Today is Thanksgiving. I know, I know, not all of you live in the US, and if you don’t, please forgive my blatant catering to my American side. Just bookmark this blog post for whatever family gatherings they have in your country. No one has a monopoly on awkward family bonding. Actually, I’m one of those people not living in the US (I live in Barcelona, Spain). To me, it’s really just another day, but to over 50% of you, it’s a special day, a day off from work, a day of football, a day of permission to stuff your face until you can’t breathe, then pop the top button of your jeans (if you were careless enough not to just wear sweatpants. Psh, amateurs) and eat some more. It’s also a day where the entire nation (and to Americans, that means the whole world, *snort*) takes a moment to say “Thanks”. Now, some people take that a little more seriously than others, but generally, the intention is to have a warm family meal where everyone sits around, lovingly holds hands and states something that they’re thankful for. Then, everyone hugs and somewhere a puppy gets his wings.
Yeah… that’s the plan. The truth is that reality often looks quite different. Your family, who hasn’t gotten along in years, doesn’t change just because you’ve decided to have a nice day together. In fact, close proximity to each other tends to bring tensions out more than ever. Tempers flare, pumpkin pie gets thrown, someone inevitably dramatically stomps out of the room, hissy fits abound, and everyone wonders why the hell they put themselves through this every year. Because it’s tradition. Duh.
Well, I’m not going to tell you that you should skip Thanksgiving this year. Your mother would never forgive you. And besides, you really, REALLY like stuffing and you don’t care if you have to pay for this once a year treat with a pound of flesh, it’s freaking worth it. But I can give you some guerilla survival tactics based on the Law of Attraction that may well help you save your sanity and may actually help you to not only survive, but use this powder keg of an occasion to do some healing.
Before dinner – Preparing for battle:
You cannot go into a situation this volatile unprepared, unless you want to experience the same thing as last year and every year before that. Now, of course, it’s possible that you’re part of one of those rare families where there are no tensions and Thanksgiving is just another occasion for a wonderful family meal. If you are, let me just warn you: Everyone else wants to smack you right now. In the back of the head. With a 20 lb. turkey. In a frying pan. For the rest of you, here’s your game plan before you face your family:
- Put down the frying pan. The only reason that guy’s family isn’t fighting on Thanksgiving is because they’re all on really good drugs. Probably.
- Make sure you have some time alone, where you hopefully won’t be disturbed. Don’t lock yourself in the bathroom, people will bang on the door if you’re in there too long. And if you’re a male, you’ll spend the rest of the day listening to masturbation jokes. It’s your call.
- If you have time, start off with a little meditation. 10-15 minutes will set you up nicely for the rest of the day and will make the next steps much easier. If you don’t have time, just spend a couple of minutes breathing deeply and thinking of something that makes you happy, like butterflies, puppies, chocolate, your favorite sports team crushing their opponents, whatever.
- Spend a few minutes focusing on each family member and their best qualities. Yes, I’m serious. Start with the person who’s easiest to adore and work your way up to the more difficult cases. As you get into the vibration of appreciation, it’ll get easier for you to find positive qualities for even your most annoying relatives. These can be little things. Remember, this is much more about YOU changing YOUR vibration then you trying to change them. So, work your way into a space where you can actually appreciate something about each of your family members.
- Take the next few minutes and appreciate yourself. What do you like most about yourself? What do other people tend to like most about you? Family gatherings tend to hit us hard in the self-esteem department and spending a few minutes feeling strong and capable can do wonders for our ability to withstand backhanded compliments later in the day.
- Imagine yourself with your family. You’re all laughing and having a good time. If someone says something confrontational, everyone sees it as a joke (or, alternatively, at least you see it as a joke.) You don’t take anything they say personally and you have a fantastic time.
- Last, but not least, imagine yourself surrounded by a bubble. You’re safe in that bubble and no one can hurt you. It’s filled with a bright, white light. Now, expand that bubble to include the entire room you’re in. The whole space is now filled with this white light. Next, expand the bubble some more to include the entire house or apartment. Everyone that’s inside the bubble is protected and safe. Everyone is affected by this amazing love. Fill the entire house with this feeling of appreciation, adoration and love and stay in that space as long as you can.
During dinner – staying alive
Ok. It’s time to face your family. If you took the time to do the preparatory work, it’s going to be a much smoother ride than history would have you believe. Try to stay in a place of appreciation. Focus on each family member’s positive traits, and don’t allow yourself to start bitching about them, even in your head.
Here’s your game plan:
- Be an observer. Don’t just react to whatever happens or gets said. Observe. Try to figure out why your Uncle Bill always complains about politics (he’s not happy, he thinks he’s powerless to do anything about it, and it’s easier to blame the politicians than take responsibility for his own feelings) or why your Aunt Mimi always subtly but nastily criticizes your mother’s cooking (she’s always felt inferior to your mother.) Try not to judge what you see, just observe. By doing this, you’ll never take anything they say personally, but instead, you’ll understand that they are all just doing the best they can with their own personal crap (we all have crap).
- DON’T POKE THE BEAR. You’re not there to solve anyone’s problems. If you were, it wouldn’t happen during a family gathering. So don’t become the sanctimonious bastard who tells Uncle Bill that his hate of politicians is only a reflection of his feelings of weakness, unless you’re looking to get punched in the face, which will almost certainly mess up your own vibration.
- Stay positive. If everyone starts complaining about something, don’t chime in. You can even try to steer the conversation to a more positive place, but don’t try to make too big a leap. Also, sarcasm doesn’t work here. If your father is bitching about his horrible job, idiot boss and lazy coworkers, it may not be the best idea to brightly declare “at least you have a job, daddy!” or snidely mutter “gee Dad, aren’t you supposed to be thankful on THANKSgiving?” But if you keep it real, and compassionately say “Wow Dad. That sounds pretty rough. Is there anything at all that you like about your job? There must be something…” you may be surprised at how he’ll let you lead him to a more positive place. I do this all the time. A lot of people seem really negative, but they’re not actually all that stable in their funky vibration. They’ll easily come to the lighter side (incrementally) if you light the way. Even if you can’t influence anyone, don’t allow them to influence you. Don’t add fuel to the fire by joining the pity party or complain-athon. Just stay in your happy place.
- If you find yourself getting pulled into your family’s emotional sewage pit, excuse yourself and walk away. The most important thing is that you keep you vibration up, that you feel good. Being right, getting someone back, defending yourself, getting your digs in – none of those things will actually make you feel truly better in the long run. Walk away and hit the reset button.
- If all else fails and you do find yourself getting sucked into the crazy, just ride it out. It’s one day. Don’t beat up on yourself for not staying all Zen. You’re facing one of life’s most difficult and volatile situations. You get points just for trying.
The Aftermath – review and evaluate
I know Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving, for the non-Americans amongst you) is traditionally reserved for shopping and leftovers. But no matter what happened the day before, take a few minutes to evaluate what happened. How did you react? Did you get upset at any time? Did you react in a way that you’re not too proud of? When we get around our families, we tend to turn back into children, so some of our reactions are less than mature. Did you find yourself getting angry? What were the triggers?
Our families are our most valuable mirrors – they will show us things about ourselves that no one else will. You can hate them for it or you can use this information to dig up some beliefs and fears that aren’t serving you. If you blew up like a volcano when your dad made a crack about your wardrobe, that’s a clue. Maybe you’ve never felt that he approved of you, period. Does he trigger a low self-esteem issue? Does he bring out this side of you often? Take a bit of time to dig around in your own psyche and evaluate why you reacted the way you did in any given situation. This doesn’t just have to be restricted to violent outbursts, either. If you felt some tension when someone said something, or wanted to defend yourself, those are clues too, even if you never said a word. Any negative emotion you experienced is your indication that something’s off.
Ok, so I could’ve done a piece about how we’re all supposed to give thanks all the time and not just on Thanksgiving. But there are already a million of those kinds of blog posts out there and I figured you may be better served with a survival guide. Was I right? Let me know in the comments! And yes, you can also let me know what you’re grateful for.
Last but not least: Happy Turkey Day! And if you’re not in the US – Happy Thursday! I’m super grateful that all of you have found me. Happy Shiny Puppy Hugs to all of you!!