How to survive Thanksgiving with family who voted the ‘other way’ this election season

Image: Alisa Anton

If you’re like my wife and I, you’re about to sit down at a Thanksgiving dinner table with people you love dearly, but who voted the ‘other way’ this election. You’re being corralled into this awkward situation where you either have to play nice amidst the passive-aggressive comments and asides or risk damaging relationships with those you love.

I never try to hide myself on this blog. My readers are adults who, I hope, can take a difference in opinion every now and then.

I voted for her (not Jill Stein, the other ‘her’). My in-laws voted for him (yes, ‘him’). Right now, they’re gloating pretty hard. They did it. Their guy won. It’s a big celebration. Woo hoo.

Their smirks are so hard to look at. (You might know what I’m talking about.)

I love these people (yes, my in-laws and I get along swimmingly). Since both my parents have passed, they’ve stepped into the familial role quite nicely.

It’s difficult. Really is. How can these people I treasure so much vote for a man so deplorable and vile? How could these traditional conservatives with family values and strong moral compasses have voted for someone as diametrically opposed to those things they claim to hold so dear?

The jury’s out on these questions, friends. I have no idea what happened a few weeks ago, and I don’t want to turn this little note into a huge political rant. I wasn’t a huge fan of either candidate, so I guess that allows me to be a little more detached than some. But nevertheless, tomorrow is an interesting day, to say the least, for many of us Americans.

This little preachment is for people on both sides of the aisle. Whether you voted red, blue, or green this year, I hope you take these words to heart as you sit down to break bread together with your loved ones.

1. You’re not going to convert anyone this Thanksgiving.

This is the big one. We all think that if we state that one fact or corner them on that one thing, they’ll have to submit and totally see things our way.

But let me ask you… When has this EVER happened? Right… Live and learn.

It’s hard to change people. Damn near impossible. What we CAN exercise this year is empathy. No, this isn’t the same thing as sympathy or passiveness. It’s having the emotional intelligence to be able to sit in disagreement with someone with an open heart. A weird dance for the ego to two-step in, for sure (but I know you can do it).

2. We need to keep something in perspective: There’s a ton to be thankful for.

We’re healthy enough to be able to peacefully gather in the same room (and we have great things like indoor plumbing, electricity, and waaaay too much food). As messed up as our system is, somehow, we have relatively easy access to these things and we’re healthy enough to enjoy them together. This stuff isn’t guaranteed in life, but we’re blessed to be able to enjoy them.

As far as the election goes, as, erm, interesting as it was, at least we can have a relatively peaceful transition of governance in this country. Yes, violence follows any election in small parts of the populace, but we keep the bloodshed down pretty good here.

3. Please know that neither candidate can give us the thing that truly matters this Thanksgiving: Each other.

I know, it sounds cliche’. And it is. But really, the thing that matters most in life is our relationships. I haven’t always believed this, but I’ve grown to see this as true. I now see this as THE most sacred thing in life.

Both candidates worked really hard to divide everyone for their benefit and they did a really good job.

But in your day-to-day, not many things are as valuable as having healthy relationships with your loved ones. Most of us don’t realize this until someone is unexpectedly on their death bed (or worse), but take the opportunity to not have to wait for something that drastic to happen in order to see it for what it is.

These people you’ll be sitting with tomorrow are your tribe. You guys are the ones who’ll call each other when the water heater breaks. They’re the ones who will be there when things in your life go sour. And they’re the ones you’ll want to call when you’re winning. This is valuable. Extremely invaluable.

4. Finally, know you don’t have to go.

Seriously. In my situation, we’re pretty civil. Although my in-laws went the other way, we can still sit in a room without too many bombs being thrown.

For you, it might be different. Your tribe may be taking this thing to unhealthy levels. If this is the case, and your family is being pigs about it (yes, both winners and losers can be pigs), know that you have absolutely zero obligation to get in the mud with them. After all, getting in the mud with pigs only make the pigs happy. The rest of us don’t enjoy it very much.

If they act offended or put-off, please don’t buy into the guilt. You’re an adult. You have your own life and wellbeing to look out for. Peacefully bowing out of any bullshit ballyhoo is your God-given right and you should feel confident in graceful non-participation.

That said, friends, I wish you the best this Thanksgiving. May this be a spiritual exercise in healing any relationships that may have been severed from this insane cultural media shitstorm we just went through.

I, for one, will be in my most favorite place. Yes, all year I look forward to this moment: sitting on my couch in my PJ’s, coffee in-hand, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with nothing on my mind but whether or not I need to throw another log on the fire or not (I can do without the football just fine).

I hope your Thanksgiving finds you somewhere in the same place. May you keep your center and stay grounded in Spirit this fine Thanksgiving day. May your heart feel the love that is available to us all at any moment we choose. And may that love radiate throughout your home and warm all others in your presence.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Jonas writes short stories and preachments about spiritual, whimsical, creative matters on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing here.