That Family Time of the Year

With the holiday season upon us I thought I would focus on family for my December blog. Navigating the politics, and emotions, of family connections can be challenging at this time of year. With good cheer flowing things can get quickly out of hand.

Whatever issues you may have are going to feel more intense, perhaps painfully so, as your family gathers. Even for people who have been out for a long time there can be uncomfortable moments when we can’t be totally ourselves. A random relative might make a rude remark. Someone doesn’t know how to refer to your significant other. New people who are uncomfortable around you.

Even if a recent shift wasn’t about your sexuality you still have to deal with it. I remember the first holiday season after I left my corporate job. I was still struggling with my identity. I had to explain to my family, and Jack’s, that I had decided to leave a very successful, lucrative, career when I still had no idea what my next step would be. A lot of them thought I was nuts. My crisis got even more difficult.

Here’s what I suggest to help get you through. First, be very realistic about your schedule. Don’t book so much that there is no recovery time. As you get more worn out from all the parties, you get more emotionally vulnerable. Do what you can handle and say no to the rest. Accept the invitations that are important, and valuable, to you.

Second, if you know you are walking into a challenging situation try to handle it completely sober. At the very least go easy. While taking the edge off might seem like a good thing, even a little too much can make things way more uncomfortable for you.

Third, go prepared. Have an elevator speech ready to handle the people you don’t need to share details with. Hopefully you can shut down some of the noise.

Fourth, be ready to bail on conversations. If people are out of line, or negative, tell them so then end it. Do it politely but don’t waste your breath defending yourself. There really is no point.

If you’re just at the beginning of a huge shift, whether that’s coming out, or something else, keep quiet. You’re probably bursting at the seams. The temptation to blurt it all out can be almost irresistible. The holidays are not the best  time to make a bold announcement. It isn’t even a great time  to approach  your potential ally. Everyone is stressed. Make your move once the dust settles, and calmer minds prevail.

Most of all keep it chill. If you need to take a few minutes in the washroom to settle down, that’s fine. Breathe deep and stay aware of your body. Allow your emotions to be there. Keep at it until you feel centred. Then you’ll be able to handle another round. If it’s really the best thing for you, leave.

If you start the season prepared, and keep yourself on track, you can enjoy time with friends and family even when your life feels a bit off kilter.