Are your family gatherings like Norman Rockwell paintings or Picasso portraits? If they're the latter, you may find these tips helpful.
1. Put yourself in order the night before. Lay out your clothes, shoes, jewellery, hat, belt. Clean, press and shine them if possible. This organizes your energy like sweeping or raking can. Approach the gathering with the same care as a tea ceremony rather than with casualness just because it is family.
Before you walk through the door...
2. Take a deep breath.
3. Remember how you want to be. ("Love be in my eyes, my ears, my lips, my heart," or whatever works for you.)
4. Turn your phone off. Check messages when you're in washroom.
Now walk through the door...
5. Be a professional human being. How would we be at a gathering with the Dalai Lama or Rocket Richard? How are we when we rise to the occasion? Be that. Gracious, courteous, mannerly, dignified. Posture open, Audrey Hepburn neck, space between vertebrae, arms uncrossed. This not only helps others rise to the occasion, but it affords us a protective cloak against reactivity and reversion to our adolescent software. We also look better.
6. Learn about each person. See them anew. Interview them.
7. Learn from each person Take advantage of free advice about building shelves, organizing, budgeting, letter-writing, washing cars. Watch their faces become more relaxed and thoughtful.
8. Appreciate each person. You don't have to use words. People can feel it.
9. Reset often. Reset whenever you start feeling irritable, guilty, pushy or victim-ish. (e.g. "Love be in my eyes, my ears, my lips, my heart.")
10. Keep blood sugar stable. If you're especially nervous about losing it, avoid sugar. The dark forces rub their hands with glee at family gatherings. Not only are you going to be around people with whom you have the most intense relationships (i.e. family) BUT you'll be ingesting plenty of stimulants and depressants, which making for exciting mood swings. If you don't get out the door in time to reset, you may snap at someone. Just be prepared to say: "Naughty sugar! Why did you make her say that!" Then give the other person a big grin. If this doesn't make them relax, it will at least make them nervous. Which means they're not on automatic.
11. Ye olde quick switch. Before your eyes narrow and your tumblers dial up old baggage, switch your "There you go again, always criticizing my clothes!" to "What? I paid a lot of money for these wrinkles!"
12. Thwarting strategies. 'Famous Family Stories' are safe, heart-warming and time-consuming. Lists are quite safe, too. (e.g. all teachers starting from kindergarten). 'Charades' is risky.
13. Why do I feel so squished? You have most likely pulled in your energy field tighter than normal. Although this is a wise defence in our defenceless years, to operate more consciously seems to be one of the keys to joy. Expand your aura to your big, happy self again. (Imagine light beams radiating from you to the corners of the room and one beam down to the centre of the Earth.)
14. Keep vibration as high as possible. TV-off. Crack windows. Play DJ. Say a grace that speaks to the soul.
15. Magic wand. Be relentless about changing coal to diamonds, negativity into positivity. Return alchemy to the people. Ignore suspicious comments like "You seem different somehow."
16. Magic words.
i. I know you are saying that because you care about me, but if you say it like this (insert here) I could hear you better.
ii. Do you have any advice about ...?
iii. Please let me know when my actions make you uncomfortable. I don't mean to and I'd appreciate the feedback.
17. Work out. The gym of life has a free membership. Build powerful life-muscles through family gatherings from hell. Do you really want to be a happy, peaceful blob?
18. It is not forever. Think of the family 'wrap' parties in heaven where you say to each other "Man, that was INTENSE being in a family with you! Well, I guess they can't call us slackers. Great performance!"
19. We do not know what is right for another person.
20. As my mother would say, "Put peace into each other's hands."
Now walk out the door.