It can be hard to maintain a positive attitude at times. It can be a challenge when facing hardship and struggle to keep a smile on your face. Sometimes during these holiday seasons, the effect of depression and anxiety can be magnified. Culturally speaking, these are times of celebration, happiness, gratitude, family, and togetherness. When our mental state doesn’t quite match up with the tone of the season, it can be easy to fall into the trap of tired resignation, and even feelings of hopelessness. I let my family down on countless holidays. I was not present, physically or mentally. I was unable to see anything outside the twisted lens of the disease from which I suffered. I look back now and can’t imagine the pain I put my family through. I was so self-absorbed that I honestly never took their feelings into account. Actually, I was not able to because of the reality of my addiction.
Expectation vs. reality will always be a battle, or as I like to think of it, a continuous learning experience. If your loved one is not meeting your expectations, please keep reading. I think as humans we simply have this mental construct built up within our psyche on a fundamental level; that somehow things in our lives, (people, places, principles) need to be a certain way for us to feel at peace. More so than most things, this extends to loved ones. We expect reciprocation of feelings, love, and friendship. We expect others to lift us up when we’re down and out. We expect family members to celebrate the holidays with us, to make themselves available, not just in a physical sense, but in a sense of presence. Sometimes we even expect others to help us heal, grow, or generally “feel better” without even having to ask them for help.
Inevitably, someone you love is going to come up short. They will disappoint you. They may anger you. They may frustrate you endlessly when you see something in them that they just can’t seem to see in themselves. Their life may mean more to YOU than it does to them in extreme circumstances. Their healing process, their presence at your holiday table in a healthy mindset may even be what you’ve predicated your own happiness upon. I’m guilty of this, just as much as anyone else amongst us, despite quite literally being THAT person for several years.
When I start to have these feelings of unrealistic expectations that I’m basing my own emotional needs on, I try my best to pause, to reflect on my own life’s experiences, and the reality of the situation. What is it about me that I’ve CHOSEN to base my emotional wellbeing on someone or something else entirely?
Maybe, at any given time, who they happen to be, the state they happen to be in this year, is the best version of themselves that they can be in that moment. Maybe being in a perfectly stable state just isn’t a possibility. Maybe that person is you as well – feeling sad or depressed is a normal facet of the human experience. Especially during a traditionally “happy” time.
I’m here to tell you that’s perfectly okay. Whatever it is you may be going through, whatever it is that someone you love may be enduring, it is acceptable. Your feelings are valid, and you are worthy of love and happiness. Basing your worth on circumstances outside of yourself, on others, on the idea of the “perfect” holiday however, will most likely leave you disappointed. It’s a lesson learned through time. There is no “mistake” in my vocabulary; only growth.
Developing a practice of prayer, meditation, gratitude, and action-oriented steps towards personal and spiritual growth are the solution. In God’s eyes, we exist in a perfect state of grace at all times. Through recognition of His great mercy, His forgiveness, we are able to begin to let go of the expectation that anything should be different than how it exists now at any given time. And that we don’t have to feel any particular type of way, about any given circumstance. Only acceptance.
I want to remind you this season that there is hope, even in the darkest corners of our human existence. Now I do what I can to make up for those many lost holidays. Through recognition of God’s gift of forgiveness for me, for everyone, and a steadfast acceptance of that, I was able to make a new beginning. I was able to embrace recovery, through action, allowing me to show up today. Practice gratitude. Practice thankfulness for the people in your life who are there now. And for the people who aren’t – remember and cherish the times in which they were. Love those around you – spread those feelings of goodwill and cheer – and pass on the message, the beacon of His love, that restoration is possible for anyone. Healing is possible for anyone. Sit with the feelings you have. Talk them out. Accept them. Accept the fact that who you are, how you feel, or the state anyone else may be in this year, is EXACTLY where they, or yourself are meant to be.
God bless you,
You can read, comment and ask questions for Sean to address in his blog on the PAL website, home page – www.Palgroup.org