Because the holidays are terrible and I’m changing that now

Moving boxes boxes2 Moving boxes 2012The move date was scheduled without my input – as was the mortgage signing and  closing date. All three fall on some date of significance to me, two religious, one both religious and personal. Our moving date… is on Solstice. That means that once I clear my writing minimums today (including this post) off I go to pack, pack, pack – and as you can see in the photos here I’ve already done quite a bit of that.

If I’d raised enough of a stink we might have rescheduled. People that knew me back in my “flaming Pagan” days probably wonder why I didn’t. Religion is one of my fundamental personality traits. I am a religious person. So why am I doing something as sacrilegious as moving on one of the most sacred days that the land I love on knows?

It has nothing to do with whether the world ends. Maybe the world as we know it will end – but the Earth will still be rolling around in the sky, laughing and farting and burning birds alive.

It also has nothing to do with being in a hurry. It has to do with two things:

Probably secondary, but first here: my neurological inclination towards religion ((I believe that being religious is similar to being gay: it has more to do with your body chemistry than it does with any virtue or non-virtue))  involves a series of adjustable values I carry within me that I refer to while considering the kind of world I would like to live in and the Big Picture part of being in the world.  In other words, I care more about being a good person than I do about being a good Wiccan. My values are not shaken just because I’m not sitting vigil with the sun – and there’s a chance that I may end up performing vigil as a byproduct of moving anyway. If someone tries to revoke my Wiccan membership card over that it says more about that person than it does about me. I’m very much a Big Picture thinker – I already have some ideas about how my observances will play out in the long run.

Most of my adult-life friends have already heard these horror stories. These are my holiday stories, the ones that make the hauntings, the nightmares, the people I loved that died seem… manageable, by comparison? Death at least has love in it. Love as I need it is a desire for me to be in the world, to live in the world, to stay in the world.

For me, family does not have love in it. My family doesn’t love me but they sure do put on a show for the rest of the world. In childhood, Azrael would see some act mother or sister put on, feel my disgust, and whisper in my ear, “Sorry, kid.”

My experiences with holidays and my own birthday are fucking awful. Moving is preferable to sitting around where those memories might find me.  My mother shared the mentality of the prison guards at Gitmo: do terrible things that make everyone miserable while telling yourself you’re “doing it for America.” The birthdays were bad enough. On my 11th birthday, my mother openly admitted that she went out of her way to give herself a headache and have tantrums on my birthday. At 16, the dog ate my birthday cake, my entire family made other plans and the day after my birthday I was presented with wilted roses – the disrespect my family treated me with was so egregious that my mother had a loud temper tantrum every time I told that story because she was so fearful that someone outside the house would recognize her as abusive. Usually those nightmares were offset in some way – I was given a little extra time to run in the prison yard/go out with friends (except one year when my mother tried to hire me out for a babysitting job on a night she already knew a friend had bought me theater tickets and then guilt tripped me for sticking to my plans.) That was just the birthdays, and there were little ways they were alleviated, always with the promise that one day I would make sure I surrounded myself with loving people.

Portrait_de_Sade (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s just the birthday – the season opener to holiday hell, falling as it did a week before Thanksgiving. This year will be the last year I celebrate my birthday in November – I’ve decided that I’m under no obligation to carry that negativity forward. I didn’t choose my family’s horrendous and selfish behavior and I sure as hell didn’t choose that birth date. I celebrated this year quietly and pleasantly – with one insulting-to-my-intelligence intrusion from Mrs. Voldemort – and now I’m moving on. So in 2013 I’m picking a new birthday and a new Craft name to go with it.  That’s the highlight – the way I am going to make a happier year endscape for myself in the future. It starts with relocating my birthday.

Beyond my birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas could inspire Dostoyevsky with their combination of emotional (and occasional physical) violence entwined with extended periods of tortuous boredom to complete with a 19th century Russian prison. The adage “bored people are boring,” by the way, is smug bullshit devised by Marquis de Sade.  One year I started to watch the clock for when the tantrum began as my own holiday tradition. Once we made it all the way to 1 pm. Most years, never past 10:30 am. I even told my dad if the behavior continued I would probably not see them on holidays as an adult. In retrospect, I wonder if this is why they did their damnedest to prevent me from completing my college education – I did far more work on holidays than anyone else in the house, just as I did far more work on camping trips, to the point where I never really got a chance to enjoy either.

These behaviors were so regular that even my sister broke out of her usual self-absorption to notice it. I don’t think that was the year she stole the $80 I had been given for Christmas.  (I’m sure other thefts have happened, but that was the year that it was overtly hurtful and not just her usual selfish/addict bullshit.)

The annual choices were a)stay home and listen to one of both parents have a screaming fit over something or b)visit my grandparents in Muncie where my choices were 1)listen to the narcissistic and socially violent prattle of my cousins 2)make the mistake of sharing something about myself or something that I created only to have it used to humiliate me later – anything from writing I heart Jeff in a notebook to not happening to have the money to get an $80 highlight job as a 16 year old to simply, for shame, not having a boyfriend or c)lock myself in a room with my uncle and play clarinet with him – while music performance was never something I ever really enjoyed doing, I recognized it as my only viable exit strategy and I used it whenever I could.

For at least three years of my college career I naively thought their behavior would change. I had been away for awhile. They would miss me. They would make an effort to act appreciative of my presence, and appreciative of what I contributed, right? After all, I was into my adulthood – the days of living them were over and they needed to adjust to the new relationship.

I know more about abuser mentality now, just as I know more about my own naïve abuse-target mentality. Abusers are angry people. Anger makes you stupid – it genuinely lowers IQ. Therefore, my family is made up of really stupid people – so stupid that they think treating the target like shit is an enticement to come back. I understand this now. Back then, I still bought into the con that I was dumb and they were smart. Readministered IQ tests along with EQ training has corrected this particular manipulation since then. So how did I manage to figure this out when I read as so angry myself? 1)I’m actually more sad than angry. 2)A lot of what my family interpreted from me as anger was really revulsion. It’s not pretty, but it’s not anger. 3)My anger is scary when it gets out. I work hard on sending it back to the desk. 4)My IQ, as it turns out, really is that high. Making me think I was dumber than I was is part of abuser standard operating procedure.

Year 1 was the one I still consider a murder attempt. I was diagnosed with mono. For two days I couldn’t even swallow. Even as my mother made noises about not letting me go back to school (and I could hear the “ever” she wasn’t saying out loud) I somehow found myself cooking everything for everyone but the turkey, setting the table, washing the dishes, and taking verbal abuse for choosing my education over husband-hunting since my sister had just trapped a man with a baby six months prior and somehow my sister’s life change meant I should adjust (lower) my goals accordingly. Year 2, my mother got a vicious gleam in her eye and demanded I clean the garage after Thanksgiving dinner, insisting I “owed” her the ridiculous Sisyphian task – this ended when my father dropped a Radio Flyer wagon on my head, giving me a concussion that, predictably, I received no medical assistance for.  The following Christmas was a study in living hell – at one point my mother locked me in a car so she could scream at me about my friends showing up at her house looking for me as though this were some massive act of disrespect to her rather than a minor one of miscommunication with me. The tantrum about my seeing my ex-boyfriend briefly was massive: you’d think she was a Madame who had a dowry contingent on my virginity. This was also the “step into the dressing” room incident, where I realized my mother’s focus on my sexuality was fucking creepy – and that she really thought my body was her business even when the law itself said otherwise.  Year 3, I announced my engagement, calmly told my mother I was on birth control pills, and the tantrum that followed… there are no words. She truly thought I was required to seek her permission to have sex, even into my legal adulthood. Her sense of ownership over my body and the spiritual choices I make with my body  horrifies and disgusts me even now.

Moving boxesI wound up fixing Christmas Eve dinner for parents and sister’s family, cooking a good chunk of Christmas dinner, ironing her clothes for church, being forced to go to church and having a truly insulting sermon directed at me for daring to convert from Christianity (in a UCC church, a denomination that normally doesn’t pull that shit.) The next day was followed by me making most of Christmas dinner, doing nearly all the work involved, being told I needed to “learn how to compromise” when I asked for a salad dressing I had made and hated to be served on the side (hello, gaslighting!) and she made sure I overheard her tell my sister that she was a guest in her house but she “expected more from me” since “mail was still sent to her house” (hello, making a really fucking lame excuse for shit behavior.) When I told her calmly that I would not come back from Christmas again, she dropped her fork and my sister stormed out of the room, demanding an explanation and an apology from me. More gaslighting – they knew damn well why I wouldn’t spend my time with them. I started to wonder if they made plans for ways to treat me like shit when I was there.

This led to me staying at school or going to in-laws for holidays after that – since in-laws are not historically fond of me, it says much that this was preferable. I made one more attempt to visit – that Thanksgiving ended with my mother chasing me through the house screaming that I was a coward when, after she got abusive, hissing in my ear a denial of things I had actually seen her do and written down – and then pretended she hadn’t with a wide-eyed “What?” seconds later when I confronted her in front of my father with a “What the hell was that?”-  I informed her my husband and I were going to a hotel rather than stay under her roof another night. Walking away from an abusive person takes courage – partly because they go nuts and start chasing you around screaming when you call them on their behavior. Since the goal is to control your behavior and you can only be controlled if you’re within reach, they will try to convince you you’re proving something by staying on hand. It’s ham-handed manipulation at best but a lot of people fall for it. I didn’t. I just had a weak spot for my dad, who wanted me to stay – after 30+ years of Stockholm syndrome there was no helping him.

I have absolutely zero positive holiday memories of my family. None. I even looked through old journals hoping to find one. They of course acted like I was the one that was crazy and have worked hard to sell the people in my former community on my “craziness.” Con artists are abusers, and that’s what they do.

The last gaslighting attempt came when my dad was dying. “Why were you so angry at me?” she wept. More gaslighting, and while a man we both loved was dying, she tried to make it about her. The narcissism alone repulsed me. I told her what she wanted to hear the least, at a prompting from That Which Guides me: “I forgive you.”

That really pissed her off.

I do forgive my mother, really. She can’t change. She won’t change. She will never pay her debts to me, genuinely apologize,  become a decent mother, become a decent human being. She and my sister will always lie to themselves, justify their actions, make themselves the heroes of their story. She’s not capable of seeing me as a human being. She’s not capable of being honest with herself.

All my sister wants is a dynamic where she can be as verbally and emotionally abusive to me as she likes while draining me of resources that she’s convinced herself I don’t deserve just because I’m younger, fatter, something. All she wants around her is people she can manipulate.

All human beings have the capacity to change, but the vast majority just won’t take it. It’s not my job to wait around for them to make it right with me – and really, they’re not obligated to make right what they’ve done truly, horrendously wrong. It’s also not my obligation to give them a chance to do so. I forgive them, I give up on them – and I let them go. Anything else that needs doing I’ll hand off to my lawyer.

Moving is the perfect thing to do on Solstice. All that physical energy means a huge transition in my life.

Next year I’ll be totally beyond their reach, I’ll have a different birthday – and I’ll have the holiday I want to have.

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