Saying our goodbyes at the front door cannot be the end of our holiday. Actually, that is just the beginning of processing the experience. Just as it takes time for our bodies to break down the foods we ate, it also takes time for us to unpack the meaning of the interactions and exchanges we experienced.
But unlike digestion, developing a deeper understanding is not something that happens automatically. It is something we have to choose.
Familial relationships are funny. There is often an expectation of shared closeness resulting from the simple fact of a shared bloodline. Yet, this assumed intimacy is frequently paired with a sense of resentment.
And why shouldn't it be? Sometimes our relatives think that the name of our relationship (father, sister, mother, cousin, aunt, etc.) precludes the necessity of earning closeness, or the requirement that we work for the regard of others.
Doesn't that suggest that it could be time to rethink those relationships, and the way we participate in them?
As adults, we have the right--and the responsibility--to be mindful and selective in the ways we choose to be in relationship. That's all relationships. We get to choose.
I am not saying, or suggesting, that we jettison family relationships (or any other kind). I do think that we have a responsibility to examine the ways we share ourselves with people, and to determine the ways in which we are fed when we choose to intersect with them.
We only stay in relationships when we have something to gain from them. That isn't always a healthy something, either--we could habitually create familiar conflict just as easily as we might, say, look for ways to help someone become more self-sufficient.
Understanding what we are getting out of relationships is akin to seeing where the cookie is coming from. Find the cookie (the payoff, which can be financial, emotional or other), and you'll see your motivation on the other end of it.
It is worthwhile to keep doing this tedious work. It shows us how we are entangled with people--and then we can choose how to move forward from there.
The good news is that it means we don't have to keep choking down resentment along with the mashed potatoes at the holiday table.
The rest of the news? We have to keep working for it.
Also good news: whether or not we reach resolution, there can still be pie.