Christmas is a special time to share with family and friends. This Christmas was our first in America and we’ve been blessed with several people who’ve opened their doors, families and hearts to us. From friends having us to stay on arrival and sharing their home, friends of theirs hosting us for Christmas, a big Mexican family welcoming us on Christmas eve, another couple gives us a week in their home to explore different areas of LA and other friends in San Diego hosting us for a weekend… The City of Angels has watched over us with guardian angels, setting us up for an incredible 2020 filled with new experience, growth and success.
Despite all the warmth, there are a couple of difficult moments when the pictures from family events come streaming through, triggering a longing, a desire to physically embrace special people. These aren’t regular but they’re fierce like a dagger to the heart, initially. It’s only been the first few weeks of longing so obviously these feelings are new and not troubling or consuming. But I want to reflect on them and trial out an approach to feelings that are likely to return again and again.
The initial impulse is to contain the feelings and be brave for the people on the other side. We don’t want to make people think that we’re unhappy as that would worry them, particularly when we’re so physically far away. So, the instinct is to swallow the emotion and put on a brave face… We can return to sending pictures of us smiling like Cheshire cats in our new home. It’ll be clear that we’re “living our best life,” allowing their jealously of our new experiences to fuel our perceived happiness and drive us forward.
Well… we are living our best lives, happily exploring this incredible city, and loving meeting new people. But I’m not going to swallow or hide my emotion when the moments of difficulty arise.
I think there are probably people who might respond to the difficulty of being far away from family and friends by creating an additional barrier, a layer of protection. Putting up a barrier creates a distance so that the pain of not being physically close seems less important and begins to dissipate. We could use the time difference, the contrasting daily routines or the conflicting politics to accentuate the differences between us and them. We could focus on a family member’s annoying characteristic that bugs us and become frustrated with their inability to grow out of it. “My brother is standing still, as usual, not making progress while I’m making these massive leaps in a foreign country.” We can elevate our challenges onto a pedestal and trivialize theirs, widening the divide, protecting us from the hurt of missing them.
I refuse to entertain this approach. If there is something to miss, embrace it. If there’s something that makes me feel sad, feel it. If there’s something that needs to be said, say it. I’m not going to keep these emotions bottled up and ignore that they exist. I don’t want to create a divide between us and them. Or wait until the feelings explode in an unpredictable way in an unrelated environment when I won’t identify what’s creating them. I’m not going to cover up the emotion with alcohol, food, sweets, TV, exercise or some other drug.
If I miss you, I hope to tell you. And I hope to identify exactly what it is that I miss about you. If I don’t know the specifics, then I’ll sit down and think about it until I do. And I expect you to do the same!
Missing is not enough. Saying “I miss you” is easy. And nothing worthwhile in life is easy! What do you miss? There must be a reason, a cause, something tangible to uncover. It’s the identification of the real reason why we miss people that allows us to share the essence of the emotion, draws us together and gives us the ability to turn negative emotion into positive.
I missed helping my mom with the Christmas dinner. We love planning dinner, cooking, tasting, smelling, sharing and entertaining together. She taught me how to cook, she made me cook for myself on the weekends when she’d had enough of it, she still cooks for me whenever I go home, and I cook for her when I’m there. She loves taking a break from being responsible for all the cooking and I love being able to give her a break. She loves having people care for her, like she cares for them. knowing that she’s also cared for and that she doesn’t have to GIVE all the time.
Thinking about this wells emotions to the surface. Initially the feelings are sad, like a dark cloud but as we release the rain, the cloud dissipates, and the blue skies emerge. We share a special love, warmth and understanding. Each time I recollect the triggers, I feel that connection. I feel closer to her right now than in many moments when we were sitting in the same room. What is more beautiful that being able to truly identify the root of this connection and genuinely share it with the other person? Yes, it’ll probably make her sad but hopefully once the rain has fallen, the blue skies will emerge and she’ll feel the same love, just as though I’m sitting right next to her.
Once the details are identified we can channel them into the activities we’re undertaking. My mother is in me when I cook, I see her when people come to help me cook, she’s in the food when I serve it and I become her when everyone is enjoying it. The compliments aren’t for me, they’re for her.
I hope she’s able to channel the emotions in similar ways. Get new people to help, tell them why you need their help and why it’s so special that they’re there. Obviously, it won’t be the same… It never is. But give them the opportunity and they’ll bring their own joy, energy and character to the environment. What an opportunity to commemorate the love for someone and share it with someone else who is a little closer, strengthening old bonds and share new.