No one looks forward to uncomfortable conversations. Some people do anything and everything to avoid the person and the conversation as long as possible. Others user a “bring it on” attitude and dive right in. Another camp talks to people they know about the impending conversation so they can prepare, all the while trying not to drown in anxiety and sadness because there is no real way around it. 

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The holidays will bring about the uncomfortable conversation for me and my family, and it sucks. My brother, his wife, and their baby will go home for Christmas to see the family and introduce him to friends and relatives. The baby will get to see his father in his old neighborhood and will experience the other side of his family. There will be a few people missing from this holiday experience – my aunt, two of my cousins (one died, one is in a care facility), me, and my husband.

Holidays should not be complicated. They should be joyous and celebratory, which is usually the opposite of our experience.  I love my family in spite of the holidays. Many of my most enjoyable holidays were spent with friends and their families around college time or have been peaceful because Husband and I were not the family, except for the Christmas my brother and his wife spent with us in Texas. When we still lived near our families, Husband and I had a hard time seeing both families for the same holiday because of the inevitable energy drain, conflict, etc. Over time, his remaining family is more or less nonexistent, and mine is best in small doses. The last time I was in the presence of my parents and overlap with relatives a little over two years ago, and it did not end well after we left the family gathering. My parents and I have recovered the best we can from the debacle, a story for another post, and I enjoyed the rest of my trip with friends and time to myself. My relatives were happy to see me and I feel fortunate to have spent time with my aunt, our last in-person visit before she died earlier this year. 

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This brings me to the currently approaching holiday season. After close to two years, the COVID thing is still lurking and is complicating people’s lives. Many people have natural immunity, while others insist on getting vaxxed and that everyone around them be vaxxed. Like many people, I fall right into the middle of this debacle. Most, if not all, of my immediate and extended are on one side of this while we are on the other side. I know a few people in the same situation but they, like us, have a few people on their side as well.  I don’t feel comfortable traveling during the holidays and leaving Husband alone, especially with the airlines in chaos, my job having legalized discrimination policies related to traveling and quarantining (punishing healthy people who make individual medical decisions), and the fact that one of parents shared that my brother and wife has already inquired about the status of family members. Oh, and they scheduled my parents for all of their shots. I have already expressed some thoughts on the matter months ago before this whole situation continued to progress and escalate to mandates in different cities and states, and even at the federal level. I have noticed communication with some members of my family have dwindled after a certain conversation with one person, um… so much for freedom and individual opinion. The unsaid uncomfortable conversation just hangs out in the atmosphere for now. It just sucks. Good time to use radical acceptance skills.

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As I’ve gotten older, my childlike glee for holidays has greatly reduced but does flare up around Christmas. I’m not a big decorator, but having little get-togethers with co-workers and festivities that make work enjoyable won’t happen again this year because my agency has decided against it. I have an office now, that doesn’t usually see more than me or a few colleagues due to back-and-forth restrictions. I’ve debated with myself about decorating for me and to contribute a bit to the building-wide décor or to skip it, but I’m still not sure… wait a minute, people can decorate several trees in groups but not have parties or meals together?

For the few people who might read this, I realize my opinions will stir up a myriad of feelings – how insensitive of you, how irresponsible, you selfish #!%&*(&,  f#ck those stupid Covidiots or good for you for standing up to the medical tyranny, and everything in between. As someone who has been sick only twice in the past two years, (right before the virus was unleashed and again right after jabs were widely available), I believe that I have a healthy, functioning immune system and that the most irresponsible people are those who perform ongoing medical experiments on a naively trusting public with no idea who this will turn out. However, I believe in personal freedom, mine and yours. All that keeps happening is that people allow themselves to be divided along the newest line in the sand that someone else draws and broadcasts it 24/7 on cable news until the world panics. 

On that note, I hope people can find some holiday cheer and that they can remember why holidays exist (other than to generate revenue for retail and travel industries) – family and friends celebrating and sharing. I pray for an end to the manufactured conflicts and emergencies, and for a resurgence of common decency, critical thinking, and humanity. I hope it’s not too late, or too complicated… cards hanging on Christmas tree

Families are Complicated

CHGO sign 05-25-13Families are complicated. Mine, as well as my Boyfriend’s family are no different. I love my parents and my brother as individuals, though it can get complicated when you get us all together and add my parents’ dog to the mix.  When we are together too long (sometimes more than an hour), it doesn’t always end well. Poor Boyfriend has witnessed more than a few tense moments due to conversations about politics, sports or misunderstandings between my parents about who should have wrapped which gift. Visits or phone calls usually go better one-on-one with Mom or Dad or Brother because it is easier to tailor the interaction to the person but that doesn’t work for holidays. I try to hold on to as many good memories as I can, yet sometimes the less than pleasant memories hold on, too.

Boyfriend and I have not gone home since summer 2013, when we moved from the Chicago area to the Great State of Texas. I am feeling a little excited though mostly cautious, not only about the 20+ hour drive each way with our beloved cat, but also the complexities of visiting my family and extended family, staying with Boyfriend’s family, and attempting to connect with old friends. It will be an interesting week of social exchanges, though I’m sure the week will not be without challenges. A positive is that my Brother is bringing his girlfriend home for Christmas, and he is usually the diplomat who tries to get everyone to get along.

The key to a successful week of visits and co-existing, I think, will be to have a plan of what we want to do and with whom, keeping in mind that I may not see my family for a while and that nobody is going to change just because we left. In other words, I will have to pack the patience and have one expectation – that Boyfriend and I will spend time with our families, good or otherwise. I am hopeful, always hopeful, that both families will accept this as a chance to enjoy our company for Christmas, especially after a year of holidays that we missed. I hope we can laugh and talk and just be people: no power struggles, you did this, he did that, how come you haven’t called, and he’s your only brother, blah, blah, blah. I will try to stay in the now without writing a narrative of what should happen, and I will review my coping skills because I will certainly need them.

Deciding to take this trip was not easy for us, due to our past success rate at holidays and the real possibility of snow and ice in the forecast. I know that I can only control me and that I have no control over others, especially those who hide ugly statements in jokes, give you back-handed compliments and smile while saying that you don’t get her humor, even with the proverbial knife in your back. I also have no control over passive-aggressiveness doing battle with intermittent explosive disorder and selective Tourette’s syndrome. I have no control over the weather either.  Life, however, is short. People get older, time keeps going and regrets are a heavy burden to bear. At least our beloved Cat will on the journey with us to offer comfort and love along the way.

© blogdaysofchrell 2014