Giving Thanks for the People Who Drive Us Nuts

Here's the thing: these people are still family. You didn't get to choose them--and they didn't get to choose you. No matter where you live or what job you have or how old you are,(the good, the bad and every variation in between).
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Thanksgiving is nearly here! And for many of us, that means it's time for the annual family get-together.

Many families follow the tradition of meeting at one person's house. Maybe you all gather at Grandma and Grandpa's, or at Aunt Sally's, or perhaps (now that you're an adult!) at your place. Getting together with family might entail hopping into a car and driving across town or taking a train or plane to a more distant location -- or, if you're the host, spending a few days cleaning your house and preparing the holiday meal. Or maybe your family has decided to skip the cooking and cleaning (and, often, cold weather!) and travel together to celebrate Thanksgiving at a vacation destination.

As you can see, Thanksgiving celebrations take lots of different forms. But among the many variations, there are a few constants. No matter what shape these gatherings take, most of us will be spending some of the Thanksgiving holiday eating way too much food and hanging out with relatives.

Oh, and trying not to let our families drive us nuts.

Nearly every family has its own version of "Crazy Uncle Frank." You know--the relative who delights in making dinner-table speeches about politics or religion or some other topic that he has strong (and often not-shared) opinions about. And maybe there's a "Great Aunt Agatha" who criticizes every aspect of the meal, what people are wearing, and how the children are behaving. Or how about a "Cousin Terry," who delights in offering inappropriate comments that embarrass everyone?

The holiday season is when you can really see the truth in the old saying "You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family." Because the holidays are the time of year when far-flung families are most likely to gather, and because the holidays are packed full of emotional baggage about the importance of "family togetherness," it can be really difficult to keep your cool and not get stressed out when your relatives start to get on your nerves.

Even if your family doesn't have such extreme personalities, there's a good chance they do some things that make you roll your eyes or grit your teeth. My mom's tendency to interrogate me about my love life every time I visit her in Indiana is one of those things. And in all fairness, I know that I do things that annoy her too--as when I get impatient with her for requiring eggs for breakfast every morning (even when we're traveling abroad!).

But here's the thing: these people are still family. You didn't get to choose them--and they didn't get to choose you. No matter where you live or what job you have or how old you are, your family will always be your family (the good, the bad and every variation in between).

So wherever you are this Thanksgiving, and whichever relatives are there, try to be thankful for your family, including the more difficult individuals. Your time together is fleeting and when you look back across your life and have the "big picture" perspective, you will be glad that they were part of it. So try to keep a positive attitude even if disagreements erupt and you find yourself just barely holding on to your sanity. (And if it gets really bad, just remind yourself that it will probably be another whole year before you have to see them again!)

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