Happy turkey lurkey day! Today, I’m missing my family. For several years, my mother, brother, and I spent our Thanksgivings feeding pumpkin pies to rescued turkeys and enjoying a vegan potluck at Farm Sanctuary. These days, things aren’t as simple and it’s harder to get together but there’s always next year, right? …Maybe? However, all is certainly not lost! Tuna and I will be sharing an entire sheet pizza and watching the complete season 3 of Haven. It’s my absolute fave and I never get to watch it.
Now, I’m lucky enough to have a very small family and we’re all basically the best of friends. However, I know many of you have to deal with the exact opposite: a large family with some unpleasant characters. Because of this, you may be absolutely dreading your meal today and the holiday get-togethers to come. Well, that’s just plain sad. Let me offer you a few words of advice to get you through unscathed.
1. Be a realist: You’re relatives are never going to change so don’t go into this hoping that your words or actions will somehow turn them into someone who all of a sudden isn’t a jerk face. Like it or not, you’re going to have to meet them where they’re at and completely accept them for the jerk faces they are. In short, don’t expect a holiday miracle.
2. Manage your expectations: A holiday get-together is no time to push for some kind of Oprah moment. Don’t go there hoping to confront your relative and then expect it to end in a group hug at the dinner table. There’s a time and place for confrontations and this isn’t one of them. Seriously, don’t invest your energy in trying to make that elusive holiday miracle happen. You have a better chance of being disowned.
3. Always take the high road: If you are unfortunate enough to have that passive aggressive relative who loves to pepper every conversation with remarks about your shortcomings, it’s perfectly okay to tell the person that their comment was hurtful and rude and just leave it at that. Since you just verbally checked their behavior in front of others, they will no doubt feel embarrassed and will strive to sink you down to their level by goading you into saying more or getting angry. Do not fall for this trick. Gracefully make the verbal check and swiftly move the conversation on before they have a chance to say anything else. Congratulations, you’ve maintained your dignity, stuck up for yourself, and just joined the ranks of Gandhi and King on the high road. You may have to do this several times but eventually that person will realize that if they want to make rude remarks, they will be embarrassed.
4. Avoid conflict: This goes without saying but please avoid all topics that could even remotely lead to an argument. If you are by nature a pot-stirrer, you’re probably thinking about your freedom of speech and how you should be allowed to bring up any subject you darn well please and how everyone is dying to hear your views on Obamacare and the state of the world today. However, please remember that the holidays are not all about you. Let me issue this challenge: avoid anything even remotely having to do with politics, depressing news, the state of the world, gossip, personal judgements, or anything resembling a criticism. This obviously includes the topics of conversation but also consider your TV channel/movie selection and the newspapers or magazines you may have lying around. These are all fodder for a potential conversation gone wrong. If you’re a pot-stirrer, a critical thinker, or are not one to easily reign in your opinion, let’s try either just being quiet and thoughtful (if this requires biting your tongue and sitting on your hands than please do so), asking others about how they’re doing, and/or focusing on something positive happening in your life or the world today. Yup, completely flip the switch for the greater good and comfort level of those around you. Be vigilant of the notion that the holidays are a festive occasion where we come together to feel better, not to walk away feeling worse.