DEAR HARRIETTE: The holidays are coming, and I am worried about how the conversations will go. We will be traveling down South to visit family, and in our relatively small family, we do not share similar political views. Given how divided Americans are in general, I am concerned about how our dinner-table conversations will go. In previous years, some of my cousins got into serious arguments with other family members because they did not agree on basic principles -- and this was before today’s name-calling and nasty commentary.
How can I manage our time together so that the friction is limited? I want to enjoy some peaceful meals and conversations together, but I’m afraid that we will mostly be arguing. -- Holidays and Politics
DEAR HOLIDAYS AND POLITICS: There are a couple of ways to approach your dilemma, which, by the way, is far more common than you might imagine. You can let your family know upfront that in the spirit of the holidays, they must leave all political discussions at the door. Ask for everyone’s agreement that nobody will talk about their candidates of choice or the hot political issues that have a chokehold on the national conversation these days. Know, however, that this is a lot to ask.
Shy of that extreme position, you might also suggest that there should be times when politics are considered taboo. For example, you could request no political discussions during meals. Ask the family to honor that rule.
You can agree to debate ideas without maligning each other’s names or their candidate of choice. In other words, ask your family members to be civil and respectful, especially when they disagree. In America, we are supposed to have the freedom to express our political views without fear of persecution. This should include the same freedom in the safety of your home.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I used to be the member of my family who seemed to have it all together. I have never had a lot of money, but I used to do much better than I am doing now. Recently, my finances became a source of ridicule and judgment when I was unable to participate in a special group activity. I am so embarrassed that I don’t have my money right. Sometimes I feel like my family would be better off if I just disappeared. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone. I also don’t want to be the one who can’t pitch in. I do have a healthy life insurance policy. If I die, they would all have money. I wonder if they would be happier then? -- Feeling Deflated
DEAR FEELING DEFLATED: Being embarrassed about financial challenges is real, and many people experience this feeling when others discover their financial status. I am sorry that your life has not unfolded in the way that you envisioned. The fact is, though, that you have to deal with what you are facing. You must remain honest with yourself and your family members in order to create any sort of peace in your life.
As it relates to your insurance, please do not think that your family’s struggles will end if you die. They will miss you and mourn for you. Stop imagining the what-ifs of your demise. If you need help to get past that, get a therapist or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)