Posts Tagged ‘re-booter’

Realizing We’ve Been Used

October 28, 2014

I don’t know if this is the case where you are, but here in Washington, jockeying for a good position in the hierarchy infiltrates into every arena of life—including preschool. Now, while it’s true I don’t have kids, the very idea of three year olds having to compete for a spot where they can learn their letters and numbers gives me the willies. Of course, it’s not the children who are competing, it’s the parents.

 

With school admissions rituals approximating a pas de deux of the Court of Louis XIV, it’s standard procedure to require letters of reference from other, already admitted families. That age old saying, “it’s not what you know or who you know,” comes to mind. Really? They’re sweet little three year olds, not gladiators.

 

At any rate, a friend was sharing with me that she was recently invited to a party hosted by one of the “cool moms” in her child’s class. Surprised by the invitation because, usually, cool moms only hang out with other cool moms—you know, the ones who wear white pants and brightly colored tunics—my friend emphatically stated that she was not part of this crowd. She wasn’t sure why she was invited, but decided they were just being friendly. Not so.

 

A few days later, she received an odd email from an aspiring school mom who said that the hostess had assured her my friend would write a letter of reference. No asking, no hesitant, half embarrassed request, no leaning on the hail fellow, well met strategy. Just a simple declarative that my friend would write this letter. “That was the only reason I was invited,” she explained. When I asked her if she would comply with the pushy request, my friend said that despite barely knowing this person, she felt she had no choice. Being labeled a bitch/pariah by the cool mom’s group is a sure fire route to hell.

 

It’s awful to feel used, isn’t it? It makes you feel sort of…dirty.

 

While the scenario I depicted above may not be part of your daily life, we’ve all stumbled into situations where people had secret, ulterior motives in what they wanted from us. Can you think of a time when you felt used? Where the only thing you were “good for” was a service you could render someone else? What did you do?

 

Despite the fact that Dear Abby & Co. say that no one can use you without your permission, it’s a lot easier said than done. Real world repercussions for not going along with something minor (and by minor I mean clear cut, first world problems such as these) can be heavy and long lasting. However, as a re-booter, I have developed a strategy that, while not fail safe, does help me sidestep a lot of these situations–either that, or nobody wants my help, ever.

 

I have developed a fairly keen sense of judging who might possibly be someone, uh, prone to sand bagging others for their own, selfish purposes. As you know, I spend inordinate amounts of time observing those around me and watching what they do. As a result, I’ve developed a pretty accurate intuition about some stuff. I know how to linger on the edges and drift quickly away if I sense an agenda I dislike. Because I make myself so inconsequential and uninteresting, they rarely bother to approach me. But that’s just me.

 

What about you? What strategies have you developed to side step awkward requests—situations where you want to say no, but doing so would be impolitic. How has your ability to handle such scenarios evolved? Can you get away with a flat out no? Do you re-frame the request as part of a giant game that, one way or another, we all join in? Do you keep a running tally of how many people owe you and when you intend to collect?

 

What do you do?

 French court

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A Re-booter Rx

March 20, 2014

As I’ve struggled with both looking for employment and managing the discouragement that has accompanied so many poor outcomes, I’ve taken to seeking out “signs” that I’m on the right or wrong path. My quest to re-boot has been so prolonged that I no longer trust myself to know if I’m on the right track. I must summon a huge amount of energy to refrain from despairing that this wilderness period reflects a lack of worth on my part. It’s all so impenetrable that I question my every choice. Some days, I just want somebody to tell me what to do.

Sound familiar?

We’ve all had periods of struggle or instability in our lives where we feel ground down and unsure if we have the stamina or strength to shove that boulder up the hill one more time. Whether it’s staring down ten or more years of child rearing, a seeming lifetime before we can retire and collect our paltry pension, or yet another weekend of that nincompoop we’re living with, sometimes it feels nearly impossible to move forward. Overwhelm is a good word for it. Yes, that sums things up nicely.

It’s times like these when we need to stop thinking. Full stop. Rather than dissecting all the ways we’ve gone wrong or made bad choices, we need to do the very thing that feels most dangerous: we need to forget our woes and go have some fun. No, that does not mean getting drunk. (Yes, you heard me, correctly.) Now is the moment to have an evening of revelry with friends, to take that day trip to a beautiful landmark, to indulge in a river raft adventure, to laugh a lot. When was the last time you truly laughed?

This prescription successfully enables us to heal by re-booting our re-booting process. Logjams happen to everyone and when we get caught in the eddys of such dour minds, it can be tough to break free. Of course, the problems that swamp our thoughts are real and require concrete solutions, so a lot more’s involved than merely changing how we think about a challenge. But, when feeling frustrated or discouraged, we have a tendency to see less options rather than more, so we’re now in the worst possible mind frame to see a new path out of our mess. Having fun enables us to escape the web of misery we’ve woven. It’s often when we’re not even thinking about an issue that we receive clarity about it. Have you ever noticed that your best ideas usually come to you when you feel happy and relaxed? Do you recall what it’s like to feel that way, anymore?

So, whatever it is that oppresses you—forget about it! Give yourself the weekend off and plan something fun, instead. Your problems aren’t going anywhere, they’ll be waiting for you when you return. But what you will gain is a booster shot of joy, a reaffirmation that your can feel happy and fulfilled in the right circumstance. It’s exactly the dose you need.

Seeing What We Need

October 15, 2013

There’s an ad on tv for an eyeglasses shop which promises that if you walk into their store and purchase their wares, you’ll walk out “a better you.” Really? Wow! That’s an awfully big promise for something as small as spectacles. While this is not a novel strategy for advertisers, it got me thinking: if I could enter a miracle-working store to change something important about my life, which counter would I visit firstWhat about you? Which display offers you something you know you should upgrade? Your appearance? Your physical vitality level? Your career? Your temperament? Your chronic, low-level insecurity? Quick, what’s going to make you a “better you?” 

Is what you’d change external or internal? What makes that one characteristic so significant?

The thing about questions such as these which makes them useful is that they can help us spotlight the discrete elements we consider most pressing. It’s sort of like having to flee one of those California wildfires or the more recent Colorado floods, where you don’t have time to think and must grab those things that mean the most. Since you can’t throw your kitchen sink into the back of your car, all the extraneous stuff really does fall away. So, I’m asking you to do this from a non-materialistic perspective.

Who is your Ideal Self? What qualities does he or she possess that you wish you had?

In a society where nearly all our physical needs are met and advertisers continually attempt to seduce us into wanting some beautiful, intriguing extra, we wind up investing way too much importance in stuff that won’t make us “better” despite all their glittering promises. As a re-booter, you know this. The painful challenge lies in being sufficiently daring to identify and articulate what it is we find missing in ourselves and how we might formulate a plan to cultivate that valued trait. The truth is, we get to make such choices each and every day, whether as a result of the most mundane of interactions or dramatic stresses.

I’ll give you an example from my life. A couple of years ago, when I was deep in the throes of having an important relationship devolve and explode in my face, there were several instances when bait was set out for me—in the hopes that I would greedily devour this poison pill while inflicting a certain amount of harm on my way down. I knew this would happen and I recognized the grenades as they were rolled out. But, what guided my choices during these moments was my absolute determination to conduct myself the way I knew my Very Best Self wanted me to behave, no matter how momentarily satisfactory lashing out might feel. So, when it really mattered—in the heat of the moment—I reminded myself of my choice and went to that place of self-restraint and dignity. This was the counter I chose in order to be a “better me.” It was hard and humbling at the time, but you know what? I’ve never bemoaned this decision; and, as the years progress, I am ever more grateful that I made the choices I did, when temptation to do otherwise was oh, so strong. We can never take back actions we regret, no matter how much we wish otherwise. I am deeply grateful that I don’t have to lament my behavior at such a critical juncture in my life. I acted from a place of who I wanted to be—positive, aspirational values, as it were–literally reminding myself in those hateful moments that I didn’t want, “to be the sort of person who behaved lesser.”

This is just an example of visiting a counter to tap into our Best Self. What I needed, at that point in my life, was to summon the dignity and self-restraint in order to remain on the high road, to remain in a place where I could feel proud of myself. But under different circumstances, it could be tapping into our stores of self-confidence at a time when everything tells us we don’t have a “chance.” Or, perhaps you wish to make peace with a painful part of your past that has hitherto dictated way too much sway over your present.

My point is this: I’m trying to encourage you to push yourself to identify your biggest gap or need that stands between the You Right Now and your Ideal You. My hope is that you will summon the courage to walk into the “miracle store,” swap out your old prescription for the attitudes your Best Self requires, and leave a “better you.” It’s all about selecting the right new set of specs.

For those of you who consider this post a bunch of bunk, I ask you to reflect upon a time when you resolved to act from that best part of yourself during a stressful situation or relationship, how amazingly fast things fell into place after that, and how glad you are about your decision. It’s not bunk. You need to identify what it is you’re missing and then claim it, the way your Ideal Self would want you to do. No purchase required.

A Recipe for the Return of Resilience

August 29, 2013

Ok, boys and girls, up and at ‘em! My most recent post was dedicated to the real-world acknowledgement of just how bleak our lives can feel at times, but now is the moment for us to hop back up on our horse and giddyup.

 

Sometimes, the only way we can even contemplate hoppin’ back into the saddle is to go through our standard routines—whether we feel like it or not. As I have progressed through the years, I’ve come around more and more to the conclusion that my feelings about something are less important than our culture would have us believe. We should take a lesson from the Brits—that stiff upper lip bit has a valuable purpose! Legal types will recognize the phrase “pattern and practice” used to describe how one party behaves under ordinary circumstances, such as, “It’s my pattern and practice to signal whenever I turn a corner.” When we are at a loss, emotionally, our routines help us get from one moment to the next, thus aiding us transition from a dark place to a more neutral frame of mind. As tempting as it can be, sitting in the dark bemoaning our fate doesn’t do much other than make things worse.

 

As I have posited previously, I champion the “fake it ‘til you make it” approach which can result in a gradually improving mood and enthusiasm for whatever it is that I’m doing. I smile and brush my hair and maintain a civil expression on my face. Step #3 in this recipe for cultivating resilience involves a whole lot of self-praise. In fact, I spend quite a lot of time congratulating myself for accomplishing the most mundane of tasks—from the polite tone of voice I use when speaking to someone who annoys me to finishing my exercise routine to thinking up yet another topic for this blog. If I don’t feel positive about the little things, it makes it that much harder for me to feel good about my long term prospects.

 

And then I stop.

 

When you are struggling to pull yourself out of a funk, respecting the limits of your psychological, emotional, and physical energies is critical. If you don’t feel like talking to anyone that day—don’t! There’s only so much you can expect yourself to accomplish when feeling fragile or discouraged. Baby steps, remember? Although I, personally, am not like this, I know many people who push themselves too hard, who say yes to too many things, consequently running themselves into the ground, wondering why they are miserable. You’re a re-booter: you know this.

 

Ok, well, I have no idea whether what I’ve written here has been the least bit interesting or helpful, but I hope so. Alas, it’s a formula I’ve been working on for years. I hope it’s something you can use—you’re way to valuable to mire yourself down in misery, no matter how burdened you feel right now. Trust me when I say that I take my own medicine. It’ll get better; it always does. Hop back up in that saddle—a Re-booter somehow summons the strength to try.

The False Freedom of Feeling Unfettered

August 6, 2013

Recently, a close friend was sharing with me her low-grade mourning about missing that feeling of being, “fully myself, without all the caca.” As adults, we all know what she means by this because we’ve experienced it ourselves. Hearkening back to a time when we had no responsibilities and life promised to be our oyster—when all felt like silken gossamer—well, I can summon up an exact image in my mind, at college, when I felt precisely this way. What moment in time do you think about to evoke that feeling?

Except, as I’ve continued to ponder my friend’s wistful observation, as much as I relish that sense of freedom and future promise, I also know that who that unencumbered, young girl was, back in college, isn’t me—it wasn’t even fully her. And I say this because I know that freedom doesn’t translate into “feeling fully myself.” Not for me, and probably not for my friend, either.

The reason for this is that as Re-booters, we embrace the fact that our lives are filled with responsibility—responsibility to ourselves, to our family, to the world around us. Part of what made that girl back in college feel so thrilled about who she was and the things she’d accomplish was the anticipation of doing “real things” in the real world. At that point in her life, she wasn’t equipped to take on too much, but she thrilled at the potential for competence, for courage, and the confidence that only comes with experience. Look, none of us would even bother with re-booting if all we were interested in was living an unfettered life—we’d simply run away. Right?

The purpose of re-booting is to find a saner, more mature way to handle our responsibilities and to flourish—to be more fully ourselves in the context of our complex, adult lives. A very different premise than one seeking to be “free.” This applies as much to someone in their twenties as it does to someone in their eighties. The way I see it, re-booting is a process in which we recognize the lives we have created for ourselves and then try to improve upon how we manage them so that the undercurrents of fretting and unhappiness ebb away. The difference is this: you don’t avoid problems, you overcome them. This is much more than a syntactical difference. What this entails is a willingness to acknowledge and tackle the challenging issues so that they no longer become a problem for you. For instance, you don’t avoid your ex, you simply change how you think about and react to their nonsense so they no longer have the ability to upset you.

Another friend was bemoaning his decision to leave one job that he grew to dislike and returned to school for a different degree that has subsequently landed him in a job with less pay, less benefits, and doesn’t even require the degree he invested in. OK, well, yeah that sucks, but would he have been better off not trying to improve his work situation that he was growing to hate? Re-booters understand that each of these choices have consequences. Adults are aware of the balancing act and sacrifices that any important life decision involves. You don’t get everything you want. Nobody does. How you make such decisions and handle the inevitable consequences that accompany them and what it entails in terms of managing or up-ending your current situation is solely up to you—you’re free to do as you see fit—but these choices and decisions are as much a part of you as deciding where you live or whether you finally go after that long lost love or anywhere in between.

It’s tempting to get lost in the fantasy that freedom equals our ideal self when, in truth, we’ve been working all our lives towards this goal of having fulfilling, complicated relationships and responsibilities and challenges in our lives. But, the good news is that simultaneously, we have cultivated the tools to deal with them in a way that stays fully true to who we are. It’s only when we lose sight of our true self—in the midst of these complications, not because of them—that our sense of freedom slips away.

Don’t get me wrong. I struggle against the desire of unfettered freedom on a regular basis, but I remind myself it’s a fiction; I wouldn’t trade my flawed struggle for anything. Do I wish things were better for me? Yes, of course I do. Do I mourn for things in my life that failed to manifest? You bet. But, what comforts me throughout, is that I know I am making headway in terms of how I am learning to remain true to myself while cooperating with the world around me.

You can do this, too. A Re-booter knows these things.

What we can glean from the shadows

July 9, 2013

According to the web-based Urban Dictionary, the term shadow casting is defined as, “a group of people that performs a movie in front of a screen while that movie is playing; they essentially pantomime the movie. Most often seen during showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” This term is also utilized in fly fishing circles for a particularly elegant and complicated cast, incorrectly portrayed in A River Runs Through It. In Indonesia and Malaysia, the practice of using shadow puppets in performances of morality plays is known as wayang kulit, where “wayang” means shadow, imagination, or spirit. Many practitioners in this part of the world believe that the characters’ true spirit can only be conveyed by the shadows—the puppets, themselves, have diminished significance.

Each of these highly divergent uses of the term “shadow casting” suggests a more intriguing meaning than is apparent on first glance. For example, to pantomime makes us think of ridiculous mimicry, but there may be unusual or unexpected interpretations that can exist only when seen in conjunction with the original work. In contrast, while fly fishers have an appreciation for the finesse used to drop a line, the fish doesn’t care how the lure lands in the water, only whether or not it is caught. And for audiences of Indonesian puppet plays, drama and meaning are found in the elongated visuals appearing on the stretched canvas backdrop, not by watching the puppets.

One of the quotes from the Bible which I always remember is taken from 2 Corinthians, which says, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” I love all the possibilities presented by this sentence. Regardless of one’s religious affiliation (or lack thereof), stay with me, because I have a point directly relevant to our present day experience. The value of shadow casting reminds us that there can be (unexpected) meaning far beyond the original effort or intention—this statement applies equally to people of faith or not! Take my first example about pantomime: we may gain insight into the characters being mimicked that we’d miss were we only to watch the film—any political satirist or SNL actor will attest to this theorem. Next, the way in which a fishing line lands on the water suggests an artistry and mastery of technique that no actual caught fish could confirm. And lastly, shadows often convey a sense of menace or heroism that the puppet, itself, could never hope to achieve.

Keep in mind that all three of these definitions rest on the prerequisite of our acting as witness. We aren’t shadow actors, we’re shadow watchers. The shadows tell us things we’d never see were we onstage. Isn’t that interesting? I just love the possibility of all this wisdom and insight that can be gained if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. In other words, a vast portion of what we may learn in this life requires us to be still, to listen, to watch, and not to act.

As a Re-booter, I believe it’s important to remind myself of this because there are moments in all our lives in which we are powerless to act. There’s nothing we may be able to do about X, Y, or Z, but we can pay attention. We can watch the shadows… and learn.

What Are You Wistful About?

June 18, 2013

Wistfulness is a funny thing. Sometimes we are wistful for things we, actually, wouldn’t want to revisit as adults; other times, we long for experiences or people we’ve cherished for many years. What is it that you miss having in your life?

For me, there are people (well, one person, in particular) and past experiences that I wish I had in my life right now. There are also people and experiences I wonder about that I have never known—this second group falls much more into the romanticized category than the first because I know too much about the prior to think it would all be idle bliss.

Are either totally foreclosed to me? Probably not.

So, what will it take to get me closer to them? A dollop of brave initiative and a whole lot outside of my control. Not exactly a recipe for success, is it?

No, but the part we tend to forget about when feeling wistful is that somebody else is sitting there feeling wistful about us, too. Yes, this applies to you. I promise you, for as much as you may be dreaming about someone or something, there is (more likely than not) somebody who dreams about having you in their life, too.

Do you remember that marvelous song from the musical Annie,” Maybe”?

Maybe far away

Or maybe real nearby

He may be pouring her coffee

She may be straightening his tie!

Maybe in a house

All hidden by a hill

She’s sitting playing piano,

He’s sitting paying a bill!

 

Betcha they’re young

Betcha they’re smart

Bet they collect things

Like ashtrays, and art!

Betcha they’re good —

(Why shouldn’t they be?)

Their one mistake

Was giving up me!

Who or what did you give up you that you wish you hadn’t? Why did you do so? Overall, did you make the right decision? Why do you still think about them? What does this person or past experience mean to you? How might you recapture this?

Someone I know back in Santa Barbara has a very complicated domestic situation which involves several unhappy and dysfunctional players. This is not so unusual. We all know people embroiled in scenarios which are complicated, unpleasant and sad. But the frustrating element of the scenario that comes to mind for me is the fact that my main contact’s only answer to any discussed alternative is “No.”

No, no, no, no, and no. No, it wouldn’t work to try X. No, Y is impossible because of [fill in the blank]. No, I’ll just have to make the best of it. No, it’s my role to be a martyr and guide these other dysfunctional players through this.

Really?

Really, is your answer to dysfunction and wistfulness always going to be No?

HOW DOES THIS ENHANCE YOUR LIFE, ALWAYS SAYING NO?

Does feeling wistful but throwing up walls against action get you anywhere constructive? Does it truly serve the people around you to maintain a dysfunctional ecosystem?

Trust me, I get it. As a Re-booter of the First Order, I am sympathetic and understand how frightening, inconvenient, and unpleasant upsetting the (dysfunctional) applecart can be. I had a million good reasons for why I “had” to remain in a situation so toxic it was poisoning my worldview and impacting my health. I was terrified, furious that I was being forced into such an untenable situation, but my fear overrode it all, so I sat tight, hating every minute, until life made sure I had no choice but out.

The point of this post is to prod you into asking yourself how many roadblocks you are throwing up to avoid taking the steps necessary to move closer to that person or experience that has haunted you all these years. And, they would only haunt you if there were something “real” there! This isn’t some flash in the pan, passing fancy. If you are still wistful, that tells me that you may want to look more closely, give yourself a fighting chance to find out. Don’t find another reason to say no.

Happiness is a Choice

January 15, 2013

It’s a grey, gloomy, January day in Washington. For many people, the absence of the sun is reason enough to withdraw into their shells and nurse a feeling of dispirited disgruntlement. For others, however, the very same conditions are cause to celebrate—even if their plans were thrown off as a result of the inclement weather. They see opportunities to snuggle up under a blanket, to take a nap, pour a cup of hot tea, or enjoy another’s company without distraction. Why am I saying all this? Because being happy is a choice. You decide to be happy. It doesn’t just arrive like some ermine mantle placed upon your shoulders.

Innumerable psychological and sociological studies cite to the fact that people can react to similar circumstances differently. Often times, those who are held up as positive examples are quite clear about their wellspring of inspiration: they made a choice. They consciously decided to be happy. They made a choice to see opportunity when there appeared to be none. They made a choice not to give up. They made a choice to find a way around whatever impedimenta had halted the progress of their peers. We all know about making lemonade, right? Right.

There are many things in life we can’t control: a medical condition that threatens to impact our daily living; a significant loss; a betrayal or disillusionment that up-ends our understanding of people we care about; you each have experienced at least one of these and probably others I haven’t listed here. But, as you well know, there are a whole lot more people out there in the world who have it much worse than you and still find ways to create joy in their lives. There’s an array of options out there for how you interpret the events of your life—it’s up to you.

Now, my saying this may annoy some readers because such a statement means that you have sole responsibility for your current experience. You are an adult, not a child. For as many responsibilities and burdens as you may face today, nobody is forcing you to undergo life any particular way. You may have concluded that your life is a misery or perhaps you perceive it as being it pretty good—either way, that’s on you. Sorry, Charlie, you absolutely cannot offload this responsibility to anyone else. I say this as an expert because I have spent plenty of time and emotional energy railing about the tyranny of others as the source of my unhappiness, but I was wrong.

As a re-booter, I now embrace the theory espoused by someone I know back in Santa Barbara: you can blame your family for all sorts of ills until you’re age 30, but after that, it’s time to take personal responsibility for whatever unhappiness you may feel. You’re the only one who can change your life! Having struggled with betrayal, upheaval, and disillusionment myself, I have fully enjoyed the glories of shaking my fist at the sky, but as I was feeling so sorry for myself, I ignored the positives that accompanied such things: I had exited an abusive, codependent relationship. New doors were waiting for me to push open. I was no longer stuck in a bad place because I was terrified of venturing forth on my own.

I know someone who has tremendous talents and abilities but who has met with certain disappointments in his life. However, from everything I can see, he doesn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself; he learns to refine his approach and understanding of people from such experiences. He finds new projects to get excited about. He makes a choice to move forward in a positive way, keeping busy and interested in the world around him. There’s much to admire in such resilience.

So, now, what about you? Have you been feeling a bit down or disappointed with some element of your life of late? Is there a different way, a more hopeful way, you might perceive this? Will you choose to be happy and engaged in the world?

You’re over 30. Take responsibility for where you are in life. Happiness is a choice.

Exit plan–the new holiday tradition

December 18, 2012

Considering the time of year and the fact that many of us will be spending a portion of it with extended family or coworkers, I thought I’d write a bit about strategies one might utilize to manage such interactions while staying sane. Certain traditions are worth cherishing, but alas, for some of us, they become burdensome or constricting. So what can a re-booter do to shake things up and create an experience worth the effort? Striking out in a different direction can be both liberating and terrifying, signifying a new you and a new perspective on the world. The possibility of creating a new holiday ritual can feel like launching World War 3 against kinfolk committed to “the way we always do things.”  But it doesn’t have to be.

As re-booters, just about everything in our lives is on the table for examination and revision. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, sometimes these revisions require no more than a tweak here and there, while others involve a shift of seismic proportions. In many ways, the seismic changes can be understood by those around us a lot more easily than the minor tweakings. The reason I say this is that the minor adjustments may sometimes indicate problems beneath the surface, thus certain people get nervous and they start wondering if more threatening adjustments are to follow.

Take, for instance, a change in holiday traditions. Coast to coast, I know a LOT of folks who wish they weren’t locked into a fixed pattern of annual commemoration (usually involving relatives or coworkers they’d rather not see) but, absent extraordinary circumstances which provide cover, they cannot manage to extricate themselves from painful rounds of fixed socializing. Now, as someone who values tradition, I appreciate the hazy image of festive dinners featuring a long table of relatives and neighbors noisily chortling into the night. But, as a re-booter, I remind myself of the (veiled) barbs and boozy commentary that also occured at such gatherings. And don’t forget the awkward family photos that include some, but not all, attendees. Having been excluded from some of these photos myself, I understand that particular pain of being “other’ed” despite my usual grumbling of how bad I look in every photo. And to compound this sense of outsider status, I now no longer even wish to be part of the snapshot, let alone the group. And therein lies the real loss.

But, the other side of all this is the hope that I can create traditions of my own choosing where photos are taken that include all attendees, each of whom is happy to be there! Ah, yes, wouldn’t that be a lovely memory to hold?

So, how do we do this? How do we celebrate holiday traditions involving at least some people we’d just as soon not see and still extract some genuine joy from them? Well, there’s always the bit of advice of “taking one for the team,” to be a good sport and support your significant other. There’s also the admonition to be sure to cut back on the consumption of spirits. And, most practically, institute a hard limit on the amount of time you must spend with these people. Here’s a suggestion: start with however long you were there last year and cut back by an hour. Next year, shave another hour off. I have a friend who, over the years, has whittled down his visit with his dad by fifteen minute increments and has managed to reach a base line of two nights, one full day—every other year.

Reading this may lead you to believe I am all about bah humbug and selfishly thinking only about my personal comfort. But this isn’t true! What I am suggesting is a way to spend the time you do have to spend but doing so with integrity and with as much pleasantry as possible. My friend tells me that now, when planning out his minimized visits with his dad, he can enjoy the time he’s there, knowing he’s got an exit plan.  What’s yours?


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