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Life Lessons: “Get Your Story Straight”

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A Life in Balance

Just when you thought you had a handle on things, along come the holidays! I discovered a couple of very interesting paradigm shifts over this past Thanksgiving weekend. The first was that Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday shopping are so much easier when I don’t spin a story about them. In the past, I have told myself some whoppers about this time of year. I’m sure you have your own holiday tales, but mine go something like this, “I will never get it all done. I have to do it all myself. I wish I could ask for help, but my family can’t do it right. I’m the only one that can cook, shop, decorate, clean, and plan properly,” and so on, and so forth.

I am here to tell you, these are all just stories…they aren’t true, unless you make them so.

So this year, I tried something different. I did my normal Thanksgiving Day spreadsheet. What, you don’t have a spreadsheet for Thanksgiving? You should try it. I started using one years ago after my friend, Maya, suggested it. The spreadsheet systemizes all the tasks by how much time they take. You work backwards from your “to the table” time, and then plug the dishes into your timetable according to preparation and cook times. That way all the dishes come to the table on time, and you don’t end up forgetting to put the dressing in the oven or mash the potatoes. When you have everything laid out on the spreadsheet, then you can start delegating tasks to your loved ones, so that you can actually go take a bath and read a book for a break. I followed my own advice, with the exception of the bath, and it was amazing how my family all pitched in when I asked nicely…and then let go. I realized that when I stopped the story of, “I have to do this all myself,” and substituted, “I want to do this task, and I can give that task to the girls” the whole day went better. I didn’t even feel the need to check up on them, because I had relinquished the job to them; that meant it was no longer my business. When I was at the place on my timetable where their task was coming due, I asked them about how it was going, and it was already done…every time.

So, why then was I so exhausted after dinner? I found the answer in O magazine; a place I find a lot of answers, by the way. On page 112 of the November 2012 issue, there was an article about HSP’s, highly sensitive people, with a quiz to see if you fit the description. I know I’m pretty sensitive, but I’ve tried my whole life to cover it up by being uber-efficient. If your score on the quiz was 40-60 points, you are an HSP; mine was a 56 (I can almost hear my family saying, “Well, duh, Mom! Didn’t the fact that you cry at McDonalds’ commercials give you a clue?”) The reason I was exhausted after dinner was twofold: 1. I let myself get too hungry (a big no-no for HSP’s), and 2. I didn’t take quiet time for myself to offset the chaos of six people, two dogs, a cat and blaring holiday music. I’m so used to my quiet writing days, that I forgot what a toll on my body a whole day of family circus could be. The article suggests that it’s “crucial for HSP’s to build downtime into their lives,” to always carry high protein snacks, and to have a plan for how to handle loud, crowded situations.

I practiced optimum HSP preparation on Black Friday. The girls and I got up at 4:30 a.m. to go shopping at a time that was between the crazy midnight shoppers and the slightly saner 9:00 a.m. shoppers. We chose well; the crowds were minimal, and there were no lines at the cash registers. I made sure that I got some alone time between group shopping sprints; I even went into the bathroom stall and did some breathing meditation (3 deep breaths, nine times.) We sort of ambled around without a real plan, unlike past years when I had a map, a plan and a bullhorn. We got some good deals, but more importantly, we had a great time!

If you asked me three years ago about Christmas shopping, I would have had a haunted look on my face. I made it so stressful with my stories of doom and gloom, that I missed the point of the holidays…to make memories with my family. Holiday memories are stories with a purpose: to remind us of how much we love each other and how blessed we are. In order to make some new stories, you will have to clear out your story attic. Pitch anything that starts with “I have to”, unless the rest of the thought is “build quiet time into the holidays and keep myself from getting too tired or hungry.” I promise that your new holiday stories will be ones that you will tell fondly for years to come.

 

Please drop me a line at terri@alifeinbalance.com to tell me how your story swap affects your holiday cheer-meter or visit me at www.alifeinbalance.com

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This entry was posted on November 30, 2012 by in Health Tips, Trends & Tips.
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