“No man needs a vacation so much as the person who has just had one.”
– Elbert Hubbard, author
“Sid said he preferred to work during the holidays to avoid the feelings…”
Sidney (He went by Sid) was a single, 32 year old, carpenter working in western Canada where the jobs were plentiful and the pay was exceptional. He worked a rotating schedule of three weeks on and one week off. He came to see me during his trip home after working during the recent holiday season. Sid said he preferred to work during the holidays to avoid the feelings generated by all the celebrations of Christmas and New Years.
Sid was a tall guy, probably six foot three or more…lean and lank, but with a soft, almost quiet, whispery voice. While his physique suggested basketball, his life experiences instead screamed soccer! He loved playing it, watching it and just talking about it.
“I want to recreate that for myself!”
Sid said he had recently ended a relationship with Melanie. It had lasted three years…apparently his longest relationship ever…at least, his longest…so far. And, he told me it was Melanie and the Holidays which motivated him to come see me. When I asked him why he replied,
“As I was working yet again over the holidays, I realized it was time I stopped avoiding them and figured out why I do that…I think it was part of the problem I had with Melanie!”
“Sid, what is it exactly you have been avoiding by working during the year end Holidays?”
“Ken, I have fantastic memories of my childhood Holidays. There was so much fun and frolic; laughter and warmth during a cold season. I remember all the specialness of it…the special food, special gifts and the special people. I remember it like it was one of those sappy, Disney movies you see for kids. I guess I really want that again…I want to recreate that for myself.”
“What is your very best memory of those times, Sid?”
“We were all laughing and teasing each other.”
“Ken, the clearest was one Christmas Eve at home when I was about eight years of age. My Mom, my brother, Jimmy, my sister, Denise and I were decorating the tree…the TV was on across the room with Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life!” We were all laughing and teasing each other. It was a magical time for me back then…and, even now, looking back it still feels the same way! That’s what I want to have, again!”
“Sid, that’s a beautiful memory…I can see why it is magic to you…I’d like to ask you another question…did you ever wonder why we value these magic moments…these moments of such intense pleasure?”
“I suppose because they feel so good!”
“A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell.” – George Bernard Shaw, author
“…pleasure actually raises our self worth…”
“Did you ever notice whenever we feel pleasure, we also feel more valued at the same second…pleasure actually raises our self worth?”
“That kind of makes sense when I think about it, Ken!”
“Sid, did you ever notice the same thing occurs, as well, when we feel pain?”
“Now I’m lost…did you say when we feel pain, we also raise our self worth?”
“Sid, if you ask any parent, coach or educator, they will tell you humans learn best with a balanced combination of pleasure (support) and pain (challenge). Let me use your magical memory to demonstrate. Our past ensures we survive by providing the experiences we need to learn. The proof is demonstrated by your very presence, here and now…alive and well. This proves your past included just the right amounts of pleasure and pain you needed to get you to be here, at this moment in time!”
“…to me his absence was a really big concern!”
“Ken, are you saying there was equal pain in my Christmas memory as well?”
“That’s what the natural law of balance would predict…but Sid, you decide!”
“It was really a special moment for me…having all my Family together…but Dad was working that day…so he wasn’t part of it…but, Mom said he was getting paid double time…but I still wish he had been there too…I know he wanted to be there…but, we needed the money. Ken, I think I’m starting to see the other side of the situation!” he said, his enthusiasm for the memory waning quickly from his face.
“Sid, because there is always a balance, and because you have such enthusiasm for the pleasure part of that Family memory…that suggests the absence of your Dad was a big deal to you that day. Is that true?”
“Ken, I’m the oldest of my siblings and I was very aware of how hard my parents were struggling back then. I remember how hard it was on both Mom and Dad. I knew Mom was missing Dad that day and so was I…so yes…to me his absence was a really big concern!”
“Sid, that’s the law of balance in action in your life! While you were enjoying being with your Mom and siblings…you were, simultaneously, missing your Dad! It’s not good or bad…it’s just how we learn most efficiently…it’s how we survive and it’s especially how we get to appreciate our life! So, really, it is good and bad, simultaneously. And, knowing this can enable us to appreciate every moment and everybody in our past and even our present.”
“…there was also no pain in your past without an equal pleasure…”
“So, are you suggesting there are no exceptions to this?”
“Yes, I am Sid! And, it applies both ways…there was also no pain in your past without an equal pleasure, at the same moment!” I added.
“So, the argument I had with Melanie…when we ended our relationship…I was so upset…so hurt…felt so betrayed…you would say it had an equal pleasure for me at the same moment…am I understanding this balance law correctly?”
“You are indeed! Remembering back to that moment with Melanie, what was your argument about?”
“It was about loyalty! I felt she wasn’t being loyal to me when she decided to go to a party, even though I had decided to stay home.”
“What did you say to Melanie when you were so upset?”
“I told her I wanted us to stay home and watch a movie together…it was a Friday night and I was tired from working all week…I told her there would be lots of other parties to go to in the future…that kind of stuff!”
“Sid, can you see the benefits to you in what you said at that moment?”
“…I wanted us to have a quiet evening together!”
“Only you can know for sure what they were. But, I can offer you some guesses based on the information you provided. It sounds like you were honouring your own values by stating what you most wanted was to be with her and just relax after working all week. Is that true, Sid?”
“I never thought about it that way before, but yes that really is true! I wanted us to have a quiet evening together!” he said.
“And Sid, when you honoured your own values did it raise or lower your spirit at that moment?” I asked.
“It would have had to raise it because then I felt stronger in my spirit because I was respecting what I valued which was to be with her and relax for a while!”
“And, since you were strengthening your spirit by honouring your own values, how did that impact your self worth and self confidence at the same moment, Sid?” I asked.
“Ken, I think it heightened my self worth and made me more self confident as well!”
“…I don’t see how I could have done anything else…”
“And, was that self confidence reflected in your voice as your protested her decision to go to the party?” I asked.
“I was pretty upset and, yes, I was certainly very confident in my opinion of the situation!” he said with a soft smile.
“Sid, I suspect there were also other benefits as well. Would you identify some others which you notice, now with your awareness of this law of balance?”
“Ken, I realize now, I was also defining the kind of relationship I wanted with her…and trying to manage my stress and fatigue which were very high from work that night; and, even trying to stay within my budget because of my debt load.” he replied.
“Sid, we have just identified five or six clear benefits for you at that moment in time. Would you have been prepared to give up those benefits to not have had that disagreement with Melanie?”
“Ken, I don’t see how I could be me if I gave up my values!”
“So, was it worth it to you…in your value system, to put up with the pain of that disagreement with Melanie, to experience the pleasure of clarifying and honouring your own values?”
“I don’t see how I could have done anything else, Ken!”
“So Melanie, with her values, actually helped you learn to clarify and appreciate your own values…so she was, unconsciously, helping you grow you own sense of self and your self worth! Can you now see that balanced process going on at that moment in time…even though you didn’t notice it back then?”
“And remember Holidays are not an exception to this law!”
“Yes, I can! And, you’re also saying it goes on all the time in every relationship?”
“Now you have it Sid! And, remember Holidays are not an exception to this balance law!”
“Wow Ken! What an insight for me! It gives me an entirely different perspective on Melanie and our relationship as well!”
“Sid, can you also see how it could change your views on Holidays and where you spend them?” I asked.
“Ken, I was just thinking that too! Thank you!”
This was the start of Sid’s learning. He told me at the end of our work he had learned three critical things: first, how relationships really work, second, how to build healthy ones, and third, how to manage the Holidays with loved ones. He said he realized everyone has the privilege of, what he called, “a wonderfully painful Holiday!”
“The real purpose of every holiday is to remind people they are loved!”
– King Ayles, author
Until Next time…
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)