Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Surviving family over the Holidays

For many Pagans, this holiday season is a source of tension with your extended family.  If you aren't out yet about your beliefs, this can be a time of having to hide the things you do and believe.  If you are out, your family may not be completely accepting and you may have to deal with unwanted preaching.  Even if your family is not opposed to your religious views, spending time with your family can feel draining, especially if you don't get along with everyone.

But there are a lot of ways to help make family events more tolerable!  I often consider myself lucky, that I get along pretty well with my family and my in-laws, but we aren't the same type of people, which means I often edit out a lot of my daily life when talking with them.  This can feel very frustrating, as some of the things that I am quite passionate about and spend a lot of time on, like my blog and now my Patreon, are things that I don't talk with my family about.

I am am only partially out with my family.  I had the talk about my beliefs with my parents back in college, but we don't really talk about it now.  I don't consider it anyone else's business, so I tend to just not bring it up at family things.  I will talk about spiritual things, though most of the time those don't come up in conversation at family gatherings.

I also try not to talk too much about the computer games I play.  My side of the family definitely think that many of the games I play aren't something people should spend a lot of time on.  My in-laws just don't get into that kind of thing, so it's not something we talk about either.

Which leaves me in a very strange place, conversationally.  If you take out my spirituality and my gaming hobbies, I'm left with no good answers for the inevitable "What have you been doing?" question.  So I always try to plan ahead, to have some decent answers that I can talk with people about, that won't lead to lectures.  Most of the time this means talking about books I am reading, or fiction that I am writing.

One thing I also find that works very well for me is to frame my activities in language that my family can understand.  So I may tell them about the art I have been working on, and not mention that it was part of a guided meditation.  If I am reading about Norse deities, I can tell them about the mythology book I am reading.  This allows me to not only talk about the things that I am doing and am passionate about, but it gives them a way to join into the discussion without feeling  like they are talking about something they don't approve of.

Its a fine line.  I know that some people feel this is being dishonest to myself.  But I don't think that it is.  I don't want my family to feel uncomfortable.  If I tell them I did a spell for healing, that would not be something they understand, but if I say I prayed for them, that is relateable.  It's all about finding the common ground and being able to talk about things in a way that doesn't trigger any assumptions or misconceptions people may have (about witchcraft or the like).

I also find that it helps me a lot to let myself drop into 'family mode'.  From the outside, it may look like I am a vastly different person.  Not only might I not talk about certain things, but I also often dress differently and use different language (excluding vulgar language and slang) around family.  It's how I was raised, and even though I don't find these things to be a problem in my personal life, I know my family doesn't approve, and so I drop them when I am with family.

In some ways it takes me back to a younger time in my life.  It does tap into the person I was when I lived at home.  But it is a piece of me, just a piece that isn't normally dominant.  When I am around my family, I let that part of me come to the front.  It makes everything more enjoyable.

For short periods, I can step into this part of me with no problem, but if I am going to be around family for long periods, like over the holidays or summer vacation, then I often do need to have little things to help me not feel like I am loosing the other parts of myself.  In many ways, my family is mild and as I like to say G-rated (while my regular life is definitely at least an R-rating!)

One way I often express myself is through the clothes I wear.  I like to dress in ways that make me feel powerful, and for me this often manifests as a bit edgy or sexy.  However, many of the items I really like aren't things that my family deems proper.  My mother especially has a lot of rules about what appropriate clothing is. On the other side of the family, my in-laws have large boisterous dogs, so I don't like wearing anything too delicate or that I would be devastated if it were damaged.

My favorite way to dress when around family is to wear things they have gifted me.  There are some things that I have gotten that I think are nice, even if they aren't my personal style.  But they make great clothes to wear when with family, because not only does it let them know I appreciated their gift, but it also means I can avoid any judgement about what I am wearing.

Jewelry is another thing I love to wear to express my spirituality.  The majority of my jewelry represents some aspect of my faith.  Some are pretty standard and obvious.  I have several pentacles in different forms, and one necklace that I adore that has not only a pentacle, but also a tiny dagger, chalice and broom. 

When I am picking what to wear around family, I think not only about what qualities I might need to call upon, but also what the jewelry might be perceived as.  I have a necklace with a smoky quartz and peace symbol that I often wear around family, so that I can embrace that peaceful place inside me.  I also favor my yin-yang, for balance.  I do have a pentacle ring I have worn every day for years now.  While it is obviously a pentacle, it is also just a star...and that is what I've said before when someone commented about it, "I like stars."  Sometimes just having a response ready so you aren't caught off guard helps you to not only feel more comfortable but also handle any questions with ease.

If I am going to be spending a long time with family, I make sure I have something to do.  For me, this typically means bringing a book or my tablet (with books on it!), because reading is a very acceptable thing with my family.  This is mainly for when I will be spending several days visiting, as I try not to read or be using my tablet when I'm socializing, but if I am going to be spending more than a few hours with family, I know I'll need an escape at some point. 

The final thing I often do too, is make a deal with myself, that after it is all over, I'll take some time, just for me, to do something special and help myself re-balance.  Even when everything goes well, family time can be draining.  Holidays add even more stress, so it feels like there is always so much going on.  And then all I want to do is curl up and read or play a game or take a I do!  I know that it takes a lot out of me, and so I plan on filling myself back up so I'm not just cranky afterwards.

Family is great, and I do love spending time with them.  But I do it in a way that works for me, that encourages things to go smoothly.  For me, I have a better time when I can avoid confrontation, and just share things with my family that we all enjoy.  The more I can slip into that mindset, the better a time I will have, and the less stress I will feel when it is all over.

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