring it up as they pass the mashed potatoes.
Reframing, though, might lead you to think: What if beneath their seemingly constant harangue are words of wisdom that could actually help teach you something you can’t possibly know yet? What if their nagging is cover for a simple, deep concern for your well-being and success?
So how do you get there, in the midst of the difficult holiday moment? I think a Barbaraism of mine that I rely on quite a bit might be the bridge to get you there: “The first thing someone says often isn’t what they mean to convey.” Ask yourself what might be hidden below the surface of your parent’s incessant questions and advice. Is there some wisdom that would be worth uncovering? What if it leads to an amazing interaction that is surprising and delightful? What if it reminds you to be grateful that you have parents who care so much about your future?
Even in the best families, gathering together usually means a few challenges will accompany the cranberry sauce. If what you’ve tried in the past isn’t working for you, channel your resilient spirit, grab a glass of wine, and try reframing. Remember that you can’t control every aspect of the holiday, but you can shift the way you look at, understand, and respond to it. So cheers to conquering the challenges, fostering more connection, and creating a little authentic gratitude around the Thanksgiving table! Good luck, and may your plate always have room for second helpings.