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Accept the Imperfections of the Holidays

Why resisting the hard stuff only makes things worse.

Key points

  • When we resist what we really feel, it may come back in the form we most fear.
  • Practice accepting experiences, good and bad.
  • There is room to proactively work toward positive change while also embracing complex feelings.
Kristina Paukshtite/Pexels
Source: Kristina Paukshtite/Pexels

Dear Readers,

When I was putting lights on our Christmas tree, I stepped back to squint at my work and look for holes and was surprised to see that one string of lights smack dab in the middle of the tree had died somewhere between being tested and being hung. Resisting the extra work of starting over from the mid-way point, I threaded a new string in to replace the dark one... but, the new string was longer than the original, leaving me with an awkward protruding loop of lights right at the belly of the tree. In the time it took to find ways for the tree to creatively swallow the extra two feet of lights, I could’ve started fresh three times over.

That’s the way it works. As Carl Jung pointed out, that which we resist persists, and often even expands. In my case, I resisted the extra work, and created triple the work as a result.

Take stock: What do you find yourself resisting in the holiday season?

Often we resist disappointment, and in so doing we strive to make the season’s celebrations perfect and magical, living up to all fantasies, memories, and expectations. But perfection is elusive and magic is mixed in with reality, and by resisting the imperfections of the season, we chase a false perfection that leaves us with the empty disappointment we resisted in the first place.

Nicole Michalou/Pexels
Source: Nicole Michalou/Pexels

Often we resist conflict with family members who have gathered around a single table despite ideological differences, unhealed wounds, or clashing personalities. But conflict is a necessary and normal part of authentic intimacy, and when we resist healthy conflict we are left with relationships ripe with underground tension, raging resentment, and a toxic version of conflict that we originally resisted.

Often we even resist fatigue. Determined to make the most of the holidays and pack our days full with joy and adventure, we resist our need to rest and instead drive ourselves to exhaustion with errands, adventures, magic-making for the kids, and general overdoses of holiday cheer. The fatigue we resisted persists, and likely expands.

We often fear acceptance because we confuse it with complacency, but they are not one and the same. Acceptance doesn’t mean throwing our hands up in helplessness when there is important work to be done. For example, we don’t have to accept hatred, greed, violence, inequity, or planetary destruction. In the face of these dark forces, we must all work to create positive change. I hope we can agree upon that as a New Year’s resolution: be a source of positive change. But we can accept that we will have disappointments in our efforts, conflict on our journeys, and that we will certainly need to rest along the way.

Alexandr Podvalny/Pexels
Source: Alexandr Podvalny/Pexels

So my wish for you this holiday season is for acceptance. I hope that you can accept the disappointment of imperfections and unexpected glitches with grace and humor. I hope you can accept the conflict that comes with closeness, and allow yourself to risk true vulnerability with your loved ones. I hope you can accept your very human need for rest, and give yourself permission to sit, sleep, and slow down. Notice what you resist, and ask yourself to accept its presence.

This will be your greatest holiday gift of all.

More from Lindsay B. Jernigan Ph.D.
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