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Braving the Holidays with Boundaries

This is the first in a seven part series on trust in the midst of uncertainty.

As I write this, I am keenly aware of at least three things in our world. First, this weekend, our clocks turn back an hour. All I can think is, “This is a perfect year to stop this nonsense. Who needs one more hour of 2020?” Second, soon our calendars will read November. Those who have not already voted will be voting. And, third, once the votes are counted, however it ends up, we’ll once again be stepping into a new reality in 2020. 

In some ways, it feels like this year has flown by. In other ways, thanks to covid-19, all I can think is, “Is it 2021 yet?”

I don’t want to rush the calendar. But, for goodness sake, can we get to a new reality already? I know the answer is “No.” But that doesn’t make me desire it any less.

Can I get an amen?

Mental Weariness in 2020

Here’s the other thing: I know a change of date won’t care for a pandemic. But it might create new mental space to think differently. Because, if I am honest, I’m tired.

I’m guessing you are, too. I don’t say that as a badge of honor. Nor do I say it proudly. I am taking care of myself. To put it simply, I want to be done with what 2020 has handed us.

Can I return to sender?

Ask for a do-over?

Hit back 10 months button? Oh, that’s just 10 seconds, isn’t it? You get my point. 

So as we head into Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, and the New Year, I want to offer seven ways you can be intentional about building trust this holiday season. Because here’s the reality: as humans, we are weary. And weary people are prone to hurt the people we love the most.

To help you navigate this season with mental clarity and create space for some joy and hope to infiltrate the season, let’s focus on building trust, not breaking trust.

Boundaries Tell Us What’s OK

Today, we’ll focus on the B of Braving. Over the course of the coming weeks, I’ll share a few thoughts on each aspect of braving trust this holiday season. 

B stands for boundaries. 

Now before you roll your eyes and tell me to go back to March, 2020 and try again, let me tell you five things that make boundaries a gift. 

First, boundaries name what’s ok and what’s not ok.

For example, my parents and I have already talked about how Christmas will be different. We’re doing stockings only – 3 stocking stuffers, period. We’ve all had a tendency to buy more gifts than we need. And, let’s face it, shopping isn’t going to be easy this year. 

Question to consider: What’s ok for you and your family? What’s not ok this holiday season? Talk about it. Name it. Then choose to live by it. 

Second, boundaries invite creativity.

If your family is going to gather in small groups, or on the back patio around a fire, there is likely a limit to the number of people who can be there. Get creative with how you’ll “see” one another and what it means to celebrate this year. 

Question to consider: What creative solution can you identify within your boundaries of what’s ok and what’s not ok?

Third, boundaries set an emotional climate.

This connects to my first point. But, here’s the distinction I want to make: our emotions are often fueled by the thoughts in our head. When we’re thinking, “Should we stop by?” “I don’t think it’s a good idea for all of us to gather.” “We need to think about Mom and Dad’s health,” you are spending emotional energy navigating unknown variable and scheming to protect yourself. The emotional energy that requires is not kind and it doesn’t build trust. 

Question to consider: What emotion(s) do you want to experience this holiday? If you need some help, download the mood meter app. Not only will it help you monitor your emotions, but it will guide you in shifting emotional reactivity. 

Fourth, boundaries give your brain space to function more effectively.

Let’s face it, we have all had to rethink think too many things this year. That rethinking is necessary and important. And, at the same time, the holidays bring expectations. While the number of commitments you have during the holidays may be fewer, with no office parties, no group gatherings, no special musical performances, etc., there are still expectations.

Talk with your family about what you want to focus on this holiday season. Communicate your expectations to the people in your circle of care. Then, give your brain the space to reflect, enjoy, and experience what you decide.

Question: What do you want to spend your time thinking about and experiencing this holiday?

Fifth, boundaries facilitate connection.

My curfew was 12:23 a.m. when I was in high school. Not  12:30 or 12:25, 12:23 a.m. What this boundary did was gave me a container within which I could enjoy time with my friends. It was a space to facilitate connection with my peers. The same is true with boundaries with those you love and care about.

Consider the relationships that are important to you and the boundaries around those relationships. I know one person who on occasion can visit her longtime friend in a nursing home for 30 minutes. She’s planning on making the most of those 30 minutes every time she can. But, she’s also calling every day.

Perhaps what you have is more time. Consider how that time can be spent building connections with the people you love and care about. Maybe you’ll send Christmas cards for the first time in years. If what you want is to share simple memories with loved ones, name what’s ok and what’s not ok and make it happen. 

Question to consider: Who are the people you want to experience deeper connection with this holiday season?

These five things are not an exhaustive list of how you can brave the holidays. I do hope it gives you a place to consider how boundaries are essential for building trust and begins to empower you in Braving the Holidays.

Next week we’ll explore the R of BRAVING.