Norman Rockwell's 1942 painting "Freedom from Want" features a wholesome family sitting down at a pristine Thanksgiving table for a hearty meal. But this holiday ideal is a far cry from what many of us endure during the yearly trek home to celebrate the great "day of thanks." What should be an occasion to reflect in humble gratitude on all the blessings we've received during the previous year, instead becomes an uncomfortable, even agonizing, experience we tolerate with some of the most ungrateful human beings on the planet--our own family.
But the truth is, no matter what our situation, the holiday season can actually bring with it an opportunity for healing and the potential to gently modify our most challenging personal relationships. It is possible to enjoy this time of year, despite the numerous family gatherings and subsequent obligations and duties that accompany them. With a positive, yet strategic, mindset in place, we can not only survive Thanksgiving, but actually find something genuine and real with which to be grateful. Here are some helpful hints for what to say to keep the peace:
1. "No, I'm not married and no, I'm not gay."
Even though it is no longer 1950, and being single well into your 40s and 50s is socially acceptable, nosy relatives still want to know why you're alone. Response: Tell Aunt Betty that you deeply appreciate her concern, but you would rather be happy and single than trapped in a miserable marriage. When you find the right partner, she will be the first to receive a wedding invite.
2. "Yes, I work at the same job in the same position and no, I'm not a slacker."
There's something to be said for a job which is dependable, predictable and fulfilling. And yet for some family members, being "comfortable" with one's career plateau is somehow considered subpar. Response: Tell Uncle Joe you appreciate his brilliant career advice, and that while you will definitely consider spiking your supervisor's coffee with apple brandy before that big presentation as he suggests, you are, in fact, perfectly happy with your career status.
3. "Actually the kids are doing just fine." It's far easier to offer "helpful"
advice about raising children when you've never actually been a parent. Response: Tell Aunt Hilda the same "time-out" strategies that work for her 2-year-old Yorkie may not be entirely suitable for your very active, highly inquisitive toddler. Besides, the kids are beautiful ongoing works of art. Isn't it awesome we can look forward to the finished masterpieces?
We will never be able to please everyone. Some people will never approve of us, or even like us, no matter what we do. That's not a comment on a particular family dynamic, that's just human nature and a fact of life. When we genuinely value who we are, and appreciate where we are in life, we release the need to please others. We heal. We grow. We actually begin to enjoy the holidays no matter what our family challenges. So dig in, and have a great holiday!Want more great advice? Chat with an advisor now!