DEAR READERS: Happy Thanksgiving! It's hard to believe that a year has zipped by since we last celebrated our coming together of family and loved ones. And yet it has. At markers like this holiday, I typically stop to reflect on where we are and from whence we have come. This year is no different.
There's something that has become clearer to me over the course of this year, namely that we all move at different paces. The way that each of us sees our world dramatically affects the way that we engage our friends and loved ones and the way that we feel about the chain of events that forms our lives. Navigating our relationships effectively requires noticing where we are in conjunction with our friends.
What do I mean by this? Typically, older people have a lot of free time and a lot less money. They often want to connect with the people they care about the most at the very time that those people -- children and grandchildren, in particular -- are so busy living their lives that they do not realize that their elders are yearning to connect. Working parents of growing children are often balancing their work schedules with homework, discipline and paying bills. Their children may wish for more one-on-one time, while the parents wish for the safety and happiness of their progeny. Friends without children long for the good old days when their friends with spouses and children were available to talk or hang out.
And the list goes on. Somehow, at Thanksgiving we choose to suspend our realities and, if only for a moment, pay closer attention to the people we love. Because it may only happen once a year, that pause doesn't always work so well. Pent-up, unprocessed feelings and unresolved experiences do not go away just because you decide to open your eyes. Too often, the tensions flare back up.
How can we manage this? Start with kindness and compassion. You can also lead with an apology of sorts. State to your loved ones that you are sorry you have not been as present as they would have liked. Conversely, if you have been too needy and demanding, apologize for that. Ask your loved ones to agree to enjoy the time you have together and, to the best of everyone's ability, to stay in the present. If you have unresolved issues that truly need attention, agree on a time to talk through those things. But do your best not to make it an ongoing conversation for the entire visit.
By slowing down and taking the time to be fully present with your family and friends, you create space for fellowship to heal whatever old wounds may be lingering. This is not to say that you will miraculously fix all of your problems, but it can be a head start for how you will engage each other in the coming year. Promise to call your elders more often. Agree not to be as demanding as you were in the past. Pledge to make time for the people who matter most. Then schedule it in your calendar so that, moving forward, you actually do what you say.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)