On the eighth day of Christmas, Alexis said to me…
It’s not personal!
A Christmas Cracker Story….
The other day my husband and I were collapsing on the sofa after a pleasant, but rather intensive family afternoon, ending with two out of three children having simultaneous tantrums in the back of the car as we drove home (that was NOT the fun part).
It was late. Our youngest child, who had not settled in her bed, was asleep on my knee. There was wine. There was cheese. There was crap TV. All ingredients we enjoy together when we are tired out.
Unfortunately, there was also a bit of a mood going on.
I was brooding and feeling bruised after a succession of encounters with my children’s runaway emotions over the course of the week. I should have seen that coming. I should have pre-empted their meltdowns. I shouldn’t have cared what people thought when they saw my children yelling in rage. Even when you know it is all just thought, sometimes the ‘shoulds’ pop up and hit you in the face.
I asked my husband to go and get me some crackers to go with the cheese. He got up and fetched me two, then sat down. We ate. More cheese was cut. I asked him to get up and get me another cracker, as I didn’t want to dislodge and wake our daughter.
“No! Can’t you just eat the cheese?” (exasperated look).
Sighs. Gets up. Brings back box of crackers.
What a bastard.
Well, that was my tired, wired, already annoyed assessment in that moment. Why should he not go and fetch whatever I desired. After all, I had made two meals that day. I had baked muffins. I had bathed the kids. Why could this man, who professed to love me until death do us part, not get me another cracker?
I guess he would tell the story in a different way. He would explain how tired he felt. How he was wound up with thinking about making the house nice for his family arriving the next day. How he was wondering about how on earth he was going to get his work done in time for Christmas. How he felt like a lousy parent for getting upset when the kids were having their moments of anguish. He felt angry with himself. Angry with life. Troubled and anxious. And on top of that, his wife was being really awkward about crackers.
So, on balance, he was feeling kind of angry with me too.
And let’s not forget that he went and got me the damn crackers.
It was not an argument. It was not a big thing. It was just a conversation about a cracker.
It was a moment where we were each wrapped up in our thoughts, feeling the difficult thinking coiled around us. We could not see one another clearly. We could not see beyond our personal thunderclouds.
To each of us, it looked like the other was responsible for the ill feelings being experienced. We saw a lack of help. A refusal to hold out a supporting hand and pull us up again. We could not see in that moment, that it is not other people who pull us out of our moods. It is our moods that pull us away from people.
Now, I can tell the story again.
My husband and I were tired and in low states of mind.
We got grumpy with one another about crackers.
Except, it wasn’t about the crackers. It wasn’t even about each other.
It was about a bit of thinking in the moment that was getting us in trouble.
We love each other really.
Amazing how, even with a lot of thought-spotting practice, thinking pops up in the moment and fools you. Tricks you into believing all kinds of things.
So, this video, that I am now getting to, is all about why that should be. This video is all about why it is not about you, when you see a partner, child, family member, random person, who is suffering and acting a bit less nice than you might hope. It is not about you, when someone gets all grinch faced. Nor is it up to you to fix their mood. Be compassionate, stay calm, and let nature get to it. Or get pissed off, but know that it is not really about them either.
Above all, don’t go crackers.
I have some amazing resources to share with you about relationships during Christmas and those moments of mutual anguish:
Jill Whalen just wrote this lovely post about getting on with others and how we suffer through our thinking about it;
This is a wonderful interview with the psychologist Dr Amy Johnson. If you have never played Dysfunctional Family Bingo, this might be the perfect time start, and enjoy a lighter experience of your people’s foibles.
This is a video of Elsie Spittle talking to Ankush Jain about what happens to difficult relationships when you find a better feeling to come from.
How are you feeling today?
Thank you for letting me share this story with you, because it is an awesome way to bring yourself back to the better ways of telling our stories!
Click on the link and come tell me your story in the Mamajestic Facebook Group. I am mighty curious to hear about your own Christmas Crackers.
Lots of love,