Not home for the holidays

Missing family, challenging relatives, and 5 links to help you navigate tough conversations

My brother lives about 350 miles away from me. That’s the closest I’ve lived to anyone in my immediate family since I went away to college at eighteen (which was, let’s just say, a “few” years ago). My sister lives almost 1,000 miles away, and it’s a ten-hour drive to my parents’ house. 

We all have kids who, like kids do, get older and busier every year. It’s tough to get everyone together in the same place. We manage to do it once a year, between Christmas and New Year’s. 

Last week, our family agreed that it’s not safe for us to meet in person, so we cancelled the annual family gathering.

Feeling sorry for myself

If you think I’m about to give you some upbeat message about how it’s all going to be ok (I’m sure it will) and everyone realizes this is the best decision (we all do), think again.

2020 stinks. I was looking forward to being physically present with people who, throughout my life, have supported me during the toughest times. They can’t fix everything, but somehow it would seem less bad if I could hug my parents and make fun of my brother to his face. 

Many of you are going through the same thing, and some of you are going through much worse because you’ve lost loved ones this year. As I was feeling sorry for myself (and all of us), I read an op-ed from Richard Eldredge, a journalist living in Atlanta talking about the separation he’s experiencing from loved ones. However, his separation is not a result of the virus, but the infection of political differences.

“Was it worth it?”

Eldredge’s piece is our first link below, but here’s a trigger warning: if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re probably not going to like the way he characterizes the President. Some of you might even consider unsubscribing from this newsletter, simply because I’ve linked to this.

But I’m willing to take that chance because, whatever you may think about Richard Eldredge’s political opinions, the pain he’s expressing over being estranged from family transcends political ideology and should give us all caution. As you read his words, I hope you’ll focus less on his criticisms of President Trump and more on the loss of connection he describes.

Was it worth it? He’s reflecting on the last four years and the separation he and his family have gone through because of political disagreement. 

Challenging relatives

I don’t know Richard Eldredge. He might be hard to get along with or he might have a tendency to annoy family members with his preoccupation with politics. But if that’s true, presumably it was also true before the 2016 election. 

This holiday season, whether you get together with family in person or virtually, I hope you’ll think about how important those relationships are. In the good times and especially in the bad times, having the support of people who love you is more important than any politician or policy position. In our five links this week, we’re inviting you to an event on difficult conversations and sharing some tips on how to preserve family connections, regardless of how you (or they) voted!

5 links worth your time

  1. To my family who chose Trump over me: Was it worth it? CNN – Journalist Richard L. Eldredge reflects on the last four years and the toll it has taken on his relationships with those in his family who support Donald Trump (Eldredge does not). Regardless of your political affiliation, the pain of being separated from those you love is something we can all understand.
  2. [LIVE EVENT] Difficult Conversations: Why they’re important and how to have them, Indiana Public Broadcasting News – On Wednesday, November 18th at 7:00 pm EST I’ll be part of a panel discussion on this topic. You can watch the event live online via Facebook, and I’ll be joined by Leah Nahmias of the Indiana Humanities Council, J.R. Jamison of The Facing Project, and writer and Powerpreneur, Anthony Murdock II. The discussion will be moderated by Justin Hicks of WFYI. 
  3. Family Politics, Story Corps – A liberal daughter and a conservative father sit down to chat about their difficulties discussing politics together. They reflect on how their relationship has changed over time and how diverging views have made communication about their beliefs more difficult. They also discover mutual respect that will ground their conversations going forward. 
  4. How to talk politics with angry loved ones who disagree with you, FOX Carolina – Eight pieces of advice that can help you get along with family members, no matter how far apart you are on political issues. Includes advice from recent podcast guest, Tania Israel.
  5. Talking With Relatives Across the Political Divide, New York Times – Some practical advice from earlier this year in the wake of the George Floyd protests on how to tackle difficult issues with loved ones and keep relationships intact.  This article also features Tania Israel, so you really should check out our recent podcast with her, if you haven’t already listened to it.