The Most Stressful Songs of Christmas

English: A rendition of the musical notation f...

English: A rendition of the musical notation for the chorus of “Jingle Bells”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you remember the old nursery lyric “Rock-a-bye Baby” that tells a story about a baby in a cradle in a tree that falls crashing down to the ground when the wind blows?  It’s not the most calming of lyrics nor is it a concept that is “baby appropriate”.  Yet the tune is sweet so we blindly sing the song.  But this is Christmas time and it is likewise full of similar songs that are more stress producing than peaceful.  Here are just a few samples:

  1. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas just like the ones I used to know. Where the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow.”  Perhaps your Christmas memories are different but I have yet to experience a Christmas when any “children listen” to bells or even adults for that matter.  Having an expectation that a child will be patiently listening for a bell in the snow is frankly silly and unrealistic.
  2. “Deck the halls with bounds of holly…tis the season to be jolly…strike the harp and join the chorus…follow me in merry measure.”  The demand of a decorated house, being happy all the time, playing cheerful music, singing, and dancing is a lot to accomplish when life usually hands the toughest of blows this time of year.  Statistically, this is the most depressed and lonely time of the year as many families are experiencing their first Christmas without a loved one, without a job or in worse financial condition than ever.
  3. “On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…on the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me.”  This song portrays 78 gifts that a “true love” gives to another which is an unusual amount of gift giving and excessive by most standards.  It sounds more like the “true love” is trying to buy love instead of showing love.
  4. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”  Have you ever tried to roast chestnuts in your oven?  If you don’t score them precisely, they will explode in such a mess that it will take weeks just to get all of the gummy like nut off the sides of your walls.  Forget about an open fire, where a chestnut exploding can knock an eye out!  That shiner will definitely be a Christmas to remember.
  5. Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go, Let It Snow!”   Just one look at your calendar will probably reveal that you already don’t have a free weekend and most of the weekdays are quickly filling up as well.  “No place to go”?  You must be kidding this season is packed with too many places to go and too many decisions to make resulting in too many people to disappoint.
  6. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.”  Any repetitive noise such as a bell for long periods of time is not likely to cause fun but rather a piercing migraine.  Add to that an open sleigh which is cold and horses that poop along the way which is smelly and there is definitely no fun to be had.  Just because one person believes an activity to be fun does not mean that another person is going to agree.
  7. “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?”  What is this song saying, that we should forget our acquaintances and not bring them up any more?  Granted there are usually some acquaintances that you want to forget and never bring up anymore but unfortunately these are usually the ones that seem to hang around into the New Year.

Sometimes reducing our stress during Christmas is more about thinking through the programmed songs that are sung and resetting your expectations to more realistic levels.  It might not be the “most wonderful time of year” for you but that is ok; it does not have to be.  You can however make it more wonderful by not expecting children to be patiently listening, decorating every inch of the house, insisting that others have fun your way or getting frustrated that you can’t forget something that you would rather not remember.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Advertisements

How to Stay Married to an Attorney

The Socratic Method

The Socratic Method (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just in case you missed this key fact while being married to an attorney here it is: law school changes the way you think.  This is intentional on the school’s part and is done to properly prepare an attorney for the line of work they are entering.  Everyday a law student reads, studies, and analyzes case after case in preparation for their next class.  The professor then selects a random student and verbally quizzes them about one of the cases until they fail.  The questions at first are open-ended, meaning that multiple answers can be correct, and then rapidly become close-ended, meaning that there is a right or wrong answer.  This is called the Socratic Method of teaching which has been very effective for centuries.

More than likely you have already had an “ah-ha” moment just reading that description as it is likely to resemble your last disagreement.  It probably started innocently enough with an open-ended question from your attorney spouse.  You answered the question but then for some reason your spouse did not like the response and began asking question after question until you became so confused that you just said whatever you needed to just to end the discussion.  Thinking that turn-around is fair play, you then attempt the same tactic only to find that you are shut-down after the first remark.  This leaves you angry and confused however if you try to verbalize your emotions, the response is generally unsympathetic.

Don’t ask questions.  Your attorney spouse has a black-belt in answering questions the way they should have been asked, dodging questions they don’t want to answer, and anticipating your line of questioning long before you might even know where you are headed.  So don’t ask questions especially if you already know the answer and are trying to get your spouse on your side.  This will back-fire every time.  Instead make statements.  “I want pizza for dinner” instead of “what do you want for dinner”.  “We are going to the Jones’ house for dinner” instead of “do you want to go to the Jones’ house for dinner”.  Just be careful not to sound too bossy in your statements because once again you will be met with resistance.

Don’t over explain.  Your attorney spouse is already likely to over explain nearly everything and have multiple reasons for even simple tasks so don’t fall into this trap and add to the over explanation.  If you do your spouse is likely to find the hole in your explanation and then the entire discussion becomes questionable.  For if one small part of the argument is wrong then the whole thing can be thrown out.  The best way to avoid this is by not over explaining.  If you have to repeat the same explanation over again, this is preferable to going on and on.  Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no” and keep your statements simple.

Don’t get emotional.  Your attorney spouse has been trained to keep their emotions in check while inciting you to an emotional state.  Remember the professor at the beginning?  Just put yourself in the shoes of the student and imagine how frustrating it must be to know that the goal of the professor is for you to fail.  Yet if the student shows any signs of frustration, the professor attacks even harder.  This is done because if you get emotional, then your arguments are not likely to be as rational and therefore can be easily broken down.  So do your best to keep you emotions in check during a disagreement.  There is nothing wrong with taking a break if you feel out of control and agreeing to discuss the matter later.  But then you must discuss it later as in within the next 24 hours or you will be met with additional and avoidable frustration.

By understanding how your spouse has been trained to think and working with that way of thinking instead of against it, you can minimize the disagreements and reduce the tension at home.  Stop trying to change your attorney spouse and instead change your response and get over the idea that your spouse needs to change for you.  After all, they will not be an attorney for long if they abandon the way they were taught to think in law school.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Under the Influence of Marriage Series: Holidays under the Influence of Marriage

Shopping at a big box chain store with numerous displays for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Her.  [Oh, I forgot to tell him about the party we are hosting Thanksgiving week for our friends who are leaving the country.  I’m going to miss them so much and can’t wait to spend the day with them and several other close couples.  I already put the party on the calendar and scheduled with everyone but I’m haven’t told him yet.  He’s going to flip again. Oh well, too late, it’s scheduled.]  “Honey, did I mention that our friends are coming over during the Thanksgiving Holiday just before they leave for China?”

Him.  [I knew it.  I could see the scheming look on her face, she does this every year.]  “No, dear, you didn’t.  When were you going to clue me in?”

Her.  [Obviously that was bad timing, well at least we are in a public space so he can’t get too angry and yell at me.  It’s already scheduled so there is nothing he can do about it and if he had it his way, we would never do anything but sit at home and watch TV.  I’m so sick of watching football all the time.]  “Well, it’s on the calendar like you asked me to do and I just assumed that you would be looking at it.  Besides, I knew that you would want to see them and we had to make plans quickly so that nothing else got scheduled.”

Him.  [Here she goes again; I thought the calendar was going to fix this.]  “So when exactly is this little party of yours.”

Her. [Little, there is nothing so little about 30 people coming over for dinner and that was just the last count.  We still have not heard from two other families so our “little” party maybe pushing 40 by the time everything is counted.  The problem is that my friend makes too many last-minute decisions and the numbers could change again.  So I’ll leave that little detail for another conversation.]  “It’s the Sunday before Thanksgiving, won’t that be great?  The kids are going to have so much fun.”

Him. [Oh my gosh, I’m having another panic attack.  She better not be having 50 people over.] “Ok, whatever.  What our plans for Thanksgiving Day?”

Her. [There he goes again.  Well, if I tell him that I changed my mind again, he’s going to flip even more.  First we were going away and then that plan changed.  Then we were going to our friend’s house but that got changed to us hosting them on Sunday.  Then we were going to work at a food bank but they didn’t need any volunteer.  Then I was going to have the kids help with cooking Thanksgiving but they couldn’t even empty the dishwasher without complaining.  Then we were going to a buffet but I didn’t like the prices.  Then we were going to carry out a Thanksgiving meal but I never really liked that plan.]  “I’m still working on it, don’t worry we’ll do something.

Him.  [I can tell this isn’t going to end well, it never does.] “Just out of curiosity, how many more plans do you have swimming around in your head?”

Where is this going? Often in a marriage there are two perspectives in a situation and coming to an understanding of the other person’s point of view can be a challenging process especially when what is thought is often not what is said.  It’s kind of like shooting at a moving target, just when you think have your aim, the target moves.  Let’s explore how each spouse could have better handled the situation before, during and after.

Before.  Instead of ambushing your spouse about plans that you have made, mention to your spouse that you updated the calendar and they need to look at it.  By making gentle reminders about periodically checking the calendar and making sure that the information is complete and accurate, you can reduce anxious moments such as this.   Another suggestion is to have weekly meetings with calendars, budgets and other details that need to be discussed so such matters come at more expectant times.

During.  Pay attention to how your spouse reacts to your comments with non-verbal body language.  If they are stressed by your comments, agree to table the discussion for another time when tempers are not so likely to flare up.  When you know that there is a holiday decision that needs to be made, be proactive and involved instead of letting one spouse make all of the decisions.  When you feel out of control or that you are being controlled by others, strong intense feelings of anxiety are likely to occur.

After.  The holidays bring enough stress with last-minute plans and agendas.  Instead of expecting things to go as planned, expect the unexpected and learn to roll with it.  This is only temporary and is not a pattern for everyday of the year so don’t make it to be more than it is.  It’s all in your perception of the matter.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

How Divorce and Death are Alike

You thought that when the papers were signed for the divorce everything would be better and you would finally feel relief and calm.  But you don’t.  Somehow the hurt emotions intensify and unexpected emotions of remorse, sadness, and guilt pile on top of bitterness, resentment, and frustration.  This has left you confused, disoriented, and even wondering if you made a mistake.  You begin to relive the marriage all over again looking desperately for answers as to why this happened, what went wrong, and how could things have been dealt with differently.  But you are afraid to confine in friends and relatives because they have supported the divorce and your questioning is unwelcome after they have taken a stance for you.

So you find yourself even more alone than before the divorce wondering if this lonely feeling will ever go away.  And it will, but not today or even tomorrow.  A divorce is more than the end of a marriage; it is the end of dreams, expectations, family, and friendships.  When you divorce, you are leaving behind all dreams and hopes for the future, all expectations for a long life together, extended family on both sides, and friendships that bound you together.  It is not the stuff that is hard to separate; rather it is these things which are far harder to separate.  In this way, experiencing a divorce is like experiencing a death and the process to recovery is very similar.

Denial.  While it may seem odd that you will experience denial after you have divorced, it is likely to occur in strange circumstances.  For instance, you are picking up medication at the pharmacy and the pharmacist asks you if you want to pick up your spouse’s medication.  Or you are at a favorite restaurant and the waitress asks if your spouse is joining you.  Or you are at church and a well-meaning person says they miss seeing your spouse.  In all of these incidents it is tempting not to tell the other person about the divorce and just to pretend that you are still together which you can do but it might provide for a more awkward moment later.  In fact, your first instinct may be to do just that but instead try saying the bare minimum, just enough to get away quickly without over explaining.

Anger.  This reaction is far more familiar as leading up to the divorce you most likely experienced this in spades.  While the name of your ex no longer provokes an immediate angry reaction, you will see some anger pop up in unexpected places.  Perhaps a co-worker displays the same lack of motivation that your ex did, your neighbor laughs like your ex, or your child looks and acts more and more like your ex every day.  You may feel unexpected anger towards your co-worker, neighbor or child that has little to do with them and far more to do with who they remind you of.  Stop, take a breather and recognize where your anger is really coming from so that you don’t project it onto an innocent target.

Depression. No matter how easy it was to divorce, going through the holidays without your ex and the routine and traditions that you developed will be difficult.  Expect to feel even more depressed between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day as this is a time of intense celebration, family activities and getting together with friends.  When you are feeling at your most depressed, get out of the house and go do something.  Do not sit at home thinking about how you were at your ex’s family’s house for dinner last year and what a good time you had.  Rather, start new traditions this year that you have always wanted to try such as going to the mountains for Christmas or feeding the homeless on Thanksgiving.

Acceptance.  At the end of a long cycle, you will finally reach acceptance where you are comfortable talking about the end of your marriage without extraneous feelings.  Similar to the death of a close family member or a friend, this process will take about a year to finally achieve.  Your children on the other hand will not be on the same schedule as they will look like they have accepted it far sooner but a couple of years later will show signs of anger and depression.  Don’t be surprised by this, but expect it and anticipate getting them help if needed.

No one gets married wanting to go through a divorce.  Divorce is hard, painful and demands time for proper healing.  By having a better understanding of your emotions and viewing divorce in the same light as a death, you will better glide through the stages instead of stumbling in the dark.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

We Wish You a “Mary” Christmas

It’s that time of the year again when the list of things to be done grows by the minute, plans are changed again and again until the last-minute, and stress over finances, family, and friends is at an all time high.  There is too much to do, too much to see, too many places to be, and far too many expectations to be met.  The demands of work, family, friends, and even church push us to a panic frenzy to meet and exceed those demands but at what expense?

When did this season, the season of joy, the season of celebration, the season of giving and the season of bonding become the season of anxiety over unmet expectations and financial pressure, the season of depression over the loss of loved ones, and the season of trampling over others to make a purchase?  “Merry Christmas” is not so merry anymore.  Rather than trying to put the “Merry” back into Christmas, I would propose a different type of “Mary”.  Jesus refers to Mary in Luke 10:38-42 when he informs Martha that she is worried and upset over the details of preparing a meal while her sister Mary sits a listens to Him talk.  She has chosen the better path, one of quiet listening instead of hurrying around.

 Has anyone seen my calendar?  Take a moment to glance over your calendar right now and see just how full it is with events, parties, and special gatherings.  If it is like mine, it is frightening and double booked for several nights and events.  With all of this running around there is not much time to sit and reflect on the true purpose of Christmas and even less time devoted to spending with just your immediate family.  But you can choose the Mary way instead of the Martha way by adjusting your calendar to spend more time with the most important people in your life.

Can you ever have enough Christmas decorations?  Yes Christmas decorations are fun and do help to put you in the mood for Christmas but when you find yourself angry at your spouse for not helping with the outside lights, frustrated at the kids for breaking a favorite ornament, or annoyed at the cat for destroying the bottom of yet another tree, they are adding to your stress level.  Decorations are meant to be fun but if they are not, then don’t add them.  Martha would be decorating and redecorating, Mary would not.

Of course we are doing another family picture with Santa!  Family pictures are frequently exchanged this time of year and they are always full of smiles and happy faces but life is rarely full of smiles and happy faces.  In fact, I have yet to know of a family who does not go through some struggle in any given year yet we pretend that everything is fine.  This is most hurtful to those who have lost a loved one in the last year and are still struggling with grief.  Martha tried to live up to everyone else’s expectations by preparing a great meal, but Mary chose to focus on the one person that mattered most, Jesus.

This year, take some time to evaluate your traditions and expectations.  Read the section in Luke about Mary and Martha and ask yourself, are you more like Mary or Martha?  Then make the better choice.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Give the Gift of Prayer This Year

I don’t know about you, but every year I struggle with finding the perfect gift for my family and friends.  It is almost a mission to seek out the right gift balancing between the person’s needs, wants, and talents.  When the right gift is discovered it is pure joy to watch them open it and it is in moments like that when it is truly better to give then to receive.

This year as finances have become tighter, I find myself less interested in all of the bargains, deals, extra shopping hours and countless searches on the internet.  Rather it has become a time of self-reflection onto the meaning of Christmas rather than the gift giving of Christmas.  When I recall the best gifts I have received during the year, it is the rare moment when a friend tells me they have been praying for me without my prompting and without any knowledge of my present circumstances.  Those moments are precious to me and I can remember every one of them with great clarity far better than I can remember the gifts I received from Christmas even just last year.

So this year, I’m going to give to my family and friends the gift of prayer.  Not in a showy way or prideful manner that says “I’m more Christian than you”, not in a gossipy or need to know the details of their life manner, but rather a simple personal email with the below prayer.  This prayer was taken from the first chapter of Colossians and it was Paul’s prayer for his fellow believers.  While reading the passage, it occurred to me that many times I pray for circumstances rather than character, relief from stress rather than strength, and change rather than clarity.  But no more, here is my prayer.

May God bless this season of your life through (Col. 1:8-12):

  •   Thanksgiving for your faith
  •   Knowing His will for your life
  •   Gaining spiritual wisdom and understanding
  •   Living to honor and please Him
  •   Learning more knowledge of who God is
  •   Increasing in strength for endurance & patience
  •   Filling you with joy and thankfulness

Let me invite you to consider a similar prayer for your family and friends this year, perhaps in addition to or in replacement for a gift.  Just imagine for a moment the change that could occur during your family visits if you prayed this prayer for each family member before gathering together.  Maybe, just maybe, it might be the best Christmas yet.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.