'Mothers, Daughters, Guilt, Negativity, Holidays and so much more!' - #PM39
Hi everyone, it’s Pat Mussieux here. Hot topic today. I’m trusting that this is timely and relevant for many of you, and you’ll just start hopping on here. I’m not going to get started with content until I see a few of you starting to join me.
This topic was prompted by a number of individuals over the past few weeks in many different conversations, and so I thought what the heck, it’s pretty timely and let’s get going with it and see who comes on in here.
We are in the midst of the holiday season and a lot of conversations, especially with some of my US colleagues and friends, have centered around the recent Thanksgiving get together with families, and that, of course, leads into a tremendous holiday season, whether many of us in North America are thinking about Christmas, some thinking about Hanukkah. As you look around the world, and I have clients around the world, there are many holidays coming up, and we know, and I’m going to be speaking to women right now, we know that evokes a lot of emotion and not necessarily all positive, so I have been asked to again share my story about my mom and me, and our relationship. Those of you who know my story know that there was a disconnection there for a number of years, my choice, and not an easy decision, but a necessary one to create the life that I wanted to live in this next chapter of my life.
I see a few of you here so I’m just going to get started, and I actually made a few notes because I could really go on a tangent with this topic and be here for the rest of the afternoon, but I’m not going to do that. I want to focus on a few key things, and that is as we think about the holidays and we think about all that that entails, and some of it comes with guilt, some of it comes with tradition, some comes with expectations; real, realistic, unrealistic, imagined. A lot of that just comes to mind. I know for many women, there’s also a lot of self-imposed pressure that comes just at the thought of the holiday season, let alone being in the midst of it, so I want to touch on some key points. I’m going to share more of my story, I’m going to touch on some key points, and I’m going to share some tips with you as to what worked for me.
I’m not a psychologist. Disclaimer. I’m not a psychologist and I’m not going deep into the psychology of this. All I want to do is to share with you what has worked for me, and take it or leave it. That’s entirely up to you. If some of this does resonate with you, feel free to share because, again, I know it’s a very volatile time of year, and that’s the way it works.
The first piece I want to talk about is the fact that our conditioning plays a key role when it comes to the way that we show up and the way that we act in the midst of holiday season, whether that’s a meal, whether that is having guests coming to the house or you’re traveling, no matter. Most of you know I grew up in a French-Canadian Catholic military home. You want to talk about conditioning, and you want to talk about traditions and expectations, it was all there wrapped up in a bow, and very high expectations about the way things were going to be.
Listen, when you’re growing up you don’t necessarily know anything different, and I grew up on isolated military bases, for the most part in Northern Ontario and Northern Quebec, and so we didn’t have exposure to a lot of civilian life. My dad came from a broken family. Alcoholism was a major factor, and so his expectation and his vision was to have like a “Folgers” Christmas experience. There were seven kids in the family. I was second, in rank order, and I grew up to be a people-pleaser. How many of you can relate to that? Leave a comment in the chat section.
I grew up to be the people-pleaser, so my dad and I became a team, and my father, all he wanted was for everyone to be together and to be happy, like in the commercials, and so he passed on some responsibility and expectation to me that wherever there was any kind of rift in the family, especially as we all got older, that he would reach out to me and I would be the one to help fix it.
My dad was a Master Warrant Officer in the military. He knew how to give commands and give orders. He didn’t really want to run the family that way, so he tempered it by passing it on to me, and me, becoming the people-pleaser extraordinaire, I’m a high achiever, I took on that role, and that role then carried on into my adult life and into my married life. So it’s important that we stop and really think about our conditioning and our upbringing because now you come together as husband and wife, or you come together as partners or roommates, or I don’t care what you are, but at time of holidays we come together, so think about your own conditioning, your own upbringing, and what you bring to the party.
I grew up in a very disciplined family and, quite honestly, it’s not think outside the box. Really, it was more like a trunk with a lock on it. What I knew for sure was the way things had to be, and I will tell you, for many years of my married life I was not easy to live with. I will say that. However, as I studied and learned with Lou Tice and the Pacific Institute, and how the mind works and how we can change based on our decision to have things differently, then I was affecting change, but here’s the thing. My mom, who had been married for many years, and bless her heart it’s her birthday today; 96 she would have been, and I am a chip off the old block.
My mom was still very much stuck in that conditioned role. What I did was I broke the mold when I got married because again, remember, I grew up French-Canadian Catholic military. There are expectations. I met, dated and married a man who was divorced, and I can remember my father saying, we were walking down the aisle, “It’s not too late. You can still get out of this,” and so that was the start of my married life.
My mom, throughout the marriage, she really didn’t take to my husband, and the fact that because we were on the West Coast and my family was on the East Coast, that there was no Christmas time for me and my husband with the family because my husband came to the marriage with two children, so the time was split between his first wife and us, and he wanted to be there for Christmas, and I get that. So that and a number of other “traditions” and expectations that were built into our marriage led to some distancing with my mother, and we had many, many, many phone conversations, and it got to the point that remember when call display happened on the telephones? It got to the point where my mother would call, I knew the call was coming, I could see the call coming in, and I started to brace myself. How many of you can relate to that?
I see some of you on here and I know you can relate to that. I would start to brace myself because I came to expect and I knew, and I was never disappointed, that it was going to be a lot of negativity. It was always, “Patricia, why are you doing it that way?” Whenever she called me Patricia, which is not my real name, I knew it was not going to be a good phone conversation.
Here’s the thing, and here’s why our conditioning is so important. I talk about conditioning, and the second part of that is at what price? At what price? I was more focused in those days at trying to please my mother, as opposed to creating a great tradition and a great experience in my married life, and there was a cost. I was torn. I was betwixt in between, and it was hard enough on my stepchildren because they had been through enough in the first divorce and I wanted to create a great experience, and so I was really torn at holiday time.
It came to a point, not just at holidays, where the negativity and the tension between my mother and I just became too much for me, matched with all that I was learning from Lou Tice and The Pacific Institute about positive thinking, living to your best potential, creating your best life, and so there was a conflict. Here’s what I knew for sure, nothing was going to change until I changed. Nothing was going to change until I changed. I know many people on this call can relate. It could be a friend, it could be a relative, so hit the share button.
Conditioning plays a role. I knew that I needed to take responsibility in my marriage to create happy experiences for my husband, for my stepchildren, for my in-laws, because I wanted to. There’s the key thing. I wanted to, and so I made a decision one day. It was on a Christmas Eve. I knew when the phone call was coming in. My mom was on the East Coast and it was always at the time that my former husband would leave the house, go drive and pick up the rest of his family to come for Christmas dinner, and I was home alone. That’s when she would “hit,” and she knew it. I was working full-time, I was making Christmas dinner, the in-laws were coming. You know what I’m talking about. When we think about the energy, the emotions, the fatigue, the expectations again, and it’s not easy being a stepmother.
I remember it was a Christmas Eve. It was 4pm on the West Coast, and I remember looking at the call display, it was my mother, and I knew the time had come and I needed to speak up. Sure enough, I picked up the phone and said, “Merry Christmas, Mom.” She started in on me and I said to her, “Look, we’ve gone through this for a few years and the time has come. I am no longer going to “tolerate” being treated this way, so only when and until your tone changes, the essence of our conversation changes, and our relationship changes will I continue to have phone conversations with you. God bless you, Merry Christmas, and goodbye.” That was the last phone conversation we had for 10 years. Yes, 10 years.
When you make the decision to create your best life, to become your best self, and to create great family traditions, you’ve got to make some tough decisions. Life isn’t easy. Whoever said it was easy? So you have to make tough decisions, and that was one tough one. However, again, at what price? It enabled me then to focus my best self on my family. My family, and that’s what happened over the years.
That’s the conditioning. That’s where it comes into play, so all I’m suggesting here is you stop and look in the mirror, take a look, and become very conscious and aware of what are you bringing to the holiday season in your family, in your relationship, what is it you want anyway, and what are you prepared to do to make it happen? Because conditioning is really strong, and only when we stop and pay attention are we fully aware of what that’s all about, but typically it’s full of emotion. It’s very emotionally charged. I made a decision, I followed through, and I stuck with it. That’s one piece of it.
The second part of this is we teach people how to treat us. We teach people how to treat us. I didn’t create this and I can’t remember who said it, but it’s so true. We teach people how to treat us. I taught my mother that it was acceptable, year after year after year, to speak to me that way, until I spoke up and said I would no longer be accepting of that.
Now, here are some key things, and listen to my language. I never used the “you” phrase to my mother. “You make me feel, you keep saying, you are belittling me.” I would use the “I” phrase. “This is how I feel. I own this and I get it, and I want to change this,” so watch your language as well.
We do teach people, even our parents. We especially teach them, as we’re adults, how to treat us and how we’ll accept it, and you know we’re in the middle. When you’re in a family, you’re married, and you have your own kids, and you want to lead the way and inspire them, and be good role models to them, and yet we’re letting our parents treat us that way, that’s a disconnect. Before the holidays hit us again, stop and take a good look at that.
We teach people how to treat us, and it does have a ripple effect. You can bet my stepchildren were watching how I allowed my mother to treat me, and they were also watching when I cut the cord and said no more, I deserve better, and so only when and until, I’ll take charge of that.
The third thing is what are you tolerating? What is it you’re tolerating when it comes to the holidays? I want you to get an index card. Those of you who work with me know that I work with these. Get an index card today. I want you to start a list of what are you tolerating? What’s already causing anxiety for you? It might be the pre-holiday phone calls. It might be the gift expectations when perhaps you can’t really afford all those gifts. It might be the fact that you’re going out and that you are buying gifts with the money you don’t have, to impress the people in the family you don’t even like. What’s with that? So stop that.
That third piece is what are you tolerating and why? As Dr. Phil says, “What’s the payoff for you to keep tolerating that? What’s the payoff?” For me, it was the “expectation” that mothers and daughters, it’s a sacred relationship, and I wanted to be able to say to people, “Yes, I love my mom. Yes, I have a great relationship with my mom,” when in fact I didn’t, and so while I love her, I didn’t like her a whole lot and I didn’t like the way she treated me, so yes, I respect the parent-child relationship, but I was also in a role where I needed and wanted to model to my stepchildren the way to be treated with dignity, respect, love, and courtesy, and so that’s up to you as well. What is it you are tolerating and what are you going to do about it? That’s the key thing.
If you look at your list of tolerations and you decide, “I’m not going to change anything, all right then. Shut up and stop whining, as Larry Winget it would say. Shut up and stop whining. If you’re going to tolerate and put up with what you have over the past many months and years, then zip it. Zip it, put a smile on your face and in your heart, and make it a good day because you’ve made that decision to tolerate it. On the other hand, if and when you decide that some of these things need to change, then you need to take responsibility, take charge, and do it.
Here’s what I do and here’s what I do personally now. I think about the holidays and I think about what do I want that holiday to look like and feel like? Because here’s the thing. I sat here intentionally today in front of my big clock, my new big clock, which I just love so much. Time is passing and, before you know it, Christmas will be over, and then before you know it, it will be Christmas 2018. Time is passing. This is not a dress rehearsal. This is your only life, so what are you waiting for? You have to take charge.
Some of you know I throw my own birthday parties because they’re important to me, and I want it to look and feel like the way I want it to look and feel like, so what do you want for the holidays? I’m single, so I can make that decision and I can make those choices, and I can make it happen. Those of you in families and in relationships, the key is you all need to sit down as a family unit and talk about it, and talk about it now. Tomorrow we turn the calendar to December 1st. Talk about it now. What do you want it to look like and feel like, each and every one of you, and what are we going to take responsibility for? Get it out in the open and talk about it, and help the rest of the family talk about the tolerations too.
Remember, you’re creating the memories. Like I said, this is not a dress rehearsal. This is your life, so take charge and create a picture of not only they look like, but what does it feel like? Don’t you want to go through Christmas week, then Boxing Day and New Year’s with a happy song in your heart? You can make that happen. You can. Yes, it’s a big responsibility, but you have the power, and only you have the power because you’re creating the memories.
Then the third part of that is to make the tough decisions. Some things need to change, and it’s okay to change some traditions. I can remember the first year, because I had been working full-time and we had people in the family who were ill, they were elderly, and I made the decision to go to the Westin Hotel and preorder a full Christmas meal. Yes, I wasn’t cooking anymore. I got the full meal deal. We brought it home and then we put it into our own pots and pans, and put it in the oven like I had cooked it, created the turkey smell. That was a big change in tradition and my father-in-law wasn’t overly impressed, until he actually tasted it. It was pretty darn good, but the thought of it was appalling.
You have to change some traditions sometimes. It gave me the opportunity to sit and visit with family, and took the pressure off me so I did not have that victim mentality. Some things need to change, and here’s the other part of this with the tough decisions. Some people need to change in your circle. Some people need to change. Yes, some people don’t want to listen, in which case, you’ve put it out there. If they don’t want to listen, that’s up to them. You don’t own that, so don’t you take it in. You’ve already done your part. We can’t change other people. We can only change ourselves, so where there may be experiences where some people are coming into the circle, for whatever type of occasion, whether it’s the shopping, a meal, an outing for Christmas, or Christmas Day, I let them spew. I was mentally prepared. Lou Tice taught me this. As they were spewing, I just visualized a barrier coming up, like a plexiglass barrier, and I just let whatever they spewed bounce off and back to them. I would not internalize it. That was my defense mechanism and it worked really well for me. So make an effort on that, but also learn some techniques.
That was my next tip, and that was one of my techniques. One of them was to communicate to the family. First of all, decide what I wanted, how did I want it to look, how did I want it to feel? Secondly, to communicate it with whoever was directly involved so there were no surprises on my part, and then thirdly, learn some techniques. As Lou said to me, just deflect those comments. These people aren’t going to change. You can’t change them, and yet if you want them around, that’s up to you. I made a decision not to be around my mother anymore, and it was like the weight of the world was off my shoulders. I was a much happier person to be around as well. How much fun are you to be around during the holidays? Stop and think about that. Learn some techniques for deflecting. The key message here is life is short and, like I said with my clock, time is passing. Time is flying by, and it’s going faster and faster, so shame on you if you let another holiday go by and you’re not making some kind of change, because you have the power. Shame on you and don’t be whining about it later, and don’t be whining about it in the moment. I’m giving you plenty of notice to be thinking about this.
Here’s the key message. You’re responsible for your happiness. You’re responsible for your health because negativity is unhealthy. Negativity is self-imposed stress, and it might be all around you, but it can leap on you where and when you allow it. You’re responsible for your health, for your happiness, and seriously, guilt, which comes up—Catholic—remember, Catholic? Guilt is a wasted emotion. Don’t even go there. Don’t waste your time and energy on that. Put guilt out the door where it belongs. Be responsible for your health, for your happiness, and for your family memories because that’s what it’s all about. We want to create those family memories. Get yourself some Folgers coffee, and so it takes two.
I wanted to demonstrate this to you, so I have my props here and I was trying to figure out how I was going to do this because I want to leave you with a visual. This was a powerful one. I was talking to a friend about this this morning. Think about yourself as the candle in the family. You’re the one that’s all lit up about the holidays, you’re the one that’s all lit up about the expectations, Folgers and all those TV commercials; you’re the one that’s all lit up. The only way that someone can bring the negativity is that when you buy into it, because it takes two, and when you buy into it, you’re doubling the flame. You can choose to be either the heat or the light. It takes two. When you decide not to buy into the conversations, not to buy into the negativity, there’s only one, and that one’s going to get so frustrated and so tired by your lack of participation, believe me, things will change.
A few tips here. I want you to remember this. For those of you who are entrepreneurs, business gets better when you get better. Families get better when you get better. Your life gets better when you get better. The one thing that Lou Tice shared with me and always said to me is, “If it’s to be, Pat, it’s up to you.” So if it’s to be, it’s up to me. What do you want, what are you prepared to do, how badly do you want it, and what are you going to do today to make it different this year?
To end the story on a happy note, I divorced. Many of you know that. I did move across the country. I came to be near my mom, who at the time I think she was 85 or 86, and it was time for her to move into a care facility. I am living four hours from where she was, and when I separated, my brother called my mother and said, “By the way, you just might want to know that Pat and Jack have separated and she’s on her own. She has moved out.”
I remember my first Christmas alone. I was in a dark basement furnished apartment. It wasn’t the easiest Christmas because there’s really no place for the ex-stepmother in the family gatherings, and so I remember sitting there and I had a little tree. The phone rang and it was call display again. I looked and it was my mother. Remember, it had been 10 years. When I looked at that call display, again, I knew I had a choice. Do I pick up or do I leave it? I picked up and it was my mother. She said, “Patricia, your brother told me that you’ve left the marriage. I told you so.” My mom. And then she said, “What can I do to support you?”
That was a turning point. She extended the olive branch. That was a big step, and so what I did was I made the decision to move from the West Coast to the East Coast, for many reasons, but one especially, I wanted to reconnect with her. She extended the olive branch. I then did the drive, four hours on the highway, up and back, every weekend to where she lived, to reconnect and re-establish a relationship, which we did when I moved here, and I am so blessed that we did that because, first of all, time does heal things. You go your separate ways, you grow up, I take responsibility as well for that relationship, and we did reconnect, and I’m so grateful for that time, the few years we had, and I was with her in her final days. What a blessing. What a blessing, and I’m so grateful to this day.
That does not negate when I shared with you earlier, the crap I was going through, the crap I put up with until I drew the line, and so you can affect change later as well.
That’s all I’ve got to leave with you. Put your comments in there. I want to see what did resonate. Hit the share button. Other people, other women people, especially, could benefit from this, and also remember this. Just because you’re blood relatives doesn’t mean that friends cannot be considered family too, and you can create memories during the holidays with your dear friends, so keep your friends close, create new memories and remember, if it’s to be it’s up to me. Thanks for being here. I wish you all Happy Holidays and I’ll be watching for your comments. Bye everyone.