Sometimes family events can be challenging, particularly when they are momentous occasions that involve a lot of emotion and energy. Often the emotion is a result of us looking at things that happened in the past and thinking that when they are happening now, in the present, they will have the same result again.
Recently, I went to Maine to join in the celebration of my niece’s wedding. It was a beautiful event that so matched the interests and life style of the couple getting married. They both have a keen interest in history and an a strong connection to Peaks Island where they had spent many enjoyable moments.
For me, being from California, being amongst all this New England history was foreign. Also, being in the midst of so many well educated scholars with PhD’s in history, physics, biology, religion, and other subjects was a bit intimidating. That I was asked to participate in the choir for the service was an honor, but also overwhelming as I had never attended a formal service of that religion and there was no chance for the choir to practice except right before the wedding. As you might imagine, my thoughts of self doubt and inadequacy (“I can’t sing will enough to do this so that it sounds good.” “ I don’t know how to connect with all these Ph.D.‘s who are so educated and more learned than I.”) were screaming at me , and every once in a while they turned to attack others. “What a silly idea to have such a complicated event! Why would they expect all this of people?”
How could I stay present, connected, and loving, amidst all this frenetic family activity? I knew I needed to pay attention to my precious needs each moment. I made sure I slowed down to listen to those voices in my head that were judging and blaming myself or others. I call them jackal voices for fun, and I know that each one brings me a gift to unwrap. So as soon as I hear those voices judging, blaming, criticizing, diagnosing, demanding, saying “I can’t” or “I have to.” I stop and say, “What need of mine is not getting met in this moment?” I can’t say I was perfect in every moment. I am so human! And sometimes those jackal voices scream out and I don’t notice them for a while. So I find that I need to take time to be quiet and listen, to sometimes take a deep breath and connect to myself. Notice those precious needs and find strategies to meet them that, also, honor the needs of others.