Christmastime for the Self by John Erickson


We’ve all been there.
Sitting around the tree watching the kids open presents.  Attempting to enjoy a holiday meal with extended and immediate family that you may or may not have traveled thousands of miles to see.  Trying with every fiber of your being to not talk about the elephant, or red hat, in the room.

Alyssa Edwards

I get it.  It is hard to not go home for the holidays. It’s also hard to sit at home and watch every one of your friends post online about their dinners, get-togethers, and other joyous events while you sit at home.  I also understand that many of us, as a result of our sexual and/or gender identity, or maybe our political preference, don’t feel comfortable going home or, can’t go home.  This is not ok and that is why it is so important that we all have our chosen families to be with during these times of communal gathering or more importantly, ways to cope while we are at home in these uncomfortable situations to make sure we take care of ourselves and make it out the other end.
Because this blog comes out on Christmas Day, I wanted to give you a few tips that I do to self-care in these situations.  Remember, there is no right or wrong thing to do.  I encourage you all to make your own list.  The only thing that matters is you take care of yourself!
John’s Top 5 Tips for Dealing with “Those” People
  1. Your car is your friend – Seriously, I cannot count the # of times that I have found myself driving around for that extra 5 minutes to just collect my thoughts or calm myself down.  If you need to, jump out to your car and sit back and relax for a second or drive to a gas station (Kwik Trip in Wisconsin is my go-to) and pick up a soda to drink.
  2. Drink (if you can)  – look, I know not everyone drinks (or is from Wisconsin) but sometimes you just need to make yourself a cocktail (responsibly).  However, if you are going to drink, remember that old adage: loose lips sink ships.  If you get too loose, you may say something you regret (or didn’t plan on saying; I’ve been there).
  3. Bathroom Sanctuary – Sometimes you may not need to use the restroom but you need a place to go and just lock the door, check Facebook, call a friend, or simply breath.  The bathroom is the perfect place to do that.  Find it.  Use it (even if you don’t have to).
  4. Dinner Conversation – Before I go anywhere, I always brush up on a few facts.  How are the Packers doing? How about the Milwaukee Bucks?  Can you believe they STILL haven’t finished that construction?  No matter if you’re traveling somewhere near or far, if you think you need to make sure you can participate in dinner conversation without bringing up the two forbidden topics (Politics and Religion), then do so!
  5. Push Back – Ok, sometimes it is ok to engage.  I mean, how are we ever going to get out of this great divide if we don’t talk to each other.  Now, that doesn’t mean it will go over or there will be some type of magical aha moment but it is ok to say something, especially when your crazy Aunt/Uncle/Cousin/Second Cousin/Random Friend of Cousin who no one invited starts spouting off some nonsense (like Mexico 1nlYpaying for Trump’s wall because that just isn’t going to happen).  If you feel safe enough to push back and say something, especially when someone if being completely and totally rude and inappropriate, always make sure you have an exit strategy. That is either a friend you can call, a room you can go to, or a nap you suddenly want to take.  No matter what, if you do choose to engage always remember to a.) Speak calmly and slowly at all times (Republicans are triggered when you yell and provide them with too many facts too fast); b.)  Make direct eye contact; c.) Make sure you always have something to take a long sip from afterward to prove you made your point.
I have to admit, I am quite lucky.  I know I have written a lot on this site about what has happened to my family since the election of the Fascist-in-Chief.  Luckily for me, I surround myself during these times with people who openly love me, my views (for the most part), and allow me to be myself, or simply, we just don’t talk about “it” because they clearly know now that we were right about Trump and his cronies. I don’t have to use these tips because the people they apply to, don’t really come around our holiday gatherings.
However, if there is one thing that I learned, it is that this election has cost us each something.  Whether that was a friend, family member, or a part of yourself that you never think you’ll be able to get back, we need to respect these losses and the pain that comes with them.  I promise you that it will get better (heck, better starts on January 3, 2019).  We have a long way to go until 2020 (I mean, a LONG way to go) but I know we will all get there together, one way or another because there are better Christmas and holidays to come where we won’t have to use these tips and tricks to survive anymore.
So, from my family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  I’m thankful for each and every one of you this holiday season (unless you voted for Trump).
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John Erickson is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History and holds two MA’s from Claremont Graduate University. John serves as a commissioner on the California Commission on the Status of Women. He is President of the Hollywood Chapter for the National Organization for Women, a boardmember for the City of West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, a board member for the ACLU of Southern California, the Legislative Action Chair for Stonewall Democratic Club, and a board member for the National Organization for Women.

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Categories: Activism, anxiety, Christmas, civil rights, Community, Education, Family, Friendship, General, Healing, Humor, Politics, Relationships, Resistance, survival, trauma, travel

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17 replies

  1. Oh the lucky ones whose families are more of a piece. I did not go home for the last 13 years of my father’s life and I doubt I will ever see my brothers again. In my family even if I never said a word my mere presence was provocative them. I did not come with a husband. I had a career (even if I didn’t speak of it, they knew). I was not a good little wifey. They said provocative things and picked fights with me. Ah well, I was with friends last night and will be again today, and I have friends waiting for me in Crete. You can’t always get what you want … but you just might get what you need.

    Thanks for this John. And happy holidays to all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Happy Holidays to you too! I loved your previous post this week. I’m sending you lots of love and I cannot wait to see what your next adventure is. Maybe it will take you to West Hollywood, CA and a cocktail with me! :)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. John, good to hear from you! It seems like it’s been a long time. I hope you’ve been doing Good Things.

    I’m lucky. I’m from St. Louis, but I live in Long Beach, CA. My relatives in St. Louis when I was a kid were no doubt people who would have voted for the Abuser-in-Chief. But they’re all dead now, so I don’t have to go “home” again. Last night, my son, daughter-in-law (another Witch), and her mother came here. We’re all liberal, so we don’t have any of Those Conversations and we didn’t have to avoid or retreat or hide or push back. Yes, I’m lucky. Even my cousin in Texas (!) is liberal.

    Happy Winter Holidays–all of them–to everyone. Ho ho ho. I’ll be watching my DVDs of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather and the old familiar Christmas Carol (starring George C. Scott) tonight. Good lessons in both movies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It has been a long time. I only write on the site (due to work and all my other insanity) quarterly so when I post, I try to make it count. I’m glad we have more liberals in Texas (we’ll need more of them there in the years to come).

      Also, A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite films. :)

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  3. Blessings of peace this Christmas morning, in small and large gatherings. May we always be in our own way, a bit of the light we celebrate at this time of year.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Agreed John.. this election has cost us more than we know Your words speak truth…”… if there is one thing that I learned, it is that this election has cost us each something. Whether that was a friend, family member, or a part of yourself that you never think you’ll be able to get back, we need to respect these losses and the pain that comes with them.”

    This last election, cost so many of us hope.

    Your excellent post is timely in every way – your tips for surviving the holidays are sane. I would personally include walking as a way to re -center. I used it often as a survival tool. This year I woke up and went out to feed the birds and the Raven quorked. It was impossible not to believe that he was wishing me good morning… Cranes flew by, and Coyotes howled in unison to the west…the sunrise faded into gray skies. I hugged my dogs and felt so grateful that I have no expectations around this day and family none of which I will see -or for that matter hear from…I will cook a good meal and share it…and think about how much
    I am grateful for. I suffered so much during christmas’s past that it is simply a relief to be in a warm house with animals I love.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, thank you, so much Sara! Yes, we all lost a lot and I know each of us could write at length about what those costs are. At the end of the day though, all we have is each other, and I am thankful to have each and every one of you! :)

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  5. Thanks John. I wonder how many people are not religious at all but in one way or another celebrate Xmas with joy, with the gifts and the stockings, the tree and Santa, and so forth.

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    • I am not religious at all but I do understand that Christmas, for whatever ritual you participate in, is about being with either yourself or with people you love. Religion is just community at the end of the day. :)

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  6. We have a list of safe topics: computers, pets, cars. that’s about it. I moved 2k miles and it was a good idea. I mean Waukesha? Really? It was easier when I smoked – I could go outside every 30 minutes. But fox on 5 sets? Oh no.
    Mostly, I want to include something to counter the loss which is to be ok with being alone. You get your own jokes and understand your own tears like no one else. Say thank you to the survivor in you. Save up some seriously fun things to do and celebrate how brave and rare you are. If you can, get some extraordinary food you would not have everyday. And last, be the giver with your family of choice. Call a senior and ask about their happiest Christmas. What was yours?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Who wants to live in Waukesha? ;) Luckily for me, we had Christmas movies and other stuff (sports) on the TVs so no Fox News! I always said, that best gift you can ever give yourself, is the gift of being ok with being alone. There is a solace in knowing it is just you and that you are safe in your own skin. My thing to do is to make sure I am nice to everyone around me, service workers and others, who have to work during the holidays (and who may not choose to because they need the $$$) so offering them up extra love, care, and kindness is always my favorite thing to do.

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  7. John it is good to hear from you. Thank you so much for your words of wisdom. I’m lucky that my Mom, who lives with me, is liberal. My conservative father lives 3,000 miles away and every time I’d go to his house when I lived in the area I’d find myself hiding out in the bathroom, so I can relate. Thanks also for the hilarious and honest cartoon!

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    • Luckily for me, most of my family voted for Hillary. Those that voted for Trump, like my father, are coming to realize that it really was a bad mistake. We’ll deal with that trauma later but luckily, the people I am around don’t mention it to me for two reasons: 1.) they don’t want to get into an argument with me because they know I’ll win and 2.) there are children around and we’ll most likely talk about issues they don’t want children overhearing.

      That is one of my favorite cartoons! I hope you use it when you need a good laugh!

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  8. And I’m thankful for YOU! This post reflects the experience of so many people I know and your advice is great because it is so understanding and so practical. I would add one more suggestion – when you get home, remember that there are families that you are born into and families you make – find ways to spend time with those who are your soul family, people who nourish your spirit and love you for exactly who you are. More and more people I know are remaking their holiday traditions to spend time with people they care about but who they may not be biologically related to and they find it to be really meaningful.

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    • Thank you, for your comment. So many wonderful people have reached out and said this exact thing and I truly know that we are not “alone” in this fight. I love your additional comment about chosen families as that is so important: we don’t always get to choose our families, but we do get to choose who we hang out with.

      <3

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  9. John, Thank you for your passion, your joie de vivre, when we all know how much this has hurt you, and hurt so many of us with aggressive families that shun instead of love…as they say, “a cushioned grape gives no wine” and the wine I read about on these pages always nourishes….happy new year everyone, especially those of us with beautiful, truly loving, chosen families who had the guts to stand up for ourselves and our personal values against mass attack by our biological kin…I will toast you all on the upcoming Eve!! Keep up the good work John and Grandmother Carol!!

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    • Thank you, so much, Stephanie, and I apologize for not responding sooner. I caught the flu this holiday season (nothing says cheer like a 102-degree fever). I really appreciate your feedback and your kind words. We must stand up for ourselves and even though it is difficult, that is why it is easier to forgive, we must never forget. To forget about what has happened since 2016 would mean that all the hurt and all the death that this man has caused would go away, and that is not something I plan to ever do.

      Like

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