Help: The Holidays Are Too Much For Her!

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 overwhelms me. But the minute I decide to cut back on decorating and 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 this year they were shocked and now I’m worried they’ll be too disappointed if I don’t bake. I’m taking care of my own mother and working full time, and I just don’t have the energy or joy in me to do the whole holiday thing. Is there an easy way to tell my family that I want to skip the holidays this year? Signed: Tired in Tennessee

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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 very understandable. Here in the U.S. the holidays have become a behemoth commercial event perpetuated by a retail industry brilliant at pushing all of our “make it perfect” buttons. Somehow, we seem to have bought into the idea that bigger and better matter, but deep inside I suspect we know that isn’t true. So why does the commercialization of the season still exert such a hold on us?

I think most of us go crazy around the holidays 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 relationships sit. Sounds like the holidays, doesn’t it? And those clever advertising people figured out decades ago that if they tie 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 gifts and meals with those we love during this special season.

In truth, there’s nothing wrong with this idea. What is wrong is that the expression of this idea has become exceedingly unbalanced, mostly because our western cultures are patriarchies, which by definition are yang energy dominant. Yang 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. But that doesn’t need to happen, especially to you.  Let’s look at how you can bring balance back to yourself and your family this holiday season.

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Family Fractured Over Independence Day

Dear Readers: This is a timely “oldie but goodie” from our files. Enjoy! Vicki

Dear Vicki: The Fourth of July is coming up and it’s turning into a real challenge for our family. My sixteen-year-old daughter, Joni (who I’m pretty sure is a Fire personality), wants to have a huge picnic, invite all of her friends, and shoot off fireworks after dark (we live where they are legal). Stella, my twelve-year-old, hates noise and crowds so wants a quiet family gathering or maybe even a night at the movies. Of course, Joni claims that would be boring. To make matters worse, Jake, my husband, thinks taking the whole family camping in the wilderness, along with a few close friends, would solve the problem. But I’m the one everyone looks to for organizing and cooking on a camping trip, and it doesn’t sound like fun to me. So, we are a family divided. Any suggestions? Signed, Fractured Family

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Dear Fractured Family: Holidays are never easy because everyone has expectations. Of course Joni will want excitement and activity; that’s what Fires need. Plus, the Independence Day holiday occurs during summer, which is Fire’s season. Joni’s personal Fire will likely be revved up even more by summer and she’ll be ready to party.

You don’t mention Stella’s element, but the fact that she wants the quiet and darkness of a movie theater suggests she might be a Water. The yang activity of summer, and especially the noise and excitement of July 4th, are the exact opposite of what Stella’s Water will crave. There’s nothing peaceful, solitary, or quiet about a huge party and fireworks.

Your husband Jake sounds like he might have a lot of Earth. Camping with friends can be very Earth: time out in nature is one of the most important ways to ground and feed Earth energies. Being with close group friends is also important to Earth.

And you, Ms. Fractured Family, are probably a Wood. Making sure everything runs smoothly, whether camping or at home, takes the planning and manifestation skills of a Wood. The good news is that your Wood is exactly what’s needed to solve your family’s July 4th dilemma.

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Earth Can’t Find the Love She Longs For

Dear Vicki: I want to be married and in love, but I’ve been divorced three times. Even though I was so sure I’d found true love with each guy, the relationships didn’t last. My first husband and I married young – we were only 19 – but we were in love and wanted the same thing: a home and family. Or so I thought. He left me for his flashy young secretary who was a better fit as he climbed the corporate ladder. Husband #2, a college professor, left to accept a fellowship to study primitive tribes in Africa. And Husband #3 is an artist who found his muse in the woman who runs a local gallery. They live together in a loft now. I honestly thought each of these men was my true love, a person I could grow old with. But now, at 37, I’m wondering how to pick the right guy. I’m new at the Five Elements, but am pretty sure I’m an Earth. Is there a certain element I should pick? I want a home and a family. Signed: Unmarried in Marengo

Dear Unmarried: It sounds like you’ve had quite an experience relating to different elements. I think you are correct – you are most likely an Earth. Home and family are very high on their list of priorities. The resiliency you’ve shown and hope you continue to hold out for a lasting marriage suggests that you might have Water as a secondary. Bless you on staying positive. But be mindful for yourself that you keep your energies balanced. Too much Earth (desire for a relationship) and Water (trust that everything will be perfect) can create a lot of mud for you. Mud usually lacks clarity and focus, which are important to have when entering into a relationship. Information about the person and their personality tendencies is important, too, but selecting a life partner isn’t as simple as finding a “positive” elemental match. The Five Elements model shows us that all of the elements can get along well with the others.

Honestly, you could “pick” whomever you fall in love with, but then make sure you take the time to determine their primary element so you can understand what their priorities will be in life and relationship. I also suggest that you help them understand what your priorities are as an Earth. Too often we tend to trust “love” as being all we need. And while it’s extremely important, I also believe that we need understanding and acceptance if any relationship is to go the distance. So in the name of that understanding, let’s take a look at what might have unfolded at an elemental level in each of your previous marriages.

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Helping Wood Son Burned By Family of Fires

Dear Vicki: I am new to the study of the Five Elements and find it fascinating. In looking at our family, it seems that my husband, myself, and our two daughters are all Fires. Our son, Mike, is definitely a Wood, which helps me understand why he feels uncomfortable when we are all together. When Mike was younger, he would take a pillow and curl up somewhere quiet to nap because we seemed to exhaust him. Now that there have been additions to the family – two sons-in-law (one Water, one Metal) and a grandson (Wood) – Mike seems to handle family gatherings a little better. But with the holiday season coming up, how can we help Mike be even more comfortable for the numerous times we are all together?  Are there colors or things to add to the environment that would be helpful? We love him dearly. Signed: Mom

Dear Mom: As a Wood myself, I feel for your son growing up in a family full of Fires. Wow! Life would never have been boring! And even though Wood and Fire relate on the Nurturing Cycle, it’s Mike’s Wood that had to feed all four of your Fires. That’s a lot to ask of one Wood and totally explains why he not only appeared slightly uncomfortable, but also snuck away for naps. Feeding four Fires would exhaust any Wood.

Even Fires will admit that too much Fire energy can become chaotic, and chaos takes a Wood down quicker than almost anything else. That’s why Woods are often perceived as control freaks. But in truth, they don’t want control, they just want to prevent things from getting out of control. Living with four Fires, Mike was not only exhausted from trying to feed your Fire (in relationships, this means being the audience for the Fire), he was also likely trying to manage what he perceived as chaos. When younger, withdrawing from the drama was probably the best way for him to retain his own balance. And as you may have discovered, it works for adults, too.

It’s not surprising that maturity and additions to the family have made things a bit better for Mike. The good news is that Woods have great boundaries and, as an adult, it’s probably easier for Mike to draw a line now than it was when he was young. If things get too chaotic now, he can easily excuse himself (having work to catch up on is a great Wood excuse) and seek out a quiet area. There are different elements in the mix now, too, which also takes some of the pressure off of Mike, although it will be important to understand the specific relationships he’ll have with each of the new additions to your family.

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Elections Bring Up Regrets, Anger, and Compassion

Dear Vicki: I have a lot of anger surfacing these days. I am over-the-top angry with the political campaigns and the way people are being treated, but recently realized it parallels how certain family members treated me in the past. I let them get away with it, had compassion for their bad behavior, and didn’t really acknowledge how I felt about being disrespected and judged. Finally, two years ago I stepped away from these relationships. At first I felt fantastic, but now my anger at the campaigning has made me realize that I am angry at myself for being a doormat all those years. I even have conversations with myself about this sometimes and deeply regret my lack of action. I am a Metal/Fire, but am turning into a roaring Wood. I read your blog and notice that you often suggest environmental ways to help balance an element. Can you help me? Signed: Angry in Atlanta

Dear Angry: Let me say that it’s truly amazing how many people, especially women, have approached me via this blog and my private practice to express anger at the way groups of people are being treated by specific candidates this year. Individual rights matter in America, and when those aren’t respected it can bring up issues for all of us. I think that’s happening now as part of the presidential campaign in a way we didn’t expect as a country. So, you are not alone in feeling angry, but let’s look at how this is affecting you and what we can do to shift the pattern.

Remember that we all have all five elements in our make up and can draw on them at will when we need what they have to offer. If we are not a primary Fire but need to be more outgoing in a particular situation, we can tap our Fire. If we need compassion, we can tap our Earth, etc. And sometimes, a specific element can step to the front of the line to help us process something we need to process. I think that’s what is happening for you.

While you might normally be a Metal/Fire, right now it sounds like your Wood is ready to process the anger it feels at the Earth part of you that stood in compassion for people and allowed them to treat you poorly. Your Wood also sounds upset that your Earth took so long to step away from these people. The good news is that your Earth did finally step away! Earth has a very hard time ending relationships, especially family relationships. And since Wood controls Earth, your Wood might also be upset at itself for not stepping in sooner and balancing the over-compassionate Earth. The conversations you’re having in your head about what you should have said or wished you’d said also indicate an out of balance Earth.

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