The holiday season is officially upon us, and I hope you guys are all looking forward to plenty of happy times with friends and family! I’m looking forward to celebrating with my loved ones, despite all the turmoil that’s been surrounding us lately.
I’m sure my more astute readers have noticed things have gotten pretty crazy in the world — yes, even crazier than the last time I grumbled about how crazy the world has become. So many of us struggle with feeling sad and afraid and angry about all the violence and brutality that seems to be in our face every single day.
Lord knows there are more than enough scary “bad guys” to go around, but it certainly doesn’t help much that even among us “good guys,” we can’t ever seem to agree on exactly what’s wrong, whose fault it is and what we should do about it. I wish I had all the answers, or even some of them, but unfortunately I’m just as frustrated and overwhelmed as everyone else.
What I do know, however, is that we can all use a break from the stress to spend some time relaxing and celebrating the joys of life with the people we love the most. I hope we can all do our best to set aside our arguments and frustrations long enough to truly enjoy the company of our loved ones and appreciate the love we share, despite any differences of opinion.
Unfortunately I know some of you also have to face toxic and unhealthy family members who make the holidays miserable year after year. I have several friends who dread every holiday due to the stress of being around their own crazy families, and I wouldn’t wish that nightmare on anyone. It truly sucks to have to deal with that, and I know it’s a lot more complicated than anything I could discuss in this column.
Keep your head up. I hope you can eventually find peace and happiness in your holidays, even if it ultimately means distancing yourself from people who suck the joy out of your life. Sometimes we find our “real” families are the friends we choose to love like family.
For those of us with families who mostly get along — aside from the occasional incident where somebody runs their mouth a little too much — here are a few tips on minimizing the drama at your holiday meal:
1. Unless you are 100 percent confident you know your audience well enough to be sure your comments will be well received, don’t talk about politics or other hot-button issues at the Thanksgiving table. Just don’t go there.
Talk about the weather, Aunt Suzie’s new Internet boyfriend or your recent decision to close your law practice and become an astronaut. This is not the time or place to share your thoughts on police brutality and war and the wonders of Donald Trump.
I really wish this fairly obvious bit of advice could go without saying, but it often seems like just about every family has that one guy or gal who insists on bringing up controversial and highly emotional issues at the dinner table, which in some lucky families can turn into a fun and spirited debate, but in others can lead to awkward silences, screaming matches or even black eyes and broken casserole dishes.
Unless you know your family can handle it like champs, just shut up and save it for later. You probably have plenty of brilliant opinions, but it’s just not worth causing tension and alienating or offending somebody who’s just trying to have a good time.
2. Don’t take the bait. There are plenty of well-meaning folks who bring up serious issues because they genuinely want to share ideas with their loved ones — and that’s a great thing in the right crowd — but lots of families have the guy or gal who simply enjoys stirring the pot and starting arguments just for the hell of it. Depending on the family dynamic, sometimes it’s just harmless fun but other times it can be seriously annoying and antagonistic.
I know there’s a fellow on one side of my family who LOVES trying to get under my skin and get me fired up over some social injustice or another. He does it on purpose, making offensive and asinine comments he knows will bug me, just to see if he can get me to lose my cool and tell him off.
I’m sorry to say I fell for it for way too long, until I finally realized how much unpleasantness our arguments added to an otherwise lovely day. Now I just laugh off his obnoxious comments and quickly turn my attention to the folks on the other side of the table discussing college football and Beyoncé (although not necessarily at the same time).
3. Try to maintain a mindset of love and acceptance. Remember that no matter how insane their comments, these people are your family, and even if you don’t always agree with their opinions about the world, you probably love them most of the time. Keep your focus on the things you have in common and try to accept the less-favorable parts without trying to change them.
4. When all else fails, this is why the universe gave us wine and humor. Sit back, pour another drink and giggle to yourself when somebody starts talking crazy. If you’re lucky, you have an ally at the table who will exchange “WTF” expressions and knowing smiles with you across the table when Uncle Frank starts sharing his latest conspiracy theory.
Sometimes those small moments of solidarity can really make your day and remind you that no matter how much family can annoy us sometimes, you love them all and you are fortunate to have them in your life.
Happy Thanksgiving, and much love to you and yours!
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