Give the gift of your true story this holiday season.
‘Tis the season for the annual holiday letter. You know the one you get from your second cousin, twice removed with a rundown of their year’s highlights.
Cousin Sue‘s letter might also include some “mediumlights,’ but let’s be real, the true lowlights won’t make the final edit. Nah, those would be too depressing and bring everyone down.
While it’s nice to see the included photo of Sue in snorkel gear on the beach in Cozumel and hear that she’s taken up Pickleball, those tell us very little about her. They report what she did this year, but not how she did.
What if her yearend letter got more honest and revealing? What if we got to not only hear what she was up to this year, but also how she was. What were you about this year, Sue? What challenged you and how have you dealt with that? How did you grow and what did you learn? If you just say Pickleball, I’m out.
I’m all for hearing about the wins and high points. I’m also here for the rest of your story as well – the complete and real one. Tell me how great the kids are doing & about that exciting promotion and also…
Let me know if this was the hardest year in your 30-year marriage.
Show me photos of your beloved dog who transitioned.
Share how your real estate business was severely impacted by sky high mortgage rates.
Let me know how you survived a traumatic and costly legal battle over your renovation.
Real talk, all the above could be in the real holiday letters of the people closest to me. Considering my work as a counselor and coach, I have plenty more examples of just how real life got this year.
If I got real in my holiday letter, I’d share about:
The emotional ups and downs of being closer to family, both chosen and original.
Fumbling to create a new reality, sober from a lifelong struggle with perfectionism.
A glacially slow recovery from last year’s surgery that tested every ounce of grit I have.
Facing the realities of aging and just how quickly my years in this life are passing.
You might be asking, “Buck, why share all that? It’s the holidays, after all. Focus on the happy times.” I hear you and I get it. It’s the season of holly jolly; a time to gather and give gifts. As Andy Williams declared, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, after all. I’m all in for merriment and cheer so sign me up for that too!
Reflecting in a winter wonderland
It’s also the season of shorter days and longer nights. For many of use, the holidays transition us into the darkest, coldest time of year, inviting us to spend more time indoors in our human hibernation. As this change occurs, most of us will naturally slow down and become more self-reflective. We’ll spend more time turned inward, contemplating and honestly assessing our lives.
Now I think that can be wonderful even if not in a rockin’ around the Christmas tree kind of way.
Whether you love or loathe spending time with your and others’ ‘darker’ sides and whether you go there in your holiday letter, I’ll bet you feel a bit lighter when you’re more open with all that’s going on for you. First, with yourself and then with others. When you open yourself to others, I’ll bet you feel more seen and heard, less alone and like someone else gets it.
We need people to get it. “It” meaning us. We need to know people can relate with us and that we’re not the only ones on this wild, wonky and wonderful ride. We need this the most in the midst of life’s inevitable struggles, losses and growing pains.
When we open up and reveal, we relate and when we relate, we feel closer. There’s a warmth that comes with closeness along with empathy, compassion and love. There’s less shame and more connection.
Connection, compassion and closeness sound meaningful and merry to me.
Tidings of resilience and renewal
The other reason we want to hear & read about Cousin Sue’s high and lowlights this past year is because we love stories of resilience. Don’t we all love a good triumph through adversity?
We’re deeply moved when someone we care about faces hardship and lives to tell. While we don’t love hearing how our uncle’s business went under this year, we’re inspired hearing how he made it through, now feeling liberated to pursue other dreams. We certainly feel heavy reading about our neighbor’s cancer diagnosis, but hearing how she navigated the daunting world of cancer treatment reminds us how we too can show up when life sucks.
We love these stories because they speak of what are often, if not always, our most transformative life experiences. These are the chapter headings of our life stories. Our most defining moments are often when the world as we know it falls apart and we’re harshly earthquaked into a new season of life and often a new version of ourselves to live it.
Like me and even Cousin Sue, you’re drawn into others' stories of renewal because you can see yourself in them. You know how it feels to persevere through a hellish, painful experience. You know how important it was or perhaps currently is to hear you’re not alone in the hardship and there’s hope for healing. This is core to our human experience; it is our common humanity.
The good news is that giving and receiving our transformation and renewal stories doesn’t require wrapping paper, ribbons or bows. There’s also no need for grand a-ha’s or dramatic changes. While resilience and renewal do often come through seismic breakthroughs, they’re more often the result of holding onto ourselves when life comes for us.
They're about surviving the breakdown and mustering the strength to rebuild.
I want to read about that in your holiday letter. I want to hear about your ups, downs, broke downs, and bouncebacks. Even if this year wasn’t all that transformational for you, I know you were challenged, and I can all but guarantee you became more resilient in some important ways. Ways you might not even recognize.
I get that being open and honest with your most closely-held feelings, thoughts and experiences isn’t easy. It’s risky and not everyone on your proverbial mailing list has earned the right to hear your complete story. Some won’t get it and some will react with judgment flavored by their own shit. They get the highlight reel.
For everyone else, it’s worth the risk. The risk to open up and share about what all has been up and down for you these last twelve months. The risk comes with vulnerability, uncertainty, plenty of emotion, and it takes a LOT of courage. I’ll bet it also comes with more connection.
Risking realness almost always leads to connection in some way. That’s one of its rewards. Risk taking also gets easier and feels less risky because of it. Connection with a trusted friend, partner, colleague, or counselor builds us up, supporting us to feel more confident and willing to share. These relationships also help us identify what’s worth sharing and what’s best left to ourselves or shared with a chosen few.
Connection with others helps us take more risks and when we do, we’re often rewarded with even deeper connection.
A significant part of my practice is holding a risk-taking space for clients to practice opening up to connection. I’m always challenging clients to talk more about what’s going on inside them because the more they do, the easier it gets. With practice and time, this leads clients to deeper awareness of themselves, their needs and how they want to show up in their relationships.
Getting real in your holiday letter
Speaking of risks and challenges, are you open to one? I invite you to consider what being open, honest and real looks like in your holiday letter. What would it be like for you to share with loved ones how your year was great in some ways, absolutely sucked in others and how you’re still standing?
If you were just overcome with a wave of panic or dread at the thought of being that open, then take heart that I’m not suggesting you share everything. It may not be the right time, you might not want to and being too open isn’t helpful.
The challenge I offer is to gently push yourself to just say more than you might otherwise. The point is to get out of your comfort zone just enough to share something about yourself and to take the risk of being seen, heard and supported in a way you haven’t yet experienced.
This is all in the service of having more. I want you to have more for yourself. More peace of heart, joy, aliveness, love, and fulfillment. That will take some stretching on your part, but you don’t have to do it alone.
If you’re open to some help, I’m here and ready to hold space for you. Whether you’re waist deep in struggle, starting to get some solid ground or on your way to crafting your renewal story, working with me could support you in moving forward.
I’ll wrap by offering that getting real and sharing your most true self is a gift. Honesty is generous and authenticity makes for a lovely and loving present. Amazon, trips to the mall and batteries not required.
Getting real with you,