Monday, November 30, 2009

Mini Meltdown - Long Read

Holidays have always been stressful for me.  For 10 years I was a single parent and the stress evolved around being able to provide a little something for my daughter.  I also had some years mixed in there where I was with someone my mother didn't like so I was invited to family holiday events but he was not.   Which, of course, meant I didn't go.  For the past 20 years I've been with the man I'm married to now and the stress was around where we should go.  Up until a few years ago we were the only couple who had both sides of the family local.  So it was always a tug and pull from both sides and often led to arguments between my husband and me.  One year I actually had a sister-in-law write me a not very nice letter about how I was keeping her brother from his family.  Literally, if it wasn't one thing it was another.

We finally worked out Thanksgiving by alternating between the two families, which is fine with me because I didn't want to host anyway.  On the other hand Christmas anxiety got so heavy that I finally got sick of the tension and around 10 years ago I put my foot down and said that I didn't care if I was the only person sitting at the table, I wasn't going to do anything for Christmas except cook my own meal and anyone who wanted to come was invited.  Around that same time, both families' younger siblings were marrying and having kids and they didn't want to go anywhere on Christmas Day either.  On both sides we decided to have Christmas family get-togethers on a day other than Christmas. That has worked fine for all these years and really has taken the pressure off.

This year, on my side of the family, we have been apprehensive about the holidays because this is the first set since my brother-in-law passed away.  Pretty much since they got married my sister has hosted Thanksgiving.  This year she flat out said she couldn't do it.  Of course we understood and my mother happily took Thanksgiving.  The day arrived and she seemed sad and a bit withdrawn but was managing to participate. 

On Thanksgiving my siblings and I always discuss when we will have our family gathering.  We had a previous chance to be together for my sister's kids birthdays in October and had said we would put aside the weekend of December 19 & 20 and finalize on Thanksgiving.  My sister also informed us at that time that she was flying to Texas on Christmas day to spend time with her husband's family.  I have to admit my feelings were a bit hurt  - not because she was doing this - but because she has spent Christmas Day at my house for years and it would have been nice if she had at least given me a call to let me know instead of just springing it on me.  I talked with my husband about it all and he said he wasn't surprised because she has been making sudden decisions and he feels her thinking is irrational right now.  I got over it and moved on.  Which brings us to Thanksgiving Day.

After dinner and dessert we were all sitting around the table and someone brought up Christmas.  So we started discussing and I mentioned that my husband's schedule had, in fact, been changed and Saturday was the only day he could participate.  (He works late on Sundays and we have to get together a bit earlier because of the little ones.) Immediately my sister said unless we did "lunch" she wasn't coming because she had tickets to a show.  I was astonished because we had all agreed to put those days aside until we finalized our plans.  I immediately shut my mouth and got quiet.  My older brother noticed I wasn't participating in the discussion so he asked me what was wrong.  I replied that I was frustrated that my sister's friend had bought her tickets to a show when we had agreed to put those days aside since she was already traveling Christmas and New Year's weekend and there was no other time for us to get together.   When I said that my sister completely lost it and started screaming about not giving a **** about the holidays and she didn't want to participate anyway and her best friends bought her the tickets and..... well you get the idea.  I responded to her that we all were working around her schedule anyway and that my husband and I had turned down things for that weekend so that we could have a family gathering.  I further told her that I understood she is grieving but questioned why her very own blood family is the group she didn't want to be with.  She wants to do things with her friends, she wants to fly to her husband's family but she wants nothing to do with us.  I asked her if she realized we were grieving too and that by her not wanting to spend any time with us - therefore keeping her kids from us - it makes the whole thing more painful.

I could go on and on but suffice it to say that it ended with me leaving upset.  I asked my husband for the car keys and he wouldn't give them to me so I said fine and left my mother's house walking.  (He had been playing with the kids in another room and hadn't heard the discussion.) He finally did come pick me up and take me home, but what astonished me most of all is this:

My brother and his wife and 32 year old stepdaughter, my younger brother and his wife, my own daughter, my mother, and my sister were all sitting there during this discussion.  Not one single person came after me when I walked out of the house. It was dark and cold and I certainly wasn't dressed to walk 10 miles, yet not one single person came after me - INCLUDING my own daughter.

No one has called me either so that tells me exactly what my standing is with my blood relatives.  I don't know why I'm surprised because I've always been a bit of the family black sheep but I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I didn't think it was that bad.

Strangely enough,  my eating and exercising have been fine since Thursday and yesterday I got my house decorated for Christmas except for the tree, which we will get next weekend.


  1. Sorry to hear about your dissappointing family gathering! Why is it like that with our loved ones? It's like we have to walk on eggshells around them and can't just speak honestly!

    It's always hard to schedule family get togethers especially with a large and growing family. I've found that if I decide to host an event, I will send out an initial feeler about date and timing then chose what works best for me and notify the others. Let them choose whether or not to come and don't worry about it. If I don't, they will find every excuse and more "important" things to avoid coming.

    I hope things work out for you!


  2. Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry. Families and holidays...sometimes they just suck. :)

    They probably didn't come after you because it was cold and dark and they were sure you'd turn around and come back inside.

    Don't feel too bad. Something happens to people during they holidays. I've noticed they get stressed and nervous and say and do things that are irrational.

    Your sister sounds like my sister, who lost her husband two weeks ago. I didn't mention it in my post but the first thing she said after her husband died is she wanted to have their two dogs put to sleep. She said she was serious and was going to do it as soon as she got home. Luckily, I made her wait until she saw them and then she couldn't do it. Next she was selling her 400 acres and her house and moving into an apartment. She's still comtemplating that one. Totally crazy talk.

    Then there's my brother and his wife and the holiday. She's an alcoholic and I could tell you a long, torrid story about what happened on Thanksgiving Day.

    Anyway, you get what I'm saying. People are just plain weirdo when it comes to the holidays. Forgive them and forget it. Shit happenes. :)

    Take care of yourself.

  3. OMG-- we could be sisters with the f*cked up family dynamics! I am the black sheep too so I deeply sympathize!

    I am not defending your sister but I was a very young widow at one point in my life and I was completely irrational and unpredictable for a year or two afterwards. Your sister may need to be with his family to be around people who loved him as much as she did and who have a blood connection to him. She should have told you that she needed that instead of blurting it out like that, but... what is done is done.

    On the bright side, your husband DID come after you and, in my eyes, that is how it should be. Your spouse is the person you are related to by choice, a luxury we don't have with the rest of the family.

    Bless his heart for being the man, for being THE ONE. Please give him a kiss for caring for my friend. I think time may soothe the stuff with your sister but I think the being the black sheep thing will always be there for the both of us. As f*cked up as my family is, it is a COMPLIMENT that I don't fit in. LOL

  4. This all sounds so stressful and sad. I'm really sorry your Thanskgiving turned out like that. It kills me, because life is way too short for such negative energy and drama about how to spend holiday time with family!! We humans can really muck things up when given the chance!

    It's wonderful and inspiring that in the face of all this family crap, you didn't succumb to crazy eating behaviors! Hang in there.

  5. Oh man, what a Thanksgiving! Strange that they didn't go after you, but they probably didn't believe you'd actually go very far before coming back inside. Still, it hurts, doesn't it?

    Sounds like the grieving process is still very raw for your sister - so raw that she's not able to acknowledge that the rest of you lost someone you cared about as well. I'm sorry that you are having to go through all of this seemingly on your own, but please know that there are those of us out "here" who do care. Hugs to you, Helen.

  6. Wow Helen. What a disappointing time. Families are usually the first ones to hurt us. I don't think they mean to, I think they just abuse those who are closest. you have done good though not resorting to food, which is quite an accomplishment. Hang in there.

  7. I know that I've had many, many family gatherings that were so similiar to yours. So sorry that you had to go through that.

    I often wonder why the people that are supposed to love us the most are capable of hurting us the most.

    Take care,

  8. Sorry to hear about your family challenges during your holiday. Each and everyone of us works with Grief in our own separate ways. You are not only working through your BIL but your Boss as well. It is a tough time. Unfortunately, those closest to us are the ones that hurt us the most because, well because they are close.... After my father passed, my sister and I had a similar confrontation.... different issue but same scenario.

    I am pleased to read that you did not react with food.
    Take care,

  9. I used to fret a bit about the holiday's with family. my kids and I are were the only ones that had to travel for two hours to get there and then two hours back home and the family wanted to have dinner at like 7 PM. So I finally started telling them.. we will be coming down around noon and will be leaving by 5 hope the rest of you can make it there so we can visit before we have to leave. We see most of the family, but some just can't seem to get there by 5... so we don't see them. This year I checked my face book page and a nephew posted around 4 PM that they were relaxing at home getting ready to head to Grandma's. I commented on his post and said.. "sorry you missed us". I go and enjoy the time with whomever cares enouugh to show up and don't worry about the rest of them.