Holidays and politics and/or religion and/or lifestyle choices (that's not being politically correct, one of our patients was pilloried by her family of medical doctors because she had the temerity to visit a chiropractor for back pain even when they had no helpful solutions) can be a toxic brew. People are drinking. They are financially stressed. They feel reduced to childhood roles. They feel trapped by the manipulation of mom and dad. In short, it's hell.
Dr. Helen gives some very good and sensible advice about negotiating family and politics in particular, and holidays:
First, remember there is no need to discuss anything political. If you find the topic worse than a trip to the dentist to get your teeth pulled, just smile and say that at the holidays, you prefer to relax and talk about family and change the subject.Her follow-up advice is equally sensible. Don't try to change someone else's mind. Be prepared with facts. Good advice, all. But what about avoiding the melee altogether?
By the time a person reaches the age he or she can decide what to do for Thanksgiving or Christmas, he can decide whether or not to do it all. This might mean uncomfortable conversations like this:
"I'm sorry. We won't be able to join you this year."
"We've decided to keep Thanksgiving as a family."
Likely, your family is intuitive and knows the real reason. Mom will kvetch about
how great it will be this year and Johnny is getting better and we're hiding the liquor or whatever.
You're an adult. Just. Say. No.
One of the great things about adulthood is doing what we want to do. Well, they can tell us, but we can do what we want anyway. So embrace your adulthood freedom and do what you want!
Another idea: set limitations. Go for dinner, but don't stay for the sing-a-long. Or, skip dinner and stop by for dessert. Or go the next day to visit the beloved cousins, when the atmosphere is less charged. If all the women end in the kitchen while the lard-butt men melt into the couch for football and it galls you as a woman of the new millinium, rebel. Sit on the couch. It won't bother the guys, but the ladies might have a beef. Politely suggest that they nag their husbands.
If you must go and desire to not feel like the perpetual holiday whipping boy, use humor. Sometimes the vibe gets so heavy and serious. No one has changed the world by discussions at the Thanksgiving table.... OK scratch that, they probably have at the Bush or Kennedy or Tudor table, but you know what I mean. Here's a potential script to demonstrate the absurdity of the conversation that has replaying for years:
"You know what, Joe? You're right. I finally saw the error of my ways after all these years. I'm now a registered Democrat. I've donated to Obama and Clinton and Edwards, just to cover my bases. The Democrats have done such a stellar job in Congress that it was time to make a change to be on the side of the winners."
At first, Cousin It will think you're serious. Finally, he's come to his senses! Then, he'll get that you're being sarcastic and get mad. With any luck though, he'll regard you as hopeless and ignore you for the rest of the night.
If Thanksgiving and Christmas aren't days of joy for you and your family, why are you doing it? Really, life is way too short.