Skipping the Holidays?

Dear Vicki: It’s been a tough year for me in many ways and the whole idea of creating the holidays my family has come to expect depresses me. But the minute I decide to cut back on buying gifts, I feel guilty. On top of that, even though my children have families of their own, when I mentioned not baking Christmas cookies, they were shocked and now I’m worried they’ll be too disappointed. I’m taking care of my own mother and working full time, so I just don’t have the energy or joy in me to do the whole holiday thing. I’m relatively new the Five Elements, but think I could be an Earth. Is there an easy way to tell my family that I want to skip the holidays this year? Signed: Tired in Tennessee

Dear Tired: I can promise that you’re not alone in your desire to skip the holidays. I’ve heard from many people – mostly women – who have expressed similar sentiments. And it’s understandable. In the US, the holidays have become a behemoth commercial event perpetuated by a retail industry brilliant at pushing all of our “make it perfect for those you love” buttons. Somehow, we seem to have bought into the idea that bigger and better gifts equate to greater love. But deep inside, we know that isn’t true. So why does it exert such a hold on many of us? It won’t surprise you to hear that I believe there’s a Five Elements reason we often go overboard with our celebrations this time of year.

As readers of this blog have heard me say time and again, the dynamics of the Five Elements model are all about obtaining and maintaining balance. Within the model, the Five Elements interact in ways that guarantee more energy will be provided if an element is deficient, and energy will be removed if an element is in a place of excess. And it works perfectly because the whole purpose of the model is to maintain a balanced state of optimal functioning. The model doesn’t decide to go crazy one month a year and overdo everything in the name of love, power, or profits. But if it did, the dynamics are there to automatically bring things back to balance.

We humans do have a tendency to go crazy around the holidays, usually in the name of love. For centuries, gift giving has been a primary expression of love and esteem. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s actually part of our Five Elements make-up. Sharing with others is an expression of the Earth element. Earth is also where home, family, food, and deep, lasting friendships sit. Sounds like the holidays, right? And those clever advertising people figured out decades ago that if they tied all of these things together during the holiday season, they create a very powerful message. Nothing tugs at our heartstrings more than the idea of sharing time, gifts, and meals with those we love during the holidays. And again, there’s nothing wrong with the idea. What is wrong is that the expression of this idea has become very unbalanced, mostly because our western cultures are yang-based patriarchies. Yang energy believes that more is always better than less. So in a patriarchal culture, we have come to “believe” that doing/sharing/giving more means loving more. And I think that’s where you’re getting tripped up. Honestly, that’s where we all get tripped up. We’re pretty much all celebrating the holidays from a place of imbalance and it’s taking us down. But we don’t need to go down; we can bring balance back. Clearly not for our whole culture, at least not right away, but certainly for our families and friends.

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Softening Metal Husband’s Structure Around Schedules

Dear Vicki: I need help with my marriage. Sam and I have been married for 22 years and have two daughters in college. Five years ago we started our own business and it has been very stressful trying to grow it to profitability. There’s been lots of fighting, arguing, and aloneness these last few years, but never much making up. Starting this business seems to have highlighted our problems and I’m not sure what to do. I’m just learning about the Five Elements, but I think I’m primarily Earth. I also see a fair amount of Wood in me, and some Water. Sam is Metal; very, very Metal. He works all the time and never wants to focus on us. I don’t have enough Fire to lure him away from work or his obsession with structure and schedules, but I think he had some Fire once. When we met, we had so much fun and used to laugh a lot; it was something I loved about him. What do I need to focus on to help my marriage? Build my Wood?  I’m so tired of not being supported. I know I need to reconnect with the female relationships I let slide once we started our business, but I’d like to help my marriage, too. What can I do? Signed: Feeling Alone

Dear Feeling Alone: Running a family business is a lot like having another child; it can take everything you have to make it successful. My husband and I ran a business together for several years, so I totally understand what you are going through. As you have found, the business can become the primary focus of everything you do, leaving little time to keep up with other relationships. Sadly, this also means there is less time to do what is necessary to help keep a marriage strong.

At a very intuitive level, you have grasped what needs to be done: you need to help yourself first, then you can help your marriage. As an Earth, strong and lasting connections are of utmost importance to you. Family is everything, certainly more important than business success. Your Wood will want the personal accomplishment, of course, but your primary Earth will care much more about the connections you have with family and close friends. But for Sam as a Metal, business success will matter as much as, if not more than, marriage and family. Unlike Woods, who see success as a reflection of their value as a person, Metals see success as an indication that they are wise and understand the ways of the world. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. Also, Woods see the future and believe they have all the time in the world. With that comes the belief that if this business isn’t successful, perhaps the next one will be. Metals, who sit at the end of the Five Elements cycle, see the past and know that they are quite literally running out of time. Structuring that time is a Metal’s way of assuring the time is used wisely. Sam may perceive this business as his only chance to prove himself, so will put his all into it. And remember, unlike Earth, Metals are just fine alone. In fact, many Metals prefer being alone. But if they are going to be with anyone, they will usually partner with an Earth. And that is the silver lining in your situation.

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Fire Off Balance with Watery Partner

Dear Vicki: I am a Fire/Wood. I recently moved in with my Water/Metal boyfriend and things are not going well. Now that Frank and I live under the same roof, it feels like I’m walking around in a water-soaked blanket and my happy Fire feels shut down. To compensate, my Fire grows and I go into panic and anxiety. Plus, Frank’s Metal can be so sharp and detached that I feel a great deal of anger toward him. He often goes into his deep place of yearning for information and leaves me to take care of “our life” for long periods of time. I am fighting off resentment and doing my best to be compassionate while keeping the reasons we fell in love in the first place in the forefront of my mind, but I am struggling. What can I do to protect my Fire from being extinguished and get along better with this guy I think I love? Signed: Drowning in Seattle

Dear Drowning: First, let me commend you on the excellent job you’ve done assessing your situation. Also, it’s wonderful that you are attempting to be compassion and keep in mind the reasons you fell in love with Frank. At times that may not be easy. Based on your understanding of the elements, I’m sure it’s not lost on you that you and Frank have a relationship based on the Controlling Cycle, with him doing most of the controlling. His primary Water controls your primary Fire, and his secondary Metal controls your secondary Wood. Also, there is absolutely no overlap in any of your elements. Between the two of you, four of the five elements are represented in your primaries and secondaries. That means there isn’t any common ground between you, which that can make you seem like strangers to each other. But in good times, it can feel like you complete each other.

Right now, it sounds like you’re feeling more like strangers. As you suspect, your Fire is an important piece of the puzzle. But the anxiety and panic you feel isn’t coming from a state of too much Fire when it grows to compensate for all the Water around you. Actually, it’s coming from too little Fire based on all the Water around you. Too much Fire makes one scattered and overwhelmed, too little Fire manifests as anxiety and panic. This means that, as you have surmised, you need to grow your Fire. And this brings us to a fascinating aspect of your relationship dynamics with Frank. At an elemental level, he could be the perfect person for you. Let me explain.

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The Five Elements: Thankful for Each Other

Dear Readers: In the USA, tomorrow is a day of Thanksgiving. And while the exact origin of the holiday may be unclear, the intent of the day still rings true: there is always something to be grateful for in our lives. Be that health, friends and family, success in whatever way we define it, or life itself, gratitude is a state of mind that’s a universal part of the human experience. It turns out it’s also deeply embedded in the Five Elements model. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. After all, a model that claims to be no less than a complete explanation of the workings of the universe will have to contain gratitude. And it does.

In the Five Elements model, each element owes its existence and ability to function in a balanced manner to the other four. And in a very profound way, when one element receives help from another, the receiving element pays it forward, so to speak, by doing the same for a different element in the system. If Water is running low, Metal sends energy to Water. And Water will do the same for Wood, just as Wood will send energy to Fire, Fire will send it to Earth, and Earth will feed it back to Metal. It’s a neverending flow of giving that’s a key hallmark of the Five Elements model.

The other hallmark of the model is the ability of each element to ensure that no element overdoes it. If Wood has too much energy, Metal will reach across the model and decrease the excess. This guarantees Wood’s survival and in gratitude for that service, Wood will do the same for Earth, just as Earth will decrease excess for Water, Water will decrease Fire, and Fire will return the initial favor back to Metal. And while our “more is better” culture usually sees a decrease in something as bad, in reality it’s crucial for survival. There is joy in the model at both increase and decrease. But does that translate to people? I can answer that with an unequivocal, “Yes!” Let’s take a look.

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The Holiday Season: What Matters to Each Element

Dear Vicki: “I’m devastated that my grandchildren won’t be here for Thanksgiving. How could their parents decide to take them to Hawaii?”

Dear Vicki: “I don’t want to go to the company holiday party. Can I get out of it?”

Dear Vicki: “My husband is obsessed with finding the perfect gift for his best friend. How can I convince him that’s not the point?”

Dear Vicki: “I want to host the family holidays this year. I throw better parties, but my sister says they’re too loud. Who should win?”

Dear Vicki: “My wife and I have always had a quiet ceremony on New Years Eve, but now she thinks we should go to her best friend’s house instead. Really?”

Etc.

Dear Readers: To paraphrase A Tale of Two Cities, the holiday season is the best of times, and the worst. The holidays celebrated from November through January, replete with tradition and meaning, guarantee that fun and ceremony will likely end up co-mingling with pushed buttons and dashed expectations. “We’ve always done it this way; that matters to me” must dance with “We’ve always done it this way; I think it’s boring.” To help you navigate the holiday season and keep your relationships harmonious, I offer a brief summary of what will matter to each of the elements, and what won’t. There are also a few suggestions regarding ways to keep the season happy for everyone.

Water People: Odd as it may seem, the hustle-bustle of the holidays sits in Water time, which is winter here in the northern hemisphere, a time for quietness and contemplation. This energy of going inside sets the tone for Waters’ lives, so don’t expect your Water friends and family to start acting like Fires just because the holidays are here. On their own, or in quiet talks with others, Waters will emphasize the meaning of the season and how it relates to the bigger picture of almost everything. Ultimately, they might be willing to participate in events they deem important, but you may still need to coax. If and when they do show up, help them feel welcome and part of things by finding a small group of people with whom they can enjoy deep discussions. I know one woman who invites several philosophy junkie friends to her family party every year to help keep her Watery uncle engaged. Be gentle with the Waters and remember that if things get too intense, they might float away to a quiet cove for a while. Let them. And holiday season or not, remember that time alone will still be of paramount importance to your Water friends and family.

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