It's complicated. Love 'em, or not, family functions after 2 years of quarantine is difficult. Some of us come from unhealthy, dysfunctional or misunderstanding families. Add in the rise of Omicron and the thought of warm and cozy connection evaporates.
Just as I was cozying up to my lonely life in Los Angeles, the midwest calls. I am grateful and blessed that my family loves me enough to fly me home for the holidays... yay!!!(?)
To sacrifice the coziness of solitude and enter an environment that's been shaped and informed by so many different fountains of anxiety, trauma, and some fake news. It's a lot and for many of us, it's out of our control. However, after the incredible loss experienced the past few years, I gladly give up the security of living unbothered to embrace the presence of family; no matter how different we may all be——— or maybe it’s me, I’m the only different one.☺️
One thing many of us have learned over generations, on this (stolen) land of freedom and opportunity, is that we are multicultural beings. Yes, the United States has a dominant culture we all learn to accommodate; Yes, some of us also belong to the dominant cultures that our ancestors survived. And if we're lucky, we inherit rags of ancestral knowledge that have survived colonization and have a unique privilege of cloaking ourselves like royalty– knowing that every story preserved is a pen invaluable treasure. To be multicultural is to embrace all of the cultures that shape us instead of hiding parts of ourselves to please the dominant cultures around us. Our existence is not an accident but a culmination of the people, villages, and cultures before us and beyond us that continue to guide us On The Way Home.
#OTWayHome is an acknowledgement of home as a sacred space we cultivate within; sometimes with family or chosen family, and other times on our own but it comes with a great sense of being whole. Who or what is home 4 you?
Those who know how gushy I can be, know that I love love. Yet, I know as well as anyone how hard it can be to gather 'round in harmony when we don't always have the language to acknowledge what's really in the way of our communion.
SO, I wanted to offer some language/tools that have been helpful for me in the more tense moments of dialogue. Having phrases that can help everyone in the room nod their head in agreement is the best way to restore the conversation and transition away from ideological differences.
Not Us VS Them, it is Us VS The Problem
Think about a virus as the problem: we can get mad at our insensitive relatives who reject public health recommendations and ridicule them for expressing concern about government control or another irrational fear (which might feel very real to them). OR, we can bring folks together (on the same team) and identify simple actions and routines we can all implement to stop the spread of the real problem.
When a disagreement or misalignment of perspectives erupts it can feel like one is deadlocked in a confrontation where only you or your relative can come out alive. Congrats, you have identified the biggest lie of our present social media culture:: you are not your ideology; you are not your ideas, thoughts, or beliefs. You are you :) They are them, and I am. If I get upset with a Dehumanizing belief you shared, I can refrain from attacking you and specify that we have to do better to remove that language from our collective vocabulary.
Truth is, most of our media sources benefit from feeding (us) their audiences, fear-based oversimplifications of the world around them in the shape of "us vs them."
The best thing we can do is attempt to paraphrase the concern or anxiety that our relative is speaking to so that they can see us as part of their us. We can overcome any problem.
On The Way, In The Way, Out The Way
Us VS The Problem ✅ heres another way to think about it.
In agreeing that we are all on the same team, on the way to a better future for all the people we love, we must identify The Problem as it gets in the way of our collective flourishing. The problem as a virus that has taken host or infected one of our own (like when your uncle Frank be telling a racist joke without any clue of the dehumanization he is normalizing in between laughs), if we confuse our loved one for the problem, the two become one... and you are now accusing your ignorant but scared uncle of being racist. INSTEAD, you can find the words to let him know that what he said supports White Supremacy (therefore racist): putting others down for a laugh is in the way and it's time to get that language out the way so we can keep moving forward, OTWay.
According to Harvard Health, phobias are a persistent, excessive, unrealistic fear that develops as a type of anxiety disorder: unrealistic fears get in the way of us flowing on the way. Homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia are societally/culturally in the way of us coming together: be easy on your misinformed, ignorant, or naive family members, don't be easy on the bigotry (get that sh*t out of the way). On the way, everyone is capable of growth and change, so don't limit someone's potential for transformation by implying they're set in their ways (even if you and I both know they are, they might not be today… or tomorrow).
Some say we hold those we love accountable by calling them in, instead of calling them out.
I like to say:
"fI you're not on the way with everyone else,
you might be in the way. So, get out the way &
✨ join us when you're ready ✨
everyone is welcome #OTWay."
*This should go without saying but LISTEN*
If ya'll ask a question, you better control your worst ADHD impulses and give this complex bag of emotions you're talking with TIME to respond. They might need to say, "I don't know" three times before they allow themselves to listen to what they do know.
Yes, Let it Out! OR Should we make space for this later?
I recently heard an artist say define grief as unexpressed love; suddenly there's a new appreciation for this heavy feeling I'd been carrying over the past few years. Let it out!
When these big feelings come up, it can be really scary to open up and release them. Sometimes we cry out a big pain like a novice flutist trying to emote through a trumpet 😖. It ain't always pretty to sit through but with verbal and nonverbal cues (nodding, mhmmm, "that must have been hard") we can help relieve our loved ones of the isolating feeling of experiencing pain alone. Don't let anyone walk away without feeling heard, or they just vomited emotions all over the room and still feel like they're no one understands what they're going through.
If "how'd that make you feel?" is too on the nose for your emotionally-dense loved ones, look for other questions that might draw more out of them: "how long have you been carrying this?" "Why does this hurt/bug/affect you as much as it does?" "I've heard you bring this up before, this must really sting, huh? If you've heard this shpeel beore, consider that there might be a sentence or two at the end you've never heard, can you help them put their finger on what they really need to say?
If now ain't the time for THAT deep of a conversation, or it's been going on a little too long... you can say that! Your words, your questions, can offer you and others respect: when you draw boundaries you actively shape the bonds you have with the people around you. Everyone has a spiral 🌀inside they need to voice, some can say it in six words; some couldn't fit it on 6 pages if they tried. The point is to learn to see that 🌀 in everyone and respect that sometimes we need to put a pin on it. "Homie, I hear and I feel this truth you're speaking to but I don't think I can digest all this without eating more food first." (physically let them know you're present: look them in the eyes, hold hands, or set down whatever was in your hands) "Auntie, I see you and I'm here for your growth and healing. Period. But I'm also not in the headspace to really listen and hold space for this at the moment."
And in case YOU ever find yourself on a long-winded 🌀, remember to...
Breathe & Proceed
Finally, my personal favorite: a reminder for myself, and anyone like me who sometimes talks in circles. Sometimes you start talking towards a point you want to make and then anxiety sneaks into your thoughts mid-speech -—-you lose direction or control of your speech and minutes pass! You'd be lucky to have someone on the other who is still listening. Either way, take a deep breath. Smile. and proceed to wrap up your thought and redirect the conversation. Proceed? But where do I go next?
What do you want to make space for next? Your words have the power to carve that space: with a question, a phrase, or a bathroom break. Maybe you'd like to talk one-on-one with your favorite cousin, ask “can we make time to talk alone, when you’re free?” You need to get a fresh of breath air, “Imma step outside."
Make space for yourself always. Only then will you actually have meaningful space to offer others. Before, after, during. Take a moment to breathe, and ground: in gratitude, in the present moment, or through the emotions that flow through your body. The way I'm writing this love letter to prepare for my holidays, you can also take time to feel out what you need to release; then, pick out the most important highlights of your 🌀 and share it with someone who you want to return some love to.
Feel free to add your own spice and flavor to any of this, or share your own tools. I would love to hear your family success (or not) stories; if you have any to share this season, the comment section will be waiting for you.
But actually, though, I want to know what is H🌀ME for you this holiday season and how are you sharing it with those you love (Beyond the holidays?)
How am I sharing with those I love? Great question! Most importantly, presence; I plan when and how I can but once I'm with family presence is the greatest gift I can offer– I hope to still say that after I make my first million. Aside from being grounded in the familial web of life and death, I'm putting together a little gift from my heart and mind for the people I care about. The time has come to put fear and anxiety in its place and protect the time we bask in the presence of love. I'm excited to announce that the first Family Package offered on OTWay.Media is coming January 2022 🤍