Holidays tend to bring families together physically, which can be great. Special meals are prepared. Religious services are attended. Homes are deep-cleaned. Flowers and new lives bloom. It can be a colorful and sunny time of year, especially after a long winter. It can also be a time for fear and sadness.
I am suddenly aware of why such rituals don’t appeal much to me. They definitely have their value. Aside from the benefits of being together within lives that can be quite hectic, they reconnect us to history, ancestry and worlds we might otherwise never experience. They also give the merchants a sales boost, and they remind the take-out kings and queens that they can still cook (or at least we hope so!).
I love the togetherness when it’s more than a ritual. I want to truly connect with people and be trusted with their visions for their lives and the people around them. I want authentic conversations rooted in unconditional love, and I want to support people in living out their visions. Yet what I often experience is an exacerbation of past hurts and disappointments. It is death being called to life again, but not in the glorious way Jesus does in The Bible‘s resurrection story.
Family holidays for me often revolve around the ceremonial walking on eggshells to not upset the volatile family members. I beg for their approval at my own expense and secretly wish I had been crucified so I wouldn’t have to live in this archaic, soul-sucking village. I see why Jesus, and his courage to live as he believed, is a timeless character of inspiration. I become grateful that I was sold into slavery far away, and I withhold from my family the plan I have to soon be a free person with full rights. I expect them to resist my freedom because it seems to me that they generally do.
I am now more sad for them than I am for myself. They live in their own prisons and don’t know they are free. (Perhaps I do, too.) So, again it seems that they try to keep me shackled and force me to live as they do.
No, thank you. I would prefer that we all be free.
Let’s walk through this conflict using the 5 Actions of a Master.
Action One: Define the Conflict
Several family members and I disagree about my role in the family.
Action Two: Identify the Interests
I want to be loved unconditionally and to share myself authentically. I thought we were supposed to all be treated equally, yet it seems that my voice is silenced if it conflicts with certain family members. I expected to be protected by, not from, my family. I believe I’ve done a lot for my family. I wish it was enough. I wish we could have relationships with each other that weren’t built on gossip and judgment, manipulation and control. I want to be free in my relationships and in my life.
Action Three: Play with the Possibilities
If I could have this conflict resolved in any way possible, I would reach new heights in my career, my finances and all of my relationships. My family members would be happy for, and proud of, me. They might even genuinely tell me that and be inspired to achieve beyond what they believe is possible for themselves, too. There would be no score-keeping or penalties for breaking rules that weren’t communicated. We would speak openly about our needs and how they could be met, whether by each other or the vast resources in the world. We would function as a team with a deep bench, rather than one with a few marquis players. We would triumph over many past, present and future challenges, and we would celebrate each other more.
Action Four: Create the Future
I haven’t been responsible for my part in creating the experiences I have with my family members. The one constant in all of my relationships is me, and I’ve taught people that my voice doesn’t matter. I’ve lain on the porch in front of the door, then gotten angry that people use me as a doormat.
Yet I rarely said anything because of a relatively smaller number of times when I did and the conversation didn’t go well. I haven’t trusted myself to communicate effectively. Nor have I trusted my family members to listen for what I really needed. I have been convinced they didn’t care–without fully investigating the situation.
I would never do this in a legal matter entrusted to me. I know that isn’t effective. Beginning today, I will start taking new actions.
- I will call my nephew and stop limiting our relationship in fear it will upset a few people. He and I have been close for most of his life, and no one really wins when love is limited–regardless of the reasoning.
- I will continue to practice my stand against gossip in the family. I will not participate in discussions that do little more than judge, condemn, demonize, or label people. I will transform the discussions to problem-solving where I can and end that portion of the conversation where I cannot.
- I will stop believing that I am a terrible person because I didn’t send a birthday card with my gift, chose a birthday card that the recipient didn’t think was funny, worked late and didn’t call, etc.
- I will stop pretending that I make anyone feel any particular way. I can’t control another person’s emotions any more than they or I can control mine. Attempting this is about as productive as trying to control their blood flow.
- I will trust my family members to be the big people that they are. I will stop buying into their stories that they are weak, fragile victims who needed to be treated with extreme care and who can’t create the lives they want. This is not empowering them to exceed their own expectations.
- I will keep loving them unconditionally. When I fall from my stand, I will just get back up and take it again.
- I will put as much energy into pleasing myself as I do into pleasing others. I will use my New Project Assessment form when appropriate. I will say No when I don’t have the excess funds or time to say Yes and still take care of my own needs. Where more effective, I will connect people to other resources that will get them the results they want.
- I will develop myself into an example of freedom and what’s possible for everyone.
How can you resurrect your visions for your life and the world?
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Nance L. Schick, Esq. is a New York City attorney and mediator who focuses on keeping people out of court and building their conflict resolution skills, especially in business and employment disputes. Her holistic, integrative approach to conflict resolution draws from her experience as a crime victim, human resources supervisor, minor league sports agent, litigant, and trial attorney. She is a 2001 graduate of the State University of New York Buffalo Law School trained in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation (ICERM). She is also creator of the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process, author of DIY Conflict Resolution: Seven Choices and Five Actions of a Master, and an award-winning entrepreneur, who has been acknowledged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business), Enterprising Women Magazine (Honorable Mention, 2014 Woman of the Year awards), and Urban Rebound NY/Count Me In (Finalist, 2013 Pitch Competition).