Navigating Family through the Holidays

While the holidays can be seen as a warm and fuzzy time, the reality is for at least some of us, spending time with our blood relatives can feel constrictive, stressful, and downright oppressive.  I don’t think it’s that rare for people, especially those on the spiritual path to have views/lifestyle/beliefs drastically different from their family members.  In this blog I’ll share bits from my own life as well as some basic tips for being open, true to yourself, and authentic through the holidays.

Maybe now it’s a good time to share some backstory.  I’m definitely the odd one out when it comes to my family.  I was raised by conservative parents who believe in keeping the nose to the grindstone—working hard—buy a house—save for retirement—eat the Standard American Diet.  

I sort of laugh at it all, thinking that it’s the Universe’s joke to put a highly sensitive, alternative healer, empowerment coach, live a life you love, buy organic food kinda woman in this family.  Don’t get me wrong, I had plenty of positive experiences growing up and I think my parents love me in the way that they can, but it created a canvas for me to be afraid to speak up, where my gifts and perspectives were never appreciated.  

And as I grew older, I’ve deviated further apart.  It’s hard to encapsulate all of the small and big things I’ve been judged and shamed for, when it just feels like I’m being me.  All the times I’ve kept quiet knowing I was in the minority.  I’m writing all of this to build up to what happened on Thanksgiving this year.  I lost it.  I totally lost it.  In front of my family and aunts and uncles, I said years of what was pissing me off.  The things that I could never say.  I let it all out.  It was a combination of expletives and raw honesty. It wasn’t skillful.  And of course, it wasn’t “nice.”  But it needed to be said.  And it was never going to come out if it had to be kind, composed, and refined.

I share this with you because I realize the importance of being real with our families.  I realize the importance of [women] speaking our truth.  I realize the importance of sharing opposing views to the norm.

I used to keep quiet because I wanted everyone to get along.  I didn’t want to disrupt the peace.  But I believe firmly that we all have a right to be here.  The world got to be the way it is because not everyone’s voices have been heard.  I’m not saying that we can ever change our families, but there is something to be said for being unafraid to stir up the status quo by pointing out that other beliefs, ideals, and ways of living exist.

In some spiritual traditions, they believe that our soul chooses our families.  That means in whatever shape it takes, you can be medicine for your family and in some strange mysterious way, your family could be an opportunity for you to grow and evolve.

Here are some suggestions I have if you are the ‘awesome’ sheep in your family:

-Start saying how you feel.  Maybe it will be easiest to start one-on-one with people instead in front of the big ol’ group like me.  Talk frankly, use “I feel” statements.  They may not like what you have to say.  Be okay with that.  Let go of the results.

-Practice being right in the middle of it all.  This is a technique I picked up from mindfulness meditation practices.  Practice feeling it all.  Feeling how it feels to be in the middle of the storm.  Unafraid to feel any of the emotions that are swirling.

-Do things on your own terms.  This may be terrifying.  If the food doesn’t work for you, you might come after dinner.  If you feel like being with the fam is too much, skip the holidays all together and go on a vacation.  Be clear and let everyone know in advance.

-Don’t be the silent minority.  This is the biggest challenge for me.  When everyone is agreeing on a topic and I feel totally different.  Who knows who is right, but practice even saying something like, “I don’t see it that way.”  Then explain your point.  Your goal is not to convert, but to let people see you and not to hide.  Use discretion here.  You don’t need to speak up every time, but don’t be silent every time either.

-Be a role model.  Be a role model for compassion and kindness.  Go out of your way to be kind and generous (just try it and see what happens).

-Take care of yourself.  If you need to opt out of a family gathering, or keep a visit short, then do it.  Communicate well [in advance] and know that you cannot control the reactions of others.  Also know that it is up to you how much you share with your family.  You don’t have to share everything every time. 

I know it’s hard.  It is a winding road.  A growing edge.  A path towards healing, unfolding and expansion. Blessings on your path.