[Editor's Note: Mark is taking some much needed time off, so this month’s newsletter features guest writer, Mary Faulkner.]
Ah, Thanksgiving in America, where we gather together to eat too much food, watch too much football, and remember why we try to avoid talking to most of these people for the rest of the year.
All right, maybe I’m exaggerating, but the reality is that several people actively dread this time of year. Too much drama, too much family, too much…everything. There’s just something about traveling to someone’s house and eating a lot of turkey and gravy that seems to encourage guests to share their opinions. Loudly. With minimal filtering. And total disregard for anyone that said opinion might offend or harm.
It’s like Twitter, but with stuffing.
And yet, we still invite our families and friends to our homes to celebrate Thanksgiving, despite the fact they drive us crazy sometimes. There’s a delicate balance between tradition, obligation, familial love, and self care. Navigating these interactions requires tact, patience, love, and toughness. It means managing a lot of different opinions, backgrounds, world views, and relationships and that’s often harder than ensuring the turkey is done on time.
A confession: it was at this point that I was going to try and pivot this topic into similarities with the business world and the difficulties of navigating difficult conversations in the workplace. I was going to talk about setting ground rules and treating others with respect. But as I was writing, I realized it didn’t matter. Because sometimes it’s more important to focus on the personal than on the professional.
Like many of you, my family can be a hot mess. These people have been through a lot - not just this year, but over generations. Opinions differ wildly, to the point where I’ve thought, “Did this person actually raise me?!” We’re bringing more than a side dish to this dinner; we’re bringing our pasts as well - the real and imagined wrongs we’ve suffered, the decades-old grudges we’ve harbored, all the memories and all the regrets. This has resulted in shouting matches, in passive aggressive comments, and in uncomfortable silences.
And yet, through it all, we’ve managed to remember why we still get together. We laugh about the past. We tease each other about the present. We cautiously talk about what the future might look like. We push back. We argue. We reminisce. We tell jokes. We limit (or remove) exposure to those who truly harm us - and please believe that it is 100% okay to do this, no matter what your mother/father/grandparent/uncle says - and embrace those who, despite all our differences, continue to have our back no matter what.
So as we head into this holiday season, one filled with more get-togethers than we may really want, let’s focus on the why. Is it merely a sense of obligation? Or is it because, despite it all, we love these goofballs and want to hear them tell that story about how they didn’t realize their best friend’s uncle was in the Mafia again*?
We only have so many Thanksgivings. Spend it with the people you love and tolerate, not the people you just tolerate. Be grateful for this time together. Be grateful that you can argue and then laugh about all of it later. Surround yourself with the family you choose - whether they’re related by blood or not. Be grateful that you have chosen to spend time with specifically these people and make the most of it.
With warm regards,
Principal/Thanksgiving host/Lover of stuffing, IA
*This is 100% a true story, and it’s a good one.