It’s that time of year when family and loved ones gather just to be together. For me, it’s also the time of year my daughter was born. Believe it or not, I started writing this column before she was born. This year, this week, she turns 19. She voted for the first time and is in college. This family reunion will be very special because we will see you for the first time in a long time.
Family. For me, family is everything. Family is my heart. My life. my happiness. Also, my irritation. My button pushers. My judgment. Family is everything.
The family represents both people whose blood we share and those we consciously invite into the covenant: people we anoint as family. Since I’m feeling extra-sentimental right now, I invite you to do the same.
Think of the people you call family. Which ones make you smile just seeing their faces? Which ones make you shudder? Which ones do you remember that you need to forgive in order to be close to them? What are your stray dogs, the ones you pick up on this occasion to make sure they are cared for and loved?
Who is your family? And how do you treat them? Many people talk about the anxiety they feel about spending time with their family. While this is true for many, your attitude can make a big difference in how these encounters unfold.
For me, the biggest thing to remember is that I’m not 10 anymore. I’m a mature adult who must remain grounded in who I am today, not who I was when I was competing with a sibling as a kid. I choose to go into family gatherings assuming the best of how we will all interact. I decide what I’m going to talk about and what’s off-limits ahead of time so I don’t get caught off guard. Then I relax.
There is a mantra I was taught in my spiritual community: “See God in each other.” I actively practice this when I’m with my family. Think about it. How would you treat someone if you looked at them and imagined there was divinity in them? What happens to me is that I look with a softer gaze. I assume the positive in everything they say or do. I believe they have something worth sharing, even if they take a little too long to tell a story. I believe I’m in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. I practice patience when I am feeling agitated.
It really works to breathe, look around and choose to see the best in others. It also ignites that same loving gaze to travel across the room and become a pact of kindness, replacing any negativity that may be festering. Try it today. Breathe. Choose to see God in your family. Have a good time!
Harriette Cole is a life stylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You may send questions to [email protected] or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.