Guest post from Trust Tender, Kristin Noelle
Early this week, Consumer Reports ran a national survey in the U.S. that reported that having to interact with certain relatives is one of the top things people dread about the holiday season.
I’m aware even as I type that sentence how ingrained the impulse is to look away from that reality – how difficult it is to name something (e.g. familial challenges) that carries with it so much potential for feelings to get hurt, toes to get stepped on, and hearts to get burned.
Because aren’t holidays all about warmth and cheer? Isn’t the point of them celebration? And aren’t families the heart of the heart of everything – the place where love is supposed to most beautifully and all-encompassingly flourish?
If we blow the cover on all of that and expose ourselves or our families as the messy, awkward, insecure bunch we all are (no matter how lovable), it can feel like we’re trampling an important, cultural storyline. So as with our earliest unspoken agreements, when we start to talk about our actual experiences with family, it can feel like the sky will surely fall.
I want to gently, but firmly, give voice to a different story completely.
I want to speak of the sky – the sky of hope, and of the capacity to grow into full adult maturity – that falls, and falls, and continues to fall when we stay silent about or perpetually distracting ourselves from what isn’t working for us in our families.
I want to speak of the sky that opens and expands and infuses us with trust as we take steps to name honestly what our experiences have been and what we want to try to learn from them and to heal.
I want to draw new lines around what love is that don’t exclude, but actually encompass expressions of anger, bitterness, and resentment, and that leave ample room for “this isn’t working for me” and “I’m sorry, but I need to have more space.” Lines that recognize healing takes time, and love can be present, in all its messy guises, well the whole way through.
And I want to suggest that the most beautiful, hopeful story of growth and healing and peace-on-earth-good-will-toward-all – in our individual lives, in our families, and in our broader world – may actually have nothing to do with downplaying struggle or keeping up positive appearances, and everything to do with getting as honest and awake as we can be about where we’ve come from, where we are now, and where we wish to grow.
Kristin Noelle is a Los Angeles based writer, artist, and healer. Her sketch blog, Trust Tending, explores conscious moves we can make to nourish trust. She recently launched an ebook titled Unspiking the Holiday Punch: A Trust Tending guide to self-kindness before, during, and after extended family time – a comforting, practical guide to navigating the relational challenges of holiday gatherings.