Before we start, let’s recall your Challenge first:
This year we’re spending Christmas with my husband’s family.
We’ve done that before and I must admit that it was very difficult for me. They are a big crowd and they are having a wonderful time together. The problem is that I completely don’t fit in.
I am the only foreigner, coming from a different country and with a different language and it’s just sooo awkward to be there. Since we have kids, we can’t really separate for Christmas.
I really don’t want another miserable Christmas, where I feel lonely in the crowd, how do I save the Christmas for myself?
Lonely in the Crowd
It was really interesting to read your challenge because both I and Marta could actually relate; we were (one of us still is ;)) married to men from different countries, with the families that are speaking a foreign language so we really know the drill. It can get confusing, awkward and you can easily feel like an alien. And even if you know these people for years already, you can still feel lonely among them – especially when you are literally the only one that doesn’t belong to their bloodline.
Based on our own very personal experience, we have prepared 5 approaches that you can use to save Christmas for yourself (and who knows, maybe actually enjoy it ;))
Here they are:
Option 1: Bring your own tradition to the table (try to incorporate into Christmas celebrations something from your country/culture)
Option 2: Lock yourself in the room & don’t come out until it’s over (you can always simulate flu or a severe cold)
Option 3: Separate for Christmas (agree with your husband to spend Christmas apart, with your respective families)
Option 4: Join the club (“When in Rome, do as Romans do”)
Option 5: Take a Christmas Adventure (switch your mindset into an explorer mode: experience Christmas like you were on a vacation in a foreign country)
That awkward feeling…
I remember the first time I went on holidays with my ex-husband to his homeland and I felt pretty awkward. Everyone was speaking the language I couldn’t understand (either their native tongue or a very bizarre version of English) and I had to quickly develop a body language to communicate the basics. I never knew where I was going and why; plans and decisions were made for me, yet without me. I often found myself at the dining table with people I barely knew, witnessing conversations I couldn’t understand while eating food I couldn’t recognize.
Yet I managed to survive it (and actually totally enjoy it!) because I’ve decided to trick my mind into believing that I am… a globetrotter on an exploration mission.
Trick your brain, change your mindset
Samatha, imagine you are going with your husband and kids on an exotic holiday to the country you’ve never seen before. Maybe you have learned some basic words or phrases, read a bit about the places you will visit or asked around some colleagues about what to expect, but that’s pretty much all you managed to do prior the journey. What do you feel before getting on a plane or a car? Are you worried that “you won’t fit in” and “feel lonely” or are you rather excited about the possibility of visiting a new place and experiencing something “out of ordinary”?
Naturally, not all vacations are awesome, but we usually enjoy at least some part of it. Most of us love the curious tingling sensation that comes with a possibility of discovering new cultures and places. And even if we don’t have “the time of our life”, we still like it and soon we are ready to do it again!
Wouldn’t it be awesome if we had that feeling of excitement all the time, everywhere we go? Believe it or not (but better believe it ;)) – WE CAN! Many of us struggle with accepting this idea, but that feeling of hype and adventure is generated solely from within and the way we feel is our personal choice that we make every single day.
Your feelings are generated by your thoughts
We tend to think about feelings and emotions as they were some sort of mysterious energiesthat “come and go” and we have no control over them. In reality, all of our feelings are generated by our mind – be it conscious or subconscious. If we become aware of it and start to practice our thinking habits, we will be able to – in the long run – choose the way we feel.
The very first step is to realize that your feelings have nothing to do with the outside world, external conditions or people. They depend on what you THINK about the outside world, external conditions or people.
Let me give you a simple example: Let’s say you are walking down the street and you are suddenly pushed by a random pedestrian that passed you by. What is your reaction? Most probably you’ll get either angry or afraid. What if I told you that the pedestrian that pushed you was a blind person that just lost his guide dog, who is now panicked and scared and he has no idea where to go? Most probably you will feel a sudden wave of compassion and an urge to help him.
What has changed about the external situation that has occurred? Nothing. In both cases, you were pushed by a stranger on a street. Yet your feelings about it are totally dependent on what you THINK about it. The way you feel depends on the way you choose (consciously or subconsciously) to interpret everything and everyone around you.
If you realize the power you have over your emotional state, and that you can generate a state of excitement instead of resentment, you’ve just made a very first (yet the most important) step to save the Christmas for yourself.
Samatha, the choice is yours
If you decide that this year you want to experience Christmas with your husband’s family with an attitude of an explorer who just got a unique chance to learn more about a different culture (and for free!) you may have the best time of your life.
Be curious. Be observative. Be open-minded. And drop expectations of “how it should be” – if you were on holidays in a foreign country you wouldn’t expect to “feel like home” now would you? Take this Christmas as an opportunity to learn and explore; you may rediscover your family and see them in a totally different light,
Merry Christmas Samatha!