Here’s a blinding flash of the obvious: People are going to annoy you over the holidays – more than any other time of the year. But you know that.
Why bring it up? Because if you’re in the midst of a divorce, your mental health may be teetering on the edge of sanity during the holidays. Knowing how to deal with the family and folks that push your buttons is critical.
Over the holidays, emotions are escalated on both ends of the scale, happy and sad.
When you’re happy, it feels so good that you become that person at the carnival who slams the hammer and rings the bell at the top of the scale. Glee sails off the charts. You want to grab it and save it for later. You glow around the folks who make you feel secure. You’re all warm and cozy. You’ve got the holiday spirit – and how!
Then, Newton’s third law of physics tells us: For each and every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That means that when you’re with the people who provoke you, you’ll have the same degree of negative emotion that you held for the people who gave you bliss. It’s just the way energy works. Be prepared.
How do you keep yourself from a fall into the abyss of negativity when the people that upset you speak up, ignore you, don’t invite you, or criticize you?
My mother had the best advice of all: Rise above it. Michelle Obama said it even better: When they go low, we go high.
Translated into a phrase you can say to yourself throughout the holidays – and any other time of the year, for that matter:
What does that phrase do for you? It empowers you to be above the fray. It takes you off the hook from having to respond. It keeps you out of circling the drain of eternal drama with people who annoy you. It allows you to move on with your life – perhaps to continue creating that fragile new life that you’ve just started. It allows you to NOT take it personally.
I can promise you this: Especially during the holidays and while you’re in the process of divorce, people are going to say and do things that hurt you. People will let you down. People won’t invite you or they’ll leave you out of activities you did as couples. They will disappoint you. It’s all a part of the divorce process. Unfortunate, but true.
You need a way to NOT let it get under your skin, a way to NOT take it personally, a way to enable yourself to move on.
By the way, I don’t believe those people who disappoint and leave you out do it intentionally. I think they’re trying to help in some irresponsible and inappropriate way. I believe they’re clumsy in the words they use and the actions they take. They haven’t meant to hurt you, annoy you, and leave you out. They aren’t thinking of you at all, actually – they’re thinking of numero uno: themselves.
Nonetheless, the hurt is palpable in your heart. Were these my friends? How can they say those things? Don’t they know I’m fragile, too? Trying to find answers to those questions right now will only increase your misery.
Instead of writing your tactless friend or family member off, take the high road. I know it’s not easy – but the high road never is. Don’t allow yourself to take it personally. You have the choice to allow it under your skin, or not.
When the annoying action comes, say, "I choose not to be offended." Hint: You may have to say it many times over and over after an encounter that makes you want to scream. Don’t give up. Keep saying it. You’ll find the mind shift comforting.
Say it when you don’t get invited to a dinner party. Say it when a "friend" tells you how to run your divorce. Say it when some jerks cuts you off in traffic. Say it while shopping – especially while shopping for holiday gifts. Say it when your teenager acts out. Make it a part of your life permanently. Write "I choose not to be offended" on a post-it note and stick it on your bathroom mirror.
The only way to deal with irritating people is to rise above and protect your heart from undue wear and tear during the holidays.
I choose not to be offended. It will save your soul as you move forward.