So here we are, just a few days from Thanksgiving, and we are already starting to see people running around getting stressed out and being rude and unkind to each other. It is not easy to remain calm when someone is rude, but if we are to reclaim civility and peace for our society, we have to start by reclaiming it in our own lives.
The holidays are hard for us sometimes, in that the reality often doesn't match up with our expectations. We want so much to create either the holidays of our memory or the holidays of Norman Rockwell's imagination. For those of us who don't have halcyon memories to draw on, we think we will make up for it by making sure our loved ones do. For those of us with great memories we compete with trying to accomplish all of those things in a different time. And so we are worn out, frazzled, frustrated.
I think the first place to start to reclaim some peace and tranquility at this time of year is to acknowledge that the Norman Rockwell holiday was a figment of Rockwell's imagination. I love Rockwell's work, but honestly those illustrations were just that- illustrations. Yes, I am sure that there are families and celebrations that look like that, but I am also sure that there are families that don't. So I think we have to allow ourselves to relax and to create what works for us. No more 'keeping up with the Joneses'!
Now my maiden name was Jones, so I have always found the thought of 'keeping up with the Joneses' absurd. Believe me, we weren't worth keeping up with. Holiday dinners at our house were fraught with difficulty.When all of the siblings and their families got together there were bound to be arguments, fights, and just general mayhem. I don't remember a time when everyone was speaking to each other, there was always some point of contention somewhere. One of the memories I laugh at was the year Thanksgiving dinner was at the home of one of my brothers instead of my parents. That brothers wife did not care for me (her loss) and she very cleverly made that known! I happen to have food allergies,in particular coconut and walnuts. On that table there was not one dish that did not include coconut or walnuts. NOT ONE! From the salads to the stuffing to the gravy, some form of coconut or walnut had been included in every recipe. Then she whined because I excused myself from the table without eating anything. My brother yelled at me that I was disrespecting his wife, and as I left the room my family started arguing. Just another family gathering at the Joneses!
So, as we start the countdown to the end of the year, my advice is to relax. All you can do is all you can do. Perhaps it is time to simplify anyway. As we encounter rude people who are stressing out, smile, perhaps say a little prayer that they will be blessed, and remain calm. That guy that just cut you off on the freeway, ask God to bless his life and keep him safe. That cranky neighbor, ask God to pour out blessing on her. That frazzled cashier, thank her for working hard and wish her a blessed day. Whatever you do, do not repay rudeness with rudeness. You only make yourself unhappy when you do that, and the truth is rude people are unhappy people, no need to add to their numbers.
Perhaps remind yourself of the first few lines of the prose poem Desiderata (Latin for desired things)
"Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit..."
Who knows, perhaps we can reclaim good manners and civility in our time, and if not we can certainly reclaim it for our life!