It's November and calendars are making their yearly appearance in abundance. There's the small flip calendar I keep on my desk with its handy reminder to reorder. When I walk into Borders or Barnes & Noble or any bookstore chain, plastic wrapped calendars of kittens climbing trees or Bart Simpson flipping Homer the bird remind me that 2008 is almost here. Then there's the over-sized calendar I keep to use with clients. It's large so parents can see it without having to sit too close together when deciding who will spend what holiday where.

Calendars make me think of 3 important things: 1) holidays 2) unfinished business 3) new beginnings. Halloween gets a good amount of airtime in stores and on the television. Thanksgiving definitely tops Halloween. Christmas takes the cake. New Years? It does pretty well for itself. Holidays make me think of family, festivities and food. When it comes to mediating with clients, however, holidays elicit thoughts of change, pain and loss. For most of my clients, this is THE FIRST. It's the first Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc., without everyone together. It is often the first time they have to spend a holiday without their child. Holidays are complicated because, regardless of how well you get along with your family, how much you all love and appreciate each other, how many years have passed since so and so disappointed/betrayed/hurt/ignored so and so, family stuff runs deeper than words even as we take the good with the bad. For newly separated or divorced families, life is raw and holidays are the open wound.

There also seems to be an amazing amount of pressure to finish things by December 31st. It's in November and December that we begin reflecting on our year. What did I say I would accomplish this year? What exactly did I accomplish? For those who feel they've done pretty well in fulfilling personal goals, November and December allow for that extra push: it's all gravy, so to speak. For those of us who haven't even come close to accomplishing what we had hoped for the year, November and December become a haunting nag.

The good news is that January is right around the corner -- 3) new beginnings -- allowing us every opportunity to further screw-up or improve upon that which we will believe matters in January but no longer does by December. The truth is, none of us have that much control over how our year will turn out. Goals are great. Sometimes, however, realizing which goals to let go is even better.

By Laura L. Noah
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