I am here with my family on Thanksgiving Day. Football is on in the background. We have already taken pictures around the table so that we can document the perfectly designed center piece. That has led to laughter, some “fake” arguments, jokes about those arguments—it has been noted that my father only calls my mother “darling” when he is annoyed. The kids are practicing carols because they will be singing at Disney this weekend. My mother and I are going as chaperones, although the chaperone part was apparently news to my mother.
Why do you care about all of these details of our family?
Within families small jokes can bring us closer together; sometimes, though, biting humor can drive us apart. It is at holidays or family gatherings that we can bond or bicker. And sometimes it is our expectations that determine which way this goes.
Today, our family bonded over shared memories and answers to thought provoking questions that my mother downloaded. We learned about contests that we cherished winning and who we considered the biggest troublemaker in our family (one of our dogs won!).
When I share my small moments, hopefully I can get you to stop and think about yours.
- What are your expectations of the holidays? Journal about them. Even after the fact or for the next holiday. Write about what you were expecting. How did it match up to the actual day? If you found the day a disappointment, maybe it was a function of your expectations. When we think things should be a certain way and they aren’t, then we can feel disappointed. If we just live moment to moment, often we can more happily accept how things actually are.
- Journal about how your family interacts. Are the jokes and laughter comical or cutting? By understanding how interactions make you feel, you can set boundaries if others make you feel bad about yourself.
- Journal about a conversation that may not have gone as expected. Is it perhaps that some information got left out? The chaperoning information could have led to a disagreement with my mother, but we flowed through this communication gap. Are there communication gaps going on in your life? Has that affected some of your interactions?
- Journal about a favorite memory. What made it special?
- Journal about a challenging memory—what happened, how did it make you feel, how did you get through the situation?
- Write a list of questions that you’d like to learn about others in your family. Use the next get-together to learn more about each other. In the meantime, journal and answer those questions for yourself.
- Journal about whom or what has been a troublemaker in your life. Why? How have you dealt with this? What have you learned? How can you limit the amount of trouble now?
- Journal about what you are grateful for. Consider starting a gratitude journal. At the end of the day, write 3 things that you are grateful for. It will help remind you about the important things and help get you through the frustrations. Mine?
- I am grateful that we had a lovely day together as a family and shared new memories.
- I am grateful that my troublemaking dog has finally lain down.
- I am grateful for the pre-Disney concert that I got as my kids practiced their songs.
- And now that my dog is back up, I am grateful for our new dog door so I don’t have to go let him out.
- I am grateful for my washing machine that is swooshing away because I don’t even want to think about where I’d be without appliances!
- I am grateful for this chance to write and for everyone who reads these words and thinks about writing to discover their own way to health.
There I did 6, now your turn.
Go, Write On!
Martha Peaslee Levine, MD