The holiday season is upon us, and that usually includes a lot of time spent with family and friends, and a lot of focus on activities, traditions, and relationships. There is often more to do than at other times during the year, like holiday parties, work, school, and social events, and the preparation involved for each. While the holidays are a wonderful time, there is a busy aspect that can sometimes create stress. Perhaps because of this, the question often arises: what should we do first? When there is a limited amount of time to accomplish a lot, what takes priority?
I’ve read a lot of articles that talk about prioritizing your marriage by putting your husband first, or putting your kids’ needs first, or making self-care a priority and putting yourself first. I think this makes such articles interesting to read, because upon seeing the title, we are immediately curious: whom should we put first? What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong?
I think the problem with this—or perhaps, the solution lying in wait—is simply that all of them are first. Relationships are not a competition. Yes, we need to focus on pouring love and trust into the foundation of our marriages to strengthen them. Yes, we need to model patience and empathy, and meet the needs of our children, wherever they are developmentally. Yes, we must also treat ourselves with the same respect and love that we want to give others, out in the world. We are the world, and the way that we treat people is mirrored in the way we treat ourselves.
The other day I was with my family at a holiday event, and we drove by a place where I used to work, before I got married and had kids. A thought crept into my mind, “what would I do now, if I was there?” I imagined several scenarios briefly; and thought about what my life would be like. While this can be fun to do, I realize that this is not reality. If I still had my old career today, other circumstances in my life would be different than they are now.
An extension of this is to imagine a past moment, and to think about how we would react now, with our increased experience and time to think about it. It always seems easier, as if we would know what to say, or what decision to make, with the forethought of experience. The reason it seems easier, is because it is: it exists only in our minds, and not in the world. In real-time, we would face the same challenges we faced to begin with during that moment—emotions, expectations, and different choices that we need to make.
While we are all busy during this holiday season, my biggest task is to make a choice in each moment: choose love.
Do the next right thing; love the people you encounter, strangers and family members alike, the way you love yourself; and love yourself the best way you can. Even if it takes practice, even if we’re not perfect. We are here, emanating love and interacting with each other, every single day. Let’s do the best job that we can. Love does, and will always, come first.