A popular Christmas song tells us that there’s no place like home for the holidays. But sometimes gathering so close to family can feel more like a scene out of Huis Clos, where we’re chanting Satre’s line: “Hell is other people.”
If you’re in the Satre camp, with Aunt Suzy commenting on your lack of children, your siblings bragging about their careers, or your father insisting on bringing up politics, you’re going to need some help in a couple weeks. We’ve put together a guide to help you through the most (wonderful?) time of the year.
Make Plans With Friends
If you’re going home anyways, call up some old friends. Getting together for brunch or a drink can be a legitimate excuse to get you out of the house and away from the craziness for a couple of hours. If you don’t know who’s going to be in town, or lack cell phone numbers, be grateful for the networking device that is Facebook. Look people up, connect after umpteen years, and get some of your sanity back.
Play With the Kids
You know who doesn’t comment on the president’s latest decision? Children. They also don’t care how much money you make, or hold a grudge against you for something you did ten years ago. (Mostly because they didn’t exist yet.) Kids do cool things like play flashlight tag, or pretend to be princesses. Join them. Reverting back to your childhood days will give you an excuse to get away from the adults, and bond with your nieces and nephews.
Offer to Help
It sounds counterintuitive, as helping sometimes requires being in the same room, but offering to lend a hand can go a long way to ebbing tensions. You can either throw yourself into your work, minimizing the conversation, or accept the opportunity to work together as a team as you try your best to have a healthy conversation.
Be Genuinely Interested
Don’t know what to talk about? Try listening. Ask family members about what’s been going on in their lives, or ask older family members about what the holidays looked when they were growing up. People love talking about themselves, and too few people have appreciative listeners. Besides, while they’re talking about themselves, they’re far less likely to be talking about you.
Get a Hotel
As you’ve gotten older, your family has likely grown. With too many people and not enough beds, you have the perfect excuse to stay off-campus at the closest Hyatt. It’s amazing how much you can put up with during the day when you know you’ll be leaving at the end of the night. Plus, you can book a place with a fitness room to help you burn off some of those extra holiday calories (and the frustration.)
All jokes aside, the holidays are about love. If you’ve got a family to go home to, and you’re able to make the journey, you’re among the lucky. When these gatherings start to feel like eternity, remember that there’s a finite number of them left. Focus on the parts you do enjoy, and savor them.