This past Christmas was the first Christmas that I chose not to go to my Grandparent’s house (our annual tradition). It all came down to whether or not I was going to be able to be around my mother and be cordial. For those of you that need a quick recap, in March I wrote my Mom a very long letter explaining how her alcoholism has affected me and continues to affect me. I stated that I would not be able to have a genuine relationship with her so long as she chose to continue on the path she’s on. This setting up of boundaries led to us not really talking anymore. We’ve been around each other for various family gatherings, but things have been very different between us. I knew Christmas would be strange, but I figured I could handle another family thing making small talk and being pleasant for the sake of everyone else.
Right before Christmas my mom extended an olive branch to me via text. I felt guilty for not wanting to accept it- it’s Christmas and she’s my mom, I thought. With that being said, so much crazy stuff had still been going on at home that I was painfully aware of. Not to mention, she still has never addressed or acknowledged my letter with me. Nothing has actually changed and she hasn’t shown me signs of progress- so why would I shake hands and say things are okay? And as someone I love said to me as I went back and forth between feeling guilty and telling myself that I was doing the right thing, you don’t offer someone an olive branch with one hand and punch your husband in the face and break his nose with the other all in the same week (because yes, that happened). True that.
I realized Christmas Eve that I didn’t want to be pleasant with her. She didn’t deserve that from me. She hasn’t respected me, my sisters, my family, or herself in years. She hasn’t come to a place where she is willing to accept her addiction. She hasn’t felt the desire to want to change. I can’t force that on her, but I can be hurt by that reality. With all of the heartache, pain, and psychological damage her alcoholism has caused, I just couldn’t sit with her at a Christmas table and act like everything is fine. It’s not fine. It’s not okay. Things are not normal and I’m not going to go along with a charade that acts like things are normal. I have too much respect for myself and my mental well being. I feel lucky to be in a place where I’m removed enough from her that I don’t need to play into her games.
I ended up having a quiet and peaceful Christmas. It wasn’t what I was expecting. My eyelids were swollen from hours and hours of crying the night before. But I woke up knowing that my family loved me and that they understood why I wouldn’t be around on Christmas. I woke up next to a person that loves me and that is my ultimate family. I spent the day with him doing everything we wanted to do. We had a nothing day full of lounging, walking in the sun, eating, treating ourselves with chocolate and cookies, and watching movies with Alan Rickman in them (Die Hard, Harry Potter). I could feel the sadness creeping in the back of mind- I missed my sisters and the moments I would have had with family- but the day was still good. It was bittersweet.
This decision and choice is reflective of changes I went through in 2016 and that I’m bringing into 2017. I refuse to give time to people who treat me as less than. I refuse to give time to people who don’t respect my boundaries or don’t care to understand my feelings. I care enough about myself to set up boundaries to protect myself. I care too much about myself to put myself in stressful situations that I don’t have to deal with. I’ve come to understand time as my most valuable commodity and I want to spend as little time as possible stressing out, worrying, engaging in drama, and letting people make me feel like shit.
I want to spend my time with open people with big hearts. I want to spend my time with people that know me, people that understand me, and people that value me. I want to share my time with people who challenge me in positive ways. I want to surround myself with people that I can grow from and feel supported by. I enjoy talking to people with different opinions, lifestyles, and views on the world- but only if they’re willing to listen to me as well and have a civilized and polite conversation where maybe we can come to an understanding of each other.
I don’t have time in this short life to argue with, well, a wall. Someone who is unable to listen or comprehend what I’m saying. Someone who is unable to feel empathy and understand my emotions fully. It’s a waste of my time thinking that my Mom can level with me in this way. She can’t right now. Alcohol has robbed her of that. I am no longer willing to allow myself to then continue to be trapped in the vicious cycle of sadness, frustration, anger, trying to get her to understand where I’m coming from, and forgiveness. I cannot and I will not do it anymore.
There’s no way you could ever cut all the bad out of a life. The bad makes the good better and it’s not predictable. But you can do what you can to set yourself up for success- calling the shots in your own life and saying what you’re willing to deal with and what you’re not (and not feeling bad about it).
I never look at my past and think that I’ve been dealt a difficult hand. I know for a fact that this statement is empirically true, but I really don’t see it that way. Things were tough, but I got through them and I see myself as a stronger person because of it. Are there things I wish were different? Sure. But I don’t harp on them. I don’t have a chip on my shoulder because of them. When I see a happy family, I’ll always get a little wistful, jealous, and sad. But I don’t go through life angry about my experiences. I don’t let them bring me down- in fact, I do the opposite- they allow me to rise above and see the world in a more realistic light. I embrace the good things even more and recognize myself (and my sisters) as survivors.
Anyway. All I’m trying to say in this ramble mess is, life is not perfect. Holidays aren’t 100% happy for everyone. But from all struggles, you can learn something about yourself and life in general. And that wisdom is priceless.
Oh hey, 2017.