“Hey! I haven’t talked to you in a while. What have you been up to?”
It was my brother Dan and it’s been years since he and I really talked, however the last time I saw him was April. I rocked his fussy newborn son to sleep in my arms while my family stood around making passive-aggressive remarks about my divorce and infertility.
There’s a reason I rarely speak to Dan. A few years ago, he invited me to a bar with his girlfriend and a male friend. Dan and the male friend made a deal that they would get me so drunk that I would go home with and sleep with the male friend. To make a long story short, I found out and bailed. For obvious reasons I keep my distance from Dan.
I keep my distance from my entire immediate family, actually. This isn’t an impetuous decision but a decision I made after enduring years of abuse followed by years of therapy. Since I’m an adult, I leave before the abuse rears it’s head, but my family follows the same old destructive patterns just to a lesser extent.
Two years ago, my therapist encouraged me to start keeping my distance from the immediate family because their behavior and dramatic antics were causing me intense stress. I’d spend months worried about what nasty argument would happen at Christmas or what passive-aggressive issue would arise at Thanksgiving.
Sometimes, nothing of note would happen. Other holidays my worries were completely substantiated as I tried to resolve some fight or listened to my mother bad mouth certain family members for hours.
“Which family members are planning to come?”, I asked.
I dread seeing my mother most. Most of my childhood memories of my mother are filled with fear, guilt, and self loathing. She hit, screamed, yelled, accused, and belittled me constantly making my childhood the stuff of nightmares. These days, she goes for the heart by making mean spirited comments about how my husband left me 4yrs ago and how I cannot have children. She’s not the type of person I’d like to spend Christmas around. Her boyfriend is okay though.
My dad might be going out of town to visit my sister, but he might not. No one knows. He’s the most tolerable and the sanest member of the immediate family. My sister lives across the country so she’s obviously not flying back for Christmas. My dad does not care how I spend Christmas. He made this declaration the year my husband left when he flew out to visit my sister and her husband.
“So…are you coming?”
“I made plans to be at Jonathan’s early on Christmas. I’m not sure I’ll make it.”
“It’s not until the afternoon! …Of course, we won’t have anything for you to eat because you’re vege-ter-ar-ian but you can bring some food…”
“Um. I’ll have to check with Jonathan and see what the plan is.”
No, Dan. I will not be attending your Christmas gathering. I love my sweet little nephew but I simply cannot tolerate any more family bullshit.