Monthly Archives: November 2023

A dash of . . .

A dash of . . .

holiday loneliness

Image by vivienviv0 from Pixabay

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

There’s something about the holidays that draws me into the kitchen. The jaunty tunes, colorful displays, and homey scents of cinnamon and pine conjure comforting memories: Poking toothpicks into cupcakes, sucking on candy canes, and my mom following recipes she clipped from the newspaper. She committed the steps and ingredients to memory long before the food splatters and faded print rendered them unreadable. My mom was a practical cook who could stretch staples like milk and flour, or beans and potatoes, into tasty, stick-to-your-ribs food. Maybe you can relate.

I’m more of a toss, dash, and experiment sort, but in my own way, with my own creations, I’ve become a fantastic savory cook. Other than my bread making phase, baking hasn’t been my forte, but I know enough to get by. And as a busy working mom, one thing I learned was to substitute. Not enough butter or oil? There’s always applesauce … .or shortening (is that still around?). No buttermilk? Add lemon juice, white vinegar, or cream of tartar to regular milk. Low on cocoa powder? Well, dark coffee provides rich depth to decadent cakes. And that’s how it is in life. As our circumstances change, we learn to substitute and adapt.

I’m not suggesting that a new hobby or a few drops of almond extract will bring you to bliss, but just as applesauce instead of butter lightens the fat, fun pursuits can lighten the load. A spiritual retreat, travel plans, or a lighthearted friend can make life rich. Being engaged in our day-to-day routines, open to the people we meet, and trying new activities, gives us something to happily recall as we close our eyes and settle into sleep each night.

This time of year, when the holidays can bring feelings of loneliness and despair, learn to lean on and savor anything good. A favorite book, a catchy song, or an entertaining show. Friendly chit-chat with a fellow shopper, the service rep over the phone, and the neighbor who is also taking out the trash.

Do your children neglect or abuse you? Love yourself.

Give yourself the gifts of compassion, forward focus, and support

Add a dash of fun and keep what’s best for you in sight.

Related reading

Be sure to click on the highlighted words, which are links to related articles, within the text above. Also see:

Looking for the good

When adult children aren’t speaking to parents: Eating alone

When your adult children don’t like you: Lean on the bear necessities

November 22, 2023: “Are you ‘all in’ for your own well-being?”

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Parents of estranged adult children: Pack your emotional toolkit

emotional toolkitParents of estranged adult children: Pack your emotional toolkit

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

On a recent walk, nature distracted me. Beautiful deer peeked from between oaks, turkeys meandered across the road, and squirrels chattered as they leapt from branch to branch Happy and on alert for the next sighting, I stepped into a rough spot and tumbled, face-first, to the ground. After pausing to see stars, check that nothing was broken, and regain my wits, I limped home feeling sorry for myself—and then reached for my emotional toolkit.

“Crack some jokes,” I told my husband. “Make me laugh, or I’ll cry.” Glad to oblige, he compared my fat-lipped profile to Donald Duck and told me I had kissed the ground. Humor is a go-to tool, and I surround myself with those who can apply it (at times too liberally!). The social support is also relevant. Find someone to laugh with. It helps.

What’s in your emotional toolkit? We all need one and have been learning to “self-soothe” since babyhood when our hurts weren’t always immediately tended to. Think about what works for you, consider why, and how you might adapt so that it becomes a habit or is within reach when you need it most—like during the holidays, after an important but trying event, or on one of those shaky emotional days. Stressors can hit those who have suffered estrangement trauma (and connected narcissistic abuse, borderline rage, delusional rants, or shocking revisionist history) with quite an impact.

I’ve listed a few emotional toolkit ideas below. Borrow those you like and add your own ideas for a list you can keep handy and get ready for in advance.

  • Calming herbal tea (keep varieties or a favorite on hand)
  • Upbeat or inspirational music (handy CDs, or a music app already loaded)
  • Old movies (on video, or know what channel features them)
  • Talking (a supportive person to text, call, or email; a local “warmline,” versus “hotline,” to call; or join the membership community here)
  • Positive self-talk (have upbeat words on sticky notes; be your own cheerleader)
  • A sweet pet to cuddle, train, or treat
  • Nature (watch birds at a feeder, visit a refuge—or create one even on a patio)
  • Exercise (get things ready: weights, a treadmill, videos, yoga mat, gym membership)
  • Meditate (have a quiet space prepared)
  • A hobby (keep supplies on hand)
  • Comfort foods (on occasion)
  • Helping (volunteer, pick up neighborhood trash, pray for other people)
  • Journal (keep a special notebook or computer file)

Right now, reflect on what you need to put in an emotional toolkit you create just for you. And then get prepared. There’s no time like the present.

(Excerpted and edited from my 2021 book, BEYOND DONE, a Benjamin Franklin psychology award winner)

Related reading

March and sing into… (Be sure and watch the cat video on this page)

Unexpected emotions over an estranged adult child

When adult children reject parents: Giving thanks

There are no “right” words when….

Parents of estranged adults may worry about saying or doing just the right thing. We’re told how to respond and what to say ad nauseam. Amends letters, apologies, listening for the grain of truth, remaining calm, responding in curiosity, keeping our feelings out of it …. Yet, so very frequently, parents have had their ears and hearts open all along. They have tried all the words and have remained calm and loving … yet the desired results are not realized. The thing is, communication takes willingness by all involved. It can be a sad day when you realize the other person was not in really in the conversation. Yet, it can also be freeing.

Hugs to all of you from Sheri McGregor

amends letter

Related reading

Letters to Estranged adult children

Ask Sheri McGregor: Contacting estranged adult children?