So there you are sitting on the very same cold metal folding chair you sat in last year at the holiday table. Aunt Tillie leans in from her cushioned dining room chair as you desperately try to blend into the gray metal to avoid the very same question she asked last year … “So sweetie, are you dating anyone special?”
You're thinking why wouldn't she ask me about my new condo, my promotion, my volunteer work, my trip to Paris this summer? Why is she so focused on my love life? Why does it seem as though everyone is focused on my love life? You don't want to be rude to Aunt Tillie but you wouldn't mind if she had a mild enough choking fit to get you out of that conversation!
This time of year brings us together with family and friends, people we don't necessarily see frequently. Conversations are not often natural nor fluid with this gap in interaction. They are more likely to be clumsy and awkward leaving us feeling disconnected and inadequate.
The opposite is true as well.
We sometimes share the holiday with people we interact with frequently and feel a little too comfortable with opening the door to filter omission and blurred boundaries. Very few of us ever find the balance; the Hallmark experience with a supportive, loving family gathered around the table verbally frolicking as a gentle winter snow can be seen through the glass panes. It just doesn't happen.
So how do we survive these gatherings and celebrations?
Well hopefully you survived Thanksgiving – you are one down and two to go (depending of course on your traditions!)
First lets tackle Aunt Tillie...
Most Aunt Tillie's are harmless. In my experience the best approach is redirecting the conversation. “...Enough about me, tell me about you Aunt Tillie ...” Take the focus off of you simply shifting it. Bring other people into the conversation “... Oh Nancy did you know Aunt Tillie had a hip replacement last month … Doesn't she look great!”
Your love life is no longer on the table with the green beans and crescent rolls!
What happens when there are people there you haven't seen in several years and really don't want to see for the next several years? That one is a little more challenging yet there are really only two options: either don't attend or kill them with kindness. Ignoring them or confronting them will ruin the holiday for you and everyone else. If this is your intention save it for another day when the only person to be impacted will be you!
And what about the all too familiar relationships of obligation. You know those people you are related to, somehow, but just irk you or worse ruin the tradition with their poor behavior. The days of tolerating people and their outbursts are long over. Not only do they destroy the holiday, including these people sends them the message that they have permission to act in any manner that suits them regardless of the impact on everyone else. When enough people take a stand against poor behavior it either stops or they find a new group to torture.
Why put yourself in the position of being at the end of that stick? Why expose partners, children, loved ones and friends to the rantings of dis-regulated family members?
There is no reason to do so.
If you make the decision to separate or simply avoid it is very important to remember this is one day – 24 hours. You will make it through all 24! Start a new tradition, connect with friends and people in similar situations – there are more out there than you think! In the world of Instagram and Facebook it looks as if everyone else is living the Hallmark dream. That just isn't reality. For most of us the holidays stir up pain from the past, uncertainty of the future and shine the light on our daily discomfort.
With a little attention and self care you will find the right balance and tradition that works for you!