On Saturday, I returned home after spending a whole week with my mother (and half the week with an additional 9 relatives). I don’t want to talk to anyone, or think about talking to anyone for as long as possible, but I have a lunch date with a friend tomorrow.
But, let me back up.
On the one hand, it was eleventy-billion percent better this year than last year. Even though I was extremely anxious going into it, I forced myself (as much as anyone can “force” it) to try to let things go. I embraced being “in the moment” as much as I could, and I tried not to live in the past or worry about the future. Living in the present, as all the self-help gurus will tell you, is the ideal way to live – I’m just typically not very good at it.
But, when I arrived at my mother’s house Monday night, I made a conscious choice to enjoy myself. I kept my expectations low, which I find makes it a lot easier, and I sincerely wanted to have a good time. She was happy to see my husband and I, and we had two nights before my aunt, uncle, and two cousins (with their respective girlfriends) would join us. I just wanted to relax and have a nice time.
Those first two days were actually pretty nice. Honestly, I don’t even know where the time went because I had a list of things I wanted to do (well, let me be honest – it was mostly a list of favorite restaurants I wanted to visit) and I didn’t get to do any of it. The one thing I did do was visit my therapist. Since I can only visit her while I’m in town (she’s not licensed where I live now), she squeezed me in on Tuesday afternoon. She had just returned full time after her maternity leave, so I felt lucky to see her.
In my session, I let loose about my frustrations about my husband’s job(less) situation, how I’m terrified of what’s going to happen after January 1st, and just generally catastrophizing about what may or may not happen if our situation doesn’t improve. She suggested that I stay grounded and live in the moment as much as I could, and she reminded me that things are not actually as bad as I’m making them out to be (you know, catastrophizing). Nothing bad has happened (yet), so I should not focus on worrying about what might happen, but to put together a plan in case things don’t work out.
So, the number one priority is that I need to do some research on obtaining health insurance and getting that in order for after January 1st. Regardless of whether my husband is able to find a job before the end of the year, it’s doubtful that benefits would kick in that quickly, so we need to have a plan in place so there’s one less thing to stress about.
Aside from that, I don’t really have much else. I know my husband is holding out for an “amazing” job, but at this point I’d rather he take anything. I don’t feel like we have the luxury of him finding his “dream job,” but it would be nice if he could find something that doesn’t make him hate life. There’s got to be a good middle ground, right? The only problem is, he’s getting turned down for every job he’s gone for, so it’s not like he’s ignoring legitimate options in favor of some pipe dream.
At least that’s what he’s telling me. So far, I have no reason to doubt him.
But, I’m not going to lie – my anxiety is getting to epic levels, and enjoying the Christmas holiday doesn’t look very likely … at least not for me.
Speaking of holidays, let me get back to Thanksgiving.
My husband was getting irritated with my mother at all of her snarky comments directed towards me, but honestly, I didn’t even notice. Since I had made a deliberate choice to let things go, it’s like my brain tuned out anything that wasn’t either neutral or positive. I literally didn’t even hear it if it didn’t pass the filter I had set up. It worked for the first two days, and then something broke.
My extended family started to arrive Wednesday afternoon, and that’s when things started to deteriorate. My mom asked me to ride with her when she went to the airport to pick up my aunt and uncle. Since I didn’t have anything else going on (and why wouldn’t I go?), of course I agreed. Except my mother has become the worst driver I’ve ever seen. She’s quick on the gas pedal and heavy on the brakes, which meant I was tossed around her car (even with my seatbelt on) like a sack of potatoes. She disparaged my “lack of core strength” because I couldn’t keep myself from being thrown forward every time she’d slam on the brakes, but I honestly couldn’t help myself. It was that bad. All the while, she bitched about everyone else on the road, and the 15 minute drive seemed like an eternity. She dropped me off at the terminal (of the local tiny airport – my cousin was coming into the large international airport later in the evening) so I could go meet my aunt and uncle while she found a place to park. I was so happy to have other people to talk to because I could sense things were starting to go a bit sideways between me and my mother. I’ve learned, since we recovered from our big blowout, that my mother can only control herself for so long until her mouth lets loose. With the arrival of my aunt and uncle, that would give her two other people to focus on, so I knew I had more time.
They had a list of stores they “needed” to stop at on the way home, so while my mom and her brother braved the stores on the day before Thanksgiving, my aunt and I sat in the car and took advantage of the quiet time to catch up. She and my uncle were still very raw about the nastiness that occurred last Thanksgiving, but I did my best to assure her that my mom was in a better place this year. I explained that it felt to me like my mom was as back to “normal” as she could possibly be, and I wasn’t feeling the least bit uncomfortable, so they shouldn’t worry, either.
After three stops where various items where picked up, we finally made it back to my mom’s condo in time to head back out for dinner. My cousins weren’t going to be there in time, but my sister, brother-in-law, and niece were able to join the rest of us. It was actually pretty fun. Well, I say “fun,” but my mother’s behavior was starting to grate on everyone … especially after she had a giant margarita. My sister and my 15 year old niece are very good at ignoring my mother’s bad behavior, and I was smart enough to sit at the opposite end of the table. There was a point where, after some “look at me!” comment from my mother, that my niece and I made eye contact with the exact same annoyed look … and we burst out laughing. Like we had caught each other thinking the exact same thing at the exact same time, and we couldn’t help but laugh. Of course everyone asked why we were laughing, but we managed to pass it off without assigning it to anything my mother said or did.
Later that night, my aunt and I went to the airport to pick up my cousin and his girlfriend, and when we got home, my other cousin and his girlfriend (who had driven into town) had also arrived. There were 9 of us packed into my mom’s condo. She had given my husband and I her bedroom while she slept in her tiny “computer room,” while the rest of the crew fought over the 2 bedrooms and open loft area with a sofabed upstairs. It was close quarters for sure, but we all like each other so we made it work (and it was easy for me to say because I had my own room where I could escape).
That was Wednesday.
Thanksgiving morning, my uncle always insists on making a huge breakfast (and a huge mess). It drives my mom insane, but now that the Thanksgiving meal is held at my sisters house and not at hers, she is less bothered by the breakfast making production. But, she’s still bothered because, as I mentioned earlier, she can’t help herself. Once she started overhearing comments about her house – her toaster is too slow, the sink in the upstairs bathroom is awful (and it is, actually), the cousin/girlfriend who had to sleep in the loft got no sleep because they had no privacy and they could hear every little sound (including my mother’s noisy neighbors who she shares a wall) – she started to unravel. Her attitude turned irritable, and a little bit of her passive aggressiveness started to show.
I tried to stay out of the fray, but instead of responding to the negativity towards the ones who were spouting it, she turned on me. She is very opinionated, and she has a way of inserting her opinion and judgment into a conversation, even if she isn’t asked. And heaven help you if you don’t agree with her opinion or her memory of the situation because then you are WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.
It was at this point that I started to lose my tenuous grip on the sense of calm I had tried to cultivate, and I started to get annoyed. And I heard every negative comment I had previously turned a deaf ear towards, and I was pissed off.
By Friday, which is traditionally the family “day of movies,” I kept my distance as much as possible. We went to see two movies (Knives Out and Ford vs Ferrari), so I was able to have a couple of blissful hours of not having to talk to anyone. But, by Friday evening, the whole family assembled again for leftovers, so I was forced into being social.
You guys – I’ve spent the better part of a year living in the woods by myself, with only my husband as a daily conversational outlet, and I’m perfectly happy. Being within 10 feet of 9 people for 3 days put me near my breaking point, and then add my mother and her negativity, and I felt like a trapped dog. On the drive from my mom’s place to my sisters (which is about 2 miles), I almost lost my shit. I was close to tears (after my mother went in on my driving ability – which was just another one of her opinions she felt the need to share but didn’t have anything to do with me at all, or my driving ability), and all I wanted to do was drop the carload of people off and then drive away into the night by myself.
But, I couldn’t. I desperately wanted to be by myself, but I couldn’t. No one would understand (except for my husband), and I couldn’t explain it to them in a way they could understand. All they know is that they enjoy my company and they like being around me, but they don’t understand anxiety or needing to have alone time. People who don’t suffer from anxiety or depression just don’t understand – you can’t just “suck it up” and “be happy.” If it were that simple, it wouldn’t be an epidemic. Sure, you can make certain choices to be grounded or focus on positivity, but sometimes your brain just doesn’t allow it. I wish it were that easy, but it’s not, and it wasn’t the time to try and explain it to a bunch of people who just don’t get it.
So, I made my plate of leftovers and sat in a room by myself … until my husband found me, and then my aunt found the both of us. We had a nice conversation and I was able to pass through the panic of the drive over and settle down. The fact that my mother and the rest of the gang was in the other room was also comforting because I didn’t have to make conversation or dodge verbal jabs.
Due to an impending winter storm that was heading towards my house late Saturday afternoon/evening, I was able to explain the need to leave early Saturday morning instead of staying another whole day/night. Originally, we had planned to stay until Sunday, and my mother wasn’t happy that we were leaving “early,” but I didn’t care. I knew if I stayed that it would be a bad scene, and I was having a hard time keeping myself together as it was. It was time to go home.
I was never so happy to get up and start a 7 hour drive at 8am as I was on Saturday. I took that drive time to decompress, acknowledge the good (seeing my family) and bad (mom’s snarky commentary), and let it go. And unless there is some sort of miracle and jobs are procured before Christmas, I’m doing it all over again for Christmas …
What’s the definition of insanity again?