Seasons of Change

With the Fall weather approaching (much more slowly here in California than other places I’m sure), I’ve been reflecting on change. I have great neighbors moving away, I’m settling into a new office, and I’ve been forced to reassess certain parts of my life. The changes are real, and while some are great others have been really hard. I do my best to take them in stride, but I’m human too and I know I haven’t handled everything as gracefully as I could.

And I know I’m not alone, which got me thinking about the different ways we all handle changes in our lives. I think the biggest differentiating factor between what constitutes “good or bad” change is choice. When we are choosing to make a change in lifestyle, career, living situation—it’s a lot easier to feel positive about it. We can rationalize some of the sadness and discomfort because the end-game is aligned to what we want.

It’s so much harder when we are forced into change. Getting fired, being broken up with, getting a bad medical diagnosis—these are the changes we seek to avoid, and the ones that are always unwelcome. This is where we can struggle to find the positive spin, and for the most part that’s ok. I will always advocate to feel your feelings. Move through them as needed, but don’t get stuck in them.

One thing that has been helping me this year, as I look at all the upcoming change, and reflect on all the changes of the past is remembering that no matter how scary and big some of the shifts have been, I always survived them. Maybe at times we come out the other side a little worse for the wear. The hope is that we find meaning in the change—a lesson or a purpose for it happening. But even when we can’t, or haven’t made it to that place, we grow stronger. We learn that we can endure, and sometimes that is enough.

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Dear Jacqueline

Dear Jacqueline,

 

            I seem to have a hard time around the holidays, especially watching Christmas movies. As much as I want to get into the spirit, it upsets me that all I see are perfect families. What can I do?

 

~ Anonymous

 

Dear Anonymous,

 

            I just want to start by saying that what you’re feeling is completely normal. The holidays can be hard for a lot of people, especially when it comes to family. These days there are very few cohesive nuclear families, and with divorce, blending, loss, and hurt feelings, it is not always feasible to celebrate the holidays as one happy unit.

            I don’t think there is any one answer as to how to cope, but there is some solid buffering you can do to make sure you’re holidays are enjoyable. First, focus on the positive in your life. Who is the support system that brings you love and happiness? That may not even include family, but it should not be discounted. Sometimes the best family members are great friends. If possible, try to surround yourself with those people and celebrate together.

             You’ve already acknowledged that family might not be perfect, and that is ok. One of the most difficult things we can do in life is accept people for who they are, and sometimes that means they might not need to hold a high place in your life. Depending on the severity, practice limiting your exposure to those individuals to whatever level feels safe for you. If avoidance isn’t a possibility, work on a game plan in your mind. Try to spend your time with those individuals as more of an observer, watching something play out. This is something to keep in mind, regardless of the holidays.

            Lastly, if you don’t want to miss out on the fun of watching holiday movies, try to include a few that show different representations of what family means. The Santa Clause shows a family that is struggling with divorce and remarriage (and is one of my personal favorites), and  The Grinch is a classic that focuses more on community as a whole rather than the nuclear family.

            I hope you find this helpful, and if you ever find that these feelings are becoming too overwhelming, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. And enjoy your holidays!

 

~ Jacqueline