Dear Angelo,

It's holiday time again and sometimes it can be stressful to spend it with family. Do you have any suggestions to make for a pleasant time?

Signed, Holiday Harmony


Dear Holiday Harmony,

A Chinese proverb said "We count our miseries carefully, and accept our blessings without much thought." In the season of Thanksgiving, take the time to practice gratitude. Stop and give thanks for what's good in your life.

Whenever you can, count your blessings. Appreciate the people in your life. Tell them you love them, even if you may not always like them. To me, being with those you love is the point of the holidays. Someday, they may not be around. I'm not trying to guilt you, but rather inspiring you to make as they say, "lemonade out of lemons."

Yes, it can be stressful to spend time with family, especially for us gay folks. Many of us get hurt by our families. Of course if it will do you more harm than good don't go. Sometimes we have to take care of ourselves and love people from a distance. You can make new traditions or adopt a chosen family. But it may be fine just to set limits by going home on your own terms and leaving when you're ready. It's also fine to refuse to digest any homophobia that may be served. Whatever happens -- be yourself -- a gay man -- and have no shame about it. Don't mute yourself. If you go, expect to get temporarily sucked back into dysfunctional family patterns. And there's always that one relative who drives us absolutely crazy. This is why I call the holidays the "holidaze." But resist trying to force change at these family therapy sessions -- I mean holiday gatherings. Instead, try to accept things as they are, enjoying them as best you can for the time that you're there. You can work on them another time.

I'm not sure what direction we're moving in this country in terms of "family values." Not only do we fight divisive heterosexism and homophobia on the ballot, but in spite of "advanced" technology like voicemail, texting, and email that are supposed to make communication easier, we seem to be getting more disconnected from one another instead. We're losing precious face to face time. I saw an add for Thanksgiving dinner in less than 60 minutes. I mean, why rush it? Perhaps it's not profitable to take it slow as the old adage says, "time is money." More and more stores are open on Thanksgiving, and the day after is a huge shopping day called "Black Friday" to the profiteers. But what are our priorities -- money or love?

I'm in Mexico as I write this. This past Sunday I saw many families packed on the beach. It was an ordinary Sunday afternoon, but in Mexico Sunday is "family day" -- every week. A fair share of young children were freely running around naked, happily playing. Salsa was blaring at picnics that included some authentic Corona and homemade tequila. I was struck by this gathering. The scene stopped me in my tracks. I was reminded that in this country we might consider such "revelry" a lazy waste of time. Perhaps some would have sent social services to investigate possible child abuse by unfit parents. But there was something natural and beautiful about it all that didn't qualify as any of those negative things in my mind. In fact, it seemed quite wonderful. Most of all, I noticed that everyone had a smile. The Mexicans didn't seem stressed, worried, angry, and depressed. I thought, indeed, more together time, i.e., community, is what Americans may need.

All the Best, Angelo.

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