Chile. This. Right. Here. Listen, if you're someone who is counting the days until Thanksgiving and/or Christmas because you come from a totally functional family that never disagrees and totally enjoys being up under each other 24/7, first off, let me say a big ole' kudos to you. No, really. That is absolutely beautiful—and amazing. But with articles out in cyberspace like "Why Families Fight During Holidays", "Average Couples Will Fight Seven Times Before Holiday End" and "So THAT'S Why Families Fight So Much at Christmas! Strict Schedules and Cramped Conditions Cause 'Hypercopresence'", I already know that there are others who are watching the movie Soul Food on loop, in hopes that their family will be able to sit around the dinner table in peace or, they're considering going on a prayer fast in order to maintain their sanity.
Family is a funny thing; not always in a "ha ha" kind of way either. But as they say, "You can't choose your family." You also can't make grandma not ask you for the billionth time when you're going to get married or have kids, your auntie from saying something slick about your weight or sense of style, or the men in the house from trying to hog the remote. Not to mention all of the dishes that constantly need to be washed, the limited bed space, and the folks whose personalities change more and more with every cup of eggnog. Lawd.
As you're trying to get your spirit right as you head to your parents' house or you prepare to host at your own place this year, cut yourself some slack. If there is a part of you that isn't 100 percent thrilled, that's OK. You're human (plus, studies reveal that it takes the average American only four hours before they need to take a break from extended family visits). But if, at the same time, you want to exude peace, joy and goodwill as much as possible for your sake and the sake of those who will be around you, here's hoping that the following tips can bring a few miracles into your family space this holiday season.
“Time” Your Time
I'm an ambivert which kind of breaks down into being perceived as being an extrovert when actually I am more of an introvert. And this is how much of an introvert that I am. A few years ago, Nashville got some for real, for real snow (which doesn't happen a ton). Two days in, some out of town people called to check on me and get this—I had no idea that the snowstorm even happened. Right. I hadn't even gone outside in like three days. Didn't look out of the windows either. That is how much I like my spot. And since I enjoy solitude too, the rare times when people do stay over here, I've got a five-day threshold rule. During those five days, I will cook for you, take you wherever you want to go—basically be on-call. But after those five days are up, you've got…to…go. No apologies either. I know me. This means that I know what my limits are as well.
Sometimes, folks feel like they are going to lose it around the holidays because they stay with someone longer than they can mentally or emotionally handle, or they allow others to semi-wear out their welcome. If this Thanksgiving, all you can endure is Thursday thru Saturday, hey—it is what it is. Better to know what you are able to endure and everything go smoothly than to push past your limits and all hell break loose. For real, doe.
Deactivate Your Triggers
If there is one thing that 2019 has taught me, it's how to get up close and personal with my triggers so that I can better learn how to deactivate them; especially when I'm around "trigger pushers"—or when it comes to certain family members of mine, trigger stompers. If there is a part of you that wonders why you are generally a pretty chill individual, but then, when a certain cousin walks through the door or your stepmother mumbles something under her breath, you are ready to leap over the table, they could be triggering you, perhaps without you even knowing it. And since a lot of triggers stem from our childhood, that would actually make a lot of sense. Over the holidays, sometimes we're reliving things that aren't the best memories, experiences or even people on the planet; it makes us vulnerable and that can make us irritable.
You can't change your cousin or your stepmom. All you can do is control yourself. But something that can give you a real leg up on avoiding any potential drama is if you spend some time figuring out what your triggers are, who pushes them, and things that you can do to "woosah" through them instead of poppin' off at every turn.
Avoiding “Romanticizing” Toxicity
Some people in my family are toxic. Simple as that. They are so toxic, in fact, that they inspired me to write "Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members". A particular relative who comes to mind is constantly bitter with a side of manipulative and controlling. For years, before I would see this individual, I would tell myself that this time was going to be different; that although the only thing that they had shown was how consistently negative they could be, somehow it wasn't going to be like that that year. Then, I would walk in their door, they'd immediate start whining about their life and then try and get me to do everything for them the entire visit, only for me to find myself all bent out of shape because I was disappointed. Again.
Y'all, this is what I call "romanticizing toxicity". Did you know that one definition of romantic is "fanciful; impractical; unrealistic"? And yes, when you're around people who are constantly showing how toxic they are, it's impractical and unrealistic to think that after years of them being this way, they are supernaturally going to be any different.
For toxic people, it has to be an act of God for anything to change. Until that happens, don't set yourself up for being let down by putting your heart in harm's way of toxic individuals. Set boundaries. Stand firmly in them. That should help you to navigate through their slick words and strange energy.
If There’s Not Enough Room…Get a Room
I've got a girlfriend whose husband's side of the family is cray-cray. So crazy that she and I discuss often that if she had really understood the depths of the dysfunction of his bloodline, it probably would've resulted in them remaining friends instead of getting married at all. And who is she gearing up to host this holiday season? Yep…you guessed it. Not for 48 hours either. It's for an entire week and some change. When I asked her how she was going to maintain her composure with all of that traffic, she said, "Girl, this wouldn't be happening at our other house. Luckily, we've got enough room at this one."
Her in-law dynamic is actually what inspired this particular tip because it reminded me that sometimes the holidays are hard simply because we need more space—both physically as well as emotionally. Space to catch our breath and our thoughts. A place to go where we won't have little people constantly crawling all over us or our great-uncle telling us the same five tired jokes for the tenth year in a row.
If you're headed to a relative's place and, when you ask about the sleeping arrangements they say something along the lines of, "Girl, there are enough couches and plenty of floor space", if that makes you already hyperventilate, it's OK if you want to get a hotel room or rent an Airbnb. I'm willing to bet that your family won't agree with me but, that's another thing that you've got to remember about going home for the holidays—you're not in high school or college anymore. You're an adult so, it's not about what they won't let you do; it's about you doing what you know is best. And sometimes, the best way to "respect your elders" is to give everyone some space. Starting with yourself.
Don’t Constantly Be at Home
Speaking of space, if you're going to your parents' place for the holidays and that happens to be where you grew up, this means that you know how to get around, right? No one said that going home meant that you had to sit in the kitchen and shuck peas or clean collards the entire time. Go to a movie. Meet up with some old friends. Plan ahead to be out of the house a little bit while you're there.
And what if you are the one who is hosting? My advice is to not feel the least bit guilty about scheduling a mani/pedi one day or "conveniently forgetting" some stuff at the grocery store that you need to run out and get a couple of times (several if necessary). Sometimes, just an hour of being in your car alone and listening to Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas" or strolling a couple of laps in a mall can rejuvenate you in ways you wouldn't even imagine.
If It’s Your House, Remember IT IS YOUR HOUSE
Something else that I think can be a challenge when it comes to dealing with relatives is everyone learning what it means to respect each other. In fact, something that I referenced in the toxic family article that I mentioned earlier is while a lot of our elders are quick to want to recite "Honor your father and mother" (Exodus 20:12), they somehow seem to have really selective memory when it comes to two Scriptures that say children shouldn't be provoked to wrath (Ephesians 6:4) or provoked to the point of becoming discouraged (Colossians 3:21).
Three points here. One, you are no longer a child. Therefore, you are well within your rights to expect to not be treated like one. Wanting to be treated like an adult is not "disrespectful"; elders trying to treat you like you're not one is. Point two—provoke means "to anger, enrage, exasperate, or vex". If someone is doing that to you, feel free to share the chapter and verse in the Good Book where all are instructed not to do this. And three, if you're hosting—your house, your rules.
Now, I'm not saying that if you've got no problem chillin' with a blunt and some bourbon that you need to puff-puff-pass in front of granddad or if you know your father lives for football that he should be made to watch The Best Man Holiday on loop. But what I am saying is you are the one who is paying the mortgage (or rent), so if anyone shouldn't feel like they need to walk on eggshells, that should be you. If there are house rules, share them. If folks are breaking them—even if it comes to disrespecting you and your feelings—enforce them. They would do it at their place. Trust me.
Choose Your Battles
A wise person once said, "You only have so much emotional energy each day. Don't fight battles that don't matter." Amen and amen. The relative who always has to have to have the last word? Maybe let them. The relative who always likes to tell the embarrassing story of what you did when you were 10? The sooner they tell it and laugh like they never said it before, the sooner everyone can move on. If your mom has a billion questions about the new guy you're seeing and you already know she's going to be hyper-critical—decide what to share, what to keep to yourself and leave it at that. Out of all of the stuff that I shared, I personally believe that family time can be stressful over the holiday season because we don't master the art of choosing our battles before we see everyone.
Abuse is one thing. Never tolerate that. But when it comes to the basically inconsequential stuff? Remember, even if it feels like a year, the visit is only going to be a few days. Accept folks for who they are, focus on making as many great memories as possible, and pre-plan a way to pamper yourself when it's all over. If you do these things, you should survive this holiday season, even when it comes to dealing with the relatives who always seem to want to tap dance on your very last nerve. In short, Mazel Tov. It's Hebrew for "good destiny". I'm sending plenty of that your way, so that you'll get through the holidays with tranquility and a smile. Happy Holidays, sis.
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