DEAR READERS: Happy Thanksgiving! For those of you who have been with me over the years, you know how much I love this holiday. It is that time of year when family and loved ones come together just to be together. For me, it is also the time of year when 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 she is away at college. This family gathering will be extra-special because we will be seeing her for the first time in a long time.
Family. For me, family is everything. Family is my heart. My life. My joy. Also, my irritation. My button-pushers. My judgment. Family is everything.
Family represents both the people whose blood we share and those whom we have invited into the covenant consciously: people we have anointed as family. As I am feeling extra-sentimental now, I invite you to do the same. Think of the people whom you call family. Which ones make you smile just seeing their faces? Which ones make you cringe? Which ones do you remind yourself you have to forgive in order to be around them? Which ones are your stray dogs, the ones you gather up on this occasion to ensure that they are taken care of and loved?
Who is your family? And how do you treat them? Many people speak of anxiety that they feel about spending time with family. While that is real for many, your attitude can make a huge difference as to how these encounters unfold. For me, the biggest thing to remember is that I am not 10 years old anymore. I am a mature adult who should remain grounded in the person I am today, not who I was when vying with a sibling as a child. I choose to walk into family gatherings assuming the best for how we will all interact. I decide what I will talk about and what is off-limits in advance so that I don’t get caught off guard. Then I relax.
There’s a mantra that I was taught in my spiritual community, “See God in Each Other.” I practice that actively when I am with my family. Think about it. How would you treat someone if you looked at them and imagined that there is divinity in them? What happens for me is that I look with a softer gaze. I assume the positive in whatever they say or do. I believe that they have something worthwhile to share even if it takes them a bit too long to tell a story. I trust that I am in the right place at the right time with the right people. I practice patience when I am feeling agitated.
It really works to take a breath, look around and choose to see the best in others. It also ignites that same loving glance to travel around the room and become a covenant of goodness, replacing any negativity that may be festering. Try it today. Breathe. Choose to see God in your family. Have a great time!
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)