Grace, Grit, and Gratitude
The holiday season is often bittersweet. We long for the perfect family picture. Pies. Laughter. Hugs. The sparkle of lights. The closeness of family. Yet, underneath there may be a longing, or a sense of discomfort that’s hard to identify.
Susan Cain describes bittersweetness in her new book Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole as “states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of passing time; and a curiously piercing joy at the beauty of the world. It recognizes that light and dark, birth and death—bitter and sweet—are forever paired.”
During the holiday season irritability, annoyance, fatigue, confusion, and other uncomfortable feelings may emerge. The picture-perfect holiday seems to go awry. Memories of childhood abuse, shame, and neglect may sit below the surface, or sometimes even rise to the top. Authentic expression is denied as we try to fit into the mold of what we learned in the family. Risking losing their love if we don’t.
All feelings are okay, but all behavior isn’t. Learning to recognize what you are feeling and express emotion in a healthy way is new for all of us. Give yourself grace, as you move through the holidays with grit, and finish with a little gratitude.
Best-selling author Anne Lamott writes: “I do not understand the mystery of grace. Only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” Grace gives you the ability to move through difficult times with faith. Somehow, someway we always get through. Walk into the holidays putting one foot in front of the other, feeling grace beneath your feet. Have faith. You will ride out whatever arises. Breathe.
The definition of grit is “strength and resolve; courage of character.” I use the acronym GRIT as a tool for building strength and courage. Grace. Respect. Intention. Truth.
Everyone has different ways of coping with emotions. Most people do not speak directly, but rather dance around issues and conflict. Some people avoid. Some people act out aggressively. Some people-please and try to make everybody happy.
Instead, try using GRIT.
Start with Grace. Even though relationships can be hurtful, we are all doing the best we can. Respect that. That doesn’t mean you have to like it or accept it. Instead set an Intention for what you need. For example, your intention may be not to talk about politics. Say that with grace and respect. “It would mean a lot to me if we could talk about something that we all feel good about, such as the love we have for the new baby.”
First and foremost, do no harm to self or others. Be patient with yourself. Tell the Truth. It may not be safe to speak it to others. Maybe you have gaslit yourself out of the truth because others tried to talk you out if it. Give yourself permission to see, hear, and feel what you are experiencing. Speak only to others when it is safe. Say NO. Walk away. Do what feels right for you. Others will eventually benefit, even if they become angry, manipulative, or sad in the moment. BE YOU.
Studies show that gratitude positively affects the nervous system and the production of the feel-goodhormones in your body. When you find something to be grateful for, you create new neural pathways of joy and pleasure. However, many of us are told to be grateful for things that we don’t like. For example, your abusive uncle bringing you a present. Being grateful for something that isn’t aligned with your best self creates a sort of cognitive dissonance and you may not actually know what you are feeling.
Instead, find gratitude for simple things. Flowers blooming. Sun shining. Hot showers. Fireplace crackles. The smell of cinnamon. That new baby. One split second of gratitude builds neuroplasticity in the brain and calms the nervous system. Never tell yourself you’re grateful for abusive behaviors or dysfunctional family patterns. Be grateful for the things you truly appreciate. It’s okay to be YOU!
Happy Holidays! I am grateful for you!