Every year, we watch “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” the week of Thanksgiving with our best friends. We even pulled it off during the depths of the pandemic, when we set up a Zoom call so that we could watch and talk at the same time, cheersing from our separate Manhattan apartments, seventy blocks away from one another. (They huddled in Chelsea; we were homesteading on 86th Street.) The ritual is less about the movie at this point (we often talk over it, or compete to anticipate its lines ahead of time) and more about making time before a very busy season to catch up and laugh at ourselves in only the way old friends can. It is always one of my favorite nights of the year. As the years go by, I find we are all becoming increasingly affectionate about the gathering, as though it is already trapped in amber, a cherished, decades-old holiday tradition that we will one day bore our children talking about (“when you were little, we always gathered the week of Thanksgiving…”). This go around, we sat at the kitchen counter for a few hours before the movie to drink egg nog, finish a puzzle we’d had out since before Thanksgiving, and compare notes on Tom Lake, bad movies and television shows we’d recently sat through (we all hated “Bottoms”), and the imminent television content crisis (what will we all do next year when the writer’s strike catches up with us and there are no new shows?), among other wide-ranging topics. As we settled in front of the TV for the viewing portion of the evening, I anticipated the cozy, lived-in nostalgia of a movie I’d seen dozens of times, but this time, one exchange leapt out at me, piercing my somnolence:
Del: You wanna hurt me? Go right ahead if it makes you feel any better. I’m an easy target. Yeah, you’re right, I talk too much. I also listen too much. I could be a cold-hearted cynic like you, but I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings. Well, you think what you want about me; I’m not changing. I like…I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. ‘Cause I’m the real article. What you see is what you get.
I’ve heard — and been moved by — this poignant speech year after year. (If you’ve not seen the movie, John Candy’s friendly Midwestern sales guy character is responding to a slew of criticisms from Steve Martin’s uptight businessman character after they’ve unexpectedly found themselves travel companions as they attempt to make their way from NYC to Chicago for Thanksgiving.) It’s always touching, but this go around, I found myself focused on: “I’m not changing. I like…I like me.”
The phrasing wrapped itself around me, hug-like. If we like ourselves, if we truly consider ourselves good and worthy people, if we treat ourselves as friends, affording ourselves the same grace and assuming the best intentions as we would our loved ones, then life’s turbulences (an insult from a hurting person, a strangely sour interaction in a grocery store) become easier to bear. I called to mind a quote from the Pema Chodron book I’ve been making my way through:
“When you have made good friends with yourself, your situation will be more friendly too.”
This is the arrangement to which I am consciously aspiring: I am working on becoming better friends with myself. I like her; I need her to know that.
How do we operationalize this?
I think the most helpful, practical first step is to focus on becoming an expert in myself. Get to know her! So far, this has mainly been achieved by monitoring my own moods, peaks, pits and looking for patterns.
What do I need to recharge? When do I feel most like myself? What are my core strengths, and how do I play to those? What are my weaknesses, and how do I improve or understand how to navigate situations in which they will called upon? What do I hate doing and why? What do I love doing? Why am I always anxious in this particular situation? When am I at my most comfortable? Why do I feel lethargic/frustrated/stressed at this time of day, or this day of the week? What does a good day look like? Am I most productive in the morning or evening? Why am I running from this situation? What do I really want out of this arrangement?
Then, with a sound sense for our own shapes, we can learn to wrap our arms around ourselves. “I know you snapped because you are always stressed at this time of day,” and “You need to take a break and spend some time alone.”
What strategies do you have for befriending yourself?
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+What does your internal voice sound like?
+Grandma Hadley’s lettuce.
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+LOVE the Gucci-esque colors of these Adidas Gazelles.
+Inexpensive holiday look: this silver skirt is under $30! Pair with a chunky knit or black turtleneck.
+This sherpa jacket is reversible and gives major Toteme vibes. Under $250.
+A girlfriend of mine asked for ski clothes recs. I am not a skiier (!) but I still take note of what’s trending in this category because I daydream about being a woman who skis. Goldbergh is splurgey James Bond heroine gear. Zara has a fun new ski collection with lots of chic finds in this vein for less. And Sweaty Betty always has stylish, well-designed pieces. How great is this base layer?
+This is one of the best storage solutions I’ve ever come across. I got in the biggest size and stow most of my out-of-season footwear in it. Surprisingly sturdy.
+Grinch jammies! My kids are obsessed with all of the Grinch movies, and we’ve also been listening to its soundtrack a lot in the mornings.
+We use these cheapie kitchen towels instead of paper towels most of the time. I toss the soiled ones in a wire bin under the sink and launder every few days.
+This fleece pullover in the cardinal red color!