If you're anything like me, you sort of brace yourself for this time of year.
You smile and wait with a little wince as the person poses "the question".
"So, how are you spending the holidays?"
"At a Friendsgiving--I'm an orphan of sorts."
I either get a blank stare or an understanding nod. I know I'm not alone in having a funky family situation.
It's true that funky family stuff comes into stark relief at this time of year. We spend most of the year doing our best to avoid the funky weirdness and then BOOM, it's right there in our faces. Divorces. Ailing parents. Quarreling in-laws. Recent deaths. Estrangement. Lack of feeling accepted based on our identities and/or those of our significant other. And other things.
That's why I am happy to be honest and open about my plans and experiences going into my 8th year of finding myself yet another host family for the holiday season. I've vlogged and blogged about this in different iterations every year.
I'm thrilled this year because I'm a solo gig after several years of enduring something that wasn't much better than my own funky family thing and I truly have never felt better in my life. I could honestly spend these major holidays alone and not feel any sort of lack or sadness, but I'm extremely lucky to have such an amazing circle of pals that I am never, ever alone. Never without an invitation to join someone somewhere in this country.
I have a family that's alive and well (I hope, at least) but, like many people, I don't celebrate with them. We were estranged before my transition, but it certainly didn't improve things. This is the experience of many LGBTQ folks because their families can't deal but, surprise! It's actually is the experience of many people of all identities for many reasons. And that can feel sort of funky, when so much commercialism makes this year ALL ABOUT sitting around a table like this famous Norman Rockwell painting.
Everyone has funky family stuff. And it's often amplified at the holidays.
That's why it feels great to be open and honest with folks about my funky family situation at the holidays. The more I do, the more they open up about their funky family situation, sharing a secret they were keeping about some funky family thing because it wasn't the typical scene that most people think everyone else has going on. There's a lot of shame around things not being perfect and harmonious, until people realize that's more normal than the idealized perception.
We all have families of imperfect people. So it's important to intentionally make decisions to find fun among the funk at the holidays.
Because my family situation is what it is, I've made the decision for the past 8 years to find families of intention, folks who are pumped to have me at the table. I choose to put myself in situations where I'll have fun---which is a lot more than many people can say at this time of year.
How many folks force their way through this dinner experience tomorrow for the sake of keeping the peace? Not rocking the boat? Making nice and going through the motions despite all this underlying funk?
It's not wrong or bad to do that. I don't mean to imply that. But I say, if it isn't fun, why do it? It takes courage to do something different and find the fun we all should be having at this time of year. And that might mean making tough choices that won't make everyone happy, including family.
Ultimately, we have one life to live. When it became clear my family wasn't greeting me with open arms for who I am, I stopped going there. I hold the space that it might be something I can do in the future, who knows.
When friends and/or former colleague invite me to celebrate, I show up with my heart full of gratitude.
Another way to find fun is to show up for family in ways that work for you AND do something else that makes YOU happy. Split your time. Draw boundaries. Say no. Love people for who they are and don't give into the family drama that unfolds each year. Go where you want or go where you're needed/expected and choose to be present for everyone and their imperfections--including YOUR OWN. Make the best of it by making inside jokes with yourself.
No matter what happens, what is said or done, remember that everyone has funky family stuff and find how to have fun, despite.
And silently promise to DO SOMETHING VERY DIFFERENT and much more FUN next year.