As we approach the Holiday Season and its usual long gauntlet of gatherings with family, friends, colleagues and complete strangers, it occurs to me that Halloween may actually be the last time this year year that we indulged in chocolate, pumpkin and getting dressed up without the added drama of relationship dynamics.
To top it off, this year's election has become the trifecta of all three socially taboo subjects - politics, religion and money, making it even more likely for things to go very wrong at a work function or family gathering. We can probably all use a few ideas for getting through the Holidays with all of our relationships still intact.
Here are three rules to live by this holiday season that will help us all enjoy our time with others without feeling like we might need some major therapy (or community service depending on how much things get out of hand) come January.
1. Compliments Are Always Welcome
Honesty is never, ever the best policy when someone asks you whether their holiday attire is attractive, whether you enjoyed yourself at their company party or whether they will like your friends at your upcoming corporate dinner. It is also never the best policy when it comes to holiday food gifts. Well, unless it actually tastes good. Then definitely praise away. If your better half is sitting next to you and the dish you're praising isn't theirs, then all bets are off. At that point, your best option is likely to succumb to a terrible coughing fit and head outside for some cool air. With any luck, when you return, the conversation will have moved on to something less dangerous - like who should have won this election.
2. Some Things Really Are Better Left Unsaid
This year, we should make it our goal to take more presents and less emotional baggage to our holiday gatherings. It's easy to assume we're the only one feeling awkward when we arrive at a big gathering, even when it's people we've worked with for years or those who grew up with us. When we find our patience wearing thin with one of our fellow guests, it might help to keep in mind that they may barely be keeping it together. When our nerves start to fray, tell yourself that it's just one day, one meal, one afternoon, one visit. We can take a breath, be kind, and get through it. It's easier to go home annoyed than with most of the guests angry that we didn't keep the peace.
3. Embrace the Unexpected
Holidays are often filled with traditions that remind us of the continuity of our lives and conjur memories of similar moments in years' past. But when we spend part of our holidays with others, it can get pretty tense when our traditions are in direct conflict with someone else's. What we may consider a whimsical and magical experience may be a miserable exercise in commercialism to someone else.
If we prioritize our fellowship together instead of spending our time and efforts campaigning for our desires to overrule theirs, we can enjoy the time spent together despite our differences - and we might discover something new we can enjoy for years to come.
This has been a hard year for most of us. We lost some cultural icons in 2016 - including Gwen Ifil, Harper Lee, Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince, and Gene Wilder. We saw far too many scenes of rioting and violence in far too many parts of the country, not to mention man-made and natural disasters.
While it certainly hasn't been all bad, we will enjoy the next few weeks far more if we make it our priority to take it easy on each other. Find something to praise. Express gratitude. Embrace the unexpected. Most importantly, please, let's everyone wear our very best filters when we're in public - both so we aren't offended by every disagreeable comment and so we aren't the offenders with what we've decided is an appropriate topic for discussion. Some things don't need pointed out, some arguments don't have winners, and some comments aren't worth the problems that follow.
This holiday season, enjoy those around you; we will all have plenty of time and opportunity to continue our heated debates and arguments when this year's holiday season is a distant memory.