Holidays and families. That word combination is powerful. It can bring smiles or groans. I was talking with a friend of mind about holidays and families. Soon we were talking about dysfunctional families. I like to think either we all have them, or none of us have them. (I’m talking quirks, not out-right abusive relationships or rudeness.) Some family members put the “fun” in dysfunctional, others don’t. Either way, the holiday season has arrived. It’s time to make some choices.
Maybe you’re tired of uncle Albert’s drinking, aunt Tilda’s complaining, your sister’s slob boyfriend, and your brother’s prima donna wife. You have choice. You may decide not to host (or attend) the family gathering. Shake it up. If you host it, maybe invite a larger group on guests. It may alter obnoxious behavior of those accustom to family only. You might chose to send your partner to their family on their own, while you go to your family or friend’s home. You could chose to walk the beach, climb a mountain, or serve less fortunate people a meal. Any of this may mean your partner has to explain to their family that you’re sick again, forgot about the holiday, or honestly, fed up — the how is up to them.
Or, you could show up as a guest and know uncle Albert will get drunk, aunt Tilda will complain about any and everything—and others will chip-in with their close-minded opinions. Know there may be a guest covered with tattoos, piercings, an interracial baby out of wedlock and a jail bird. Is your Achilles heel your son who’s gay? An in-law who eats before grace is said? A loud, conversation hog? What about someone who doesn’t help clean up? Imagine they’re all there. If you’ve decided to show up, show up 100%. If you genuinely appreciate the person hosting the event, you are there for them, or think of it as for your personal growth. If you can’t think of being grateful for the host, you have no business entering their home, eating their food, and bringing your judgmental energy with you. If you’re grateful for the host, but have issues with just about everyone else, you have a tough choice, but it’s yours. If you go to the event, suck it up. It’s only for a few hours (hopefully).
Make it a game. For every time you don’t speak your mind, which means, you haven’t “put someone in their place” promise yourself a reward for when you leave the event. (Tomorrow I’ll go to the movies, or a little something you will not give yourself if you “fail” in keeping your game plan. The idea is to have a peaceful celebration. No one sets out to be a jerk—I know, sometimes it’s hard to believe it. We’re usually way more tolerant with other families than our own. Be open to learning something new about someone you haven’t talked much with in the past. We marry our opinions, and when we stop and listen, we have the opportunity to grow. See how many things you can find for which to be grateful. Is the table beautiful? Are those you love in good health this year? Is it an outside event, and the weather is nice? Did the turkey fall on the floor—but you picked it up before the dog and cat did? Look for opportunities to give thanks.
During the conversation with my friend, she brought up the first Thanksgiving. Tradition of families thrown together by fate and need, not really desire to hang out with each other. If that’s your tradition, be bold and create a new one!