Please Don’t Cut My Heart Out on Thanksgiving

Blogging is very much a form of community engagement for me. I look at the last few posts, and there is so much to learn from one another about spirituality, religion, semantics, and how to engage in effective dialogue on the internet. It’s a relief to read thoughtful, mindful comments, and witness the kaleidoscope of human thought and perspective casting colors all over my computer screen.

The backdrop of my blog is colorful now, too. As with my post on salvation, I’ve taken inspiration from Star Foster, who recently gave the Patheos Pagan Portal a facelift. If you’re not already following that blog, you aught’a. There’s some good dialogue going on there, too.

I take inspiration from people I know. It’s something I’ve always done. As a kid, my mom was very mindful of when I was behaving less like me and more like my friends. She would tell people that she knew who I was hanging out with by the way my talking changed. All it would take was one long, holiday break with my relatives in Texas or Tennessee for me to acquire a drawl. I was pliable like that.

Mimicry, for me, was a way of understanding other people. To talk like my friends or relatives was to become a bit like them; to approach an aspect of their personality with more intimacy than was allowed for in normal conversation. It was a way of gaining insight into their lives, and into my own as well. I learned what I was and what I was not by speaking in a voice that didn’t originate in me. It was experiential, interpersonal learning, and I continue to practice it to this day.

Sharing an accent, though, is quite different than assuming another person’s belief system. I might be able to talk like my Texan relatives, but I would have a very hard time believing what they believe about God, the Bible, and my very gay relationship to my very male husband. Sometimes imitation isn’t necessary to know a person; hearing their words is plenty enough.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and family politics are on the brain. We’ll pay a brief, mid-day visit to my grandparents house, hopefully avoiding most of the anticipated drama, before heading to dinner with a predominately queer, eclectically spiritual group of friends, where we will likely spend the rest of the evening waxing philosophic about religion, tradition, and the curious experience of being human. Basically, the stuff we talk about here.

It occurs to me that I share thoughts and ideas on Bishop In The Grove that I’ve never brought up at my larger family gatherings. In a way, as a blogger, I’m shielded by the medium, protected by the space between me and whomever is reading these words. I write, I post, and then I’m free to walk away and go on with my life. I can come back to the conversation whenever I please, and if it ever goes sour I can just shut my computer and wait to deal with it until later.

But at a dining room table, sitting next to the cousins I haven’t spoken to in years, or across from the aunt who is likely to snap at any minute, there is no shielding to be had. There’s no space between my words and their responses, no easy way to shut off the conversation, and no time to wait. The dialogue can not be drafted and re-drafted before it is shared. Real-world relationships are immediate; they happen in real-time.

We experience a unique brand of vulnerability in the presence of our family. These people, who knew us before our ideas took form, before our personalities became more fixed, before we concluded that we were a Witch, or a Druid, or a Christian, or any such other thing that we’ve become, they have the ability to hurt us in ways that no one else can. The wounds afflicted by family can be some of the deepest, and some of the hardest to heal.

But, perhaps the opposite is true, too. Maybe vulnerability is not simply an opening for us to be hurt, but also an opportunity for us to become fully known, and to be deeply loved. Making ourselves vulnerable seems like a necessary risk we take in order to be in true communion with one another, and in the case of our family, where this vulnerability exists by default, perhaps we are presented with an even greater opportunity to experience real, meaningful, human connection.

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling these apprehensions about family gatherings, and I’d love to get some of your insights about how you navigate the sometimes treacherous topography of Thanksgiving dinner. Do you see it as a disaster in the making, or a chance for reconnection. What is it about the bonds of family that can inspire so much dread, and also so much comfort?

I look forward to reading of your experiences and insights. Once you’ve written them in the comment field, feel free to share this post on your social network of choice.






10 responses to “Please Don’t Cut My Heart Out on Thanksgiving”

  1. LaTrice Lott Avatar
    LaTrice Lott

    Thanksgiving has never been a problem, it the upcoming Christmas get together, with my ultra-Christian in-laws, that work my nerves.  They are never so bold as to come out and call me a “devil-worshipper,” but make snide comments and ramp up the whole “Jesus is the reason for the season” hubbud, until I want to take a drill to my ears. . .but then, I look at my son, who is obilvious to all the tension, he’s just enjoying the time with his 17 cousins and his grandparents, and I remember why I deal with it all. . .For my child.  So, I suck it up, breathe deeply and take a nice long drink of wine. . .

  2. Kilmrnock Avatar

    Well for me atleast i have 2 families , the ones i’m related to and the ones i’ve chosen myself .My Druid grove , my Sinnsreachd cohorts  and close pagan freinds are a 2nd family i can discuss and share things of a deep spiritual meaning with. I have recently ,within this year, had a few spiritual experiences i could share w/ my 2nd family , my 1st family wouldn’t have understood .I’m a wee bit concerned for our solitaries out and about that don’t have that outlet, tis one i cherish .For our solitaries please find someone you can confide in safely, tis good for the soul to share things , especialy painful ones .   Kilm

  3. Sarenth Avatar

    The way my son and I celebrate this year’s Thanksgiving with my Catholic family was we sat in silence while they prayed, and then we had our own prayers together.  This is often how we do things when it’s he and I together at the table at our home with his grandparents.  It’s respectful of the home, and it’s also keeping with our own beliefs.

  4. Sisterlisa Avatar

    I’ve simply learned to bite my tongue and be gracious so the event can remain as peaceful as possible. If they walk all over me, at least it’s only once or twice a year. 😉

  5. Tara "Masery" Miller Avatar

    This was a difficult post for me to read, Teo. I’m appreciate it though because sharing stories ends a sense of aloneness. My family has experienced many divorces and dysfunctional homes. To save my sanity and literally my life, I had to shun/banish family members. Taylor Ellwood wrote a post about it as a magical act.
    Shunning as Banishment
    I’ve had to change my viewpoint of what the holidays are about. Today, the day before Thanksgiving, my cat brought a gift to my porch and I got an idea for a new blog post about offerings of thanks for the spirits we work with. There’s also too much darn pressure for people to get along and have a perfect day. The best moments in our lives come from spontaneous acts of compassion or communion.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      I appreciate what you’re saying here about unexpected, spontaneous acts of compassion. Sometimes they mean more than the staged, rehearsed acts of holiday celebration, which often leave us feeling unfulfilled and more lonely than we were to start with. I’m glad for you that you’ve got such a spiritually generous kitty to offer you these kinds of reminders. 🙂

      As for the idea of Shunning as Banishment, I have to admit that it makes me a little uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s the words, themselves. I would never want to be shunned or banished. The word seem so cold and cruel, and I recognize that those sensations come from my associations. Clearly, as you’ve contextualized them, they make a different kind of sense. You have to take care of yourself, and sometimes removing someone from your life is the only way to do that.

      I hope that you have a wonderful day, Tara, that is filled with many unexpected blessings and causes to give thanks.

  6. Kilmrnock Avatar

    My families position on discussions at gatherings is don’t discuss politics or religion . That way no one gets hurt. When i first came out as pagan to my family , i was the first to do so, everyone thought i was crazy . My mother came across a paper written by a freinds child on paganism , what it  really is , dispelling the usual crap . She was more open minded after that read , and talked to me about what i was into, in her words .Amoungst other things , my becoming pagan helped end my first marriage . My mother actually attended my handfasting to my now wife, surprising all of us .Since then, more members of the family have jioned the out pagan ranks . Altho some in my family consider us weird , most are accepting of us and our ways . The others tolarate us and follow the rules .Quess I’ve been lucky wasn’t really so bad . I wish you luck , Teo, with the up coming holidays .   Kilm

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks for the well wishes, Kilm, and for taking the time to comment. Your family’s policy is familiar, and not a bad one. That being said, holding back on talking religion is hard, especially when you want to share something personal and relevant with those who you love. Sometimes, as in your family’s case, it can play out well in the end. I’m happy for you that there is a level of acceptance and respect in your family for your path.

      Bright blessings to you on this day of thanks!

  7. Star Foster Avatar

    Glad I inspire! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Teo!

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      That you do. Thanks, Star, and a happy Thanksgiving to you, too!