Gracie’s Advice for Family Gatherings

Just in time for the holidays …

Mockingbird / 11.16.21

The following is a selection from a new advice column in The Mockingbird magazine, entitled “Dear Gracie.” If you want advice for yourself (or a “friend”) send questions, with a pseudonym and general location, to magazine@mbird.com. While we can’t promise a response for everything, all emails will be kept confidential.

Dear Gracie,
I am not a model Christian. I swear a lot, have a dark sense of humor, and have some anger issues. But I believe in the power of the cross and the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

I will soon be spending time with my family. Since doctors aren’t so “handy-outy” with the Xanax anymore, what are your suggestions for dealing with the Narcissistic Personality Disorder Christian who believes she sits at the right hand of God, or the family members who believe that if you don’t vote Republican, you are not a true Christian?

My coping methods of the past have been pouring another drink and leaving the room, only to be chastised for pouring another drink and leaving the room.

Signed,
Need That Xanax

Dear Needy,

One of the most helpful things a friend ever said to me about tough family members is that you can always expect them to be themselves. So first, let’s celebrate their predictability. You know that Aunt Lois is going to drink too much and pick a fight with her husband just like you know that politics will turn the living room into a Roman arena. Somebody has to die, because not everyone gets to be a winner. There are rules, after all.

So here’s my advice: be the first one to die. Get so low to the ground that someone could sweep you right into a coffin. I know this runs contrary to that very satisfying “we go high” stance. But I am telling you to go low, dead low, in every sense of the word.

First, lower your expectations of yourself and these relatives. They cannot help what is in their heads anymore than you can help what is in yours. And you are not gathered to fix one another. You are gathered in love. Also, lower your sense of needing to be right. Let it die for the evening. It sounds like your right-hand-of-God relative has got that covered for everyone anyway.

And if all else fails, picture them dead. A therapist once told me this is a quick way to feel thankful for family.


Illustration by Lehel Kovaćs