Home Again

Wow, it feels like we were gone a month.

Enough happened on this trip to make it a pretty miserable experience. We had some tense moments with family, including two instances where I lost my cool. I saw siblings being punished for meaningless reasons. I saw my kids requests or interests get ignored by little aunts and uncles who don’t know what it means to have their own interests or requests respected. I had the usual weird comments from parents on how I had “been their most difficult child” ( So um, the child who didn’t drink, smoke, do drugs, go anywhere, have any friends, never dated much less became sexually active, was somehow the most difficult?) and how they know me better than I know myself (strange how that kind of statement still kind of freaks me out). I watched relatives at Thanksgiving Dinner make cheap shots at each other and argue about how other people should be living their lives. We got the flu (violently I might add), missed the wedding we were in town for in the first place, and drove home in the wake of a terrible ice storm on a highway littered with jack-knifed semis.

Like I said, it was enough to be chalked up as a pretty bad “vacation”. But it was different.

Usually I am the kind of person that pretends everything is OK. I retreat into my shell and become silent. I get irritable and sarcastic. I am used to being that person, especially around my family, it’s how I deal with stress, it’s how I deal with emotion, it was how I functioned through childhood.

But in the last year, I have begun to change all of that. I’ve been letting the real me out. Sometimes that scares me, but mostly it’s been a very good thing. This is the first family visit where I actually let myself experience the days events as they happened, instead of bottling them inside without processing them. And this is the first time in a very long time that I have returned to my own home without immediately experiencing severe depression.

This was the first time staying with my family that I wasn’t overwhelmed with the guilty “need” to clean every room in the house. The first time I didn’t feel guilty for not cooking practically the entire Thanksgiving dinner, like I always have. I still felt sad when watching siblings get misunderstood or mistreated, but I this time I knew it wasn’t my fault. I knew there was nothing I could do differently to change that. The “facebook drama” was only brought up once by my sister, and I was able to successfully deflect and “agree to disagree”. And while watching my Aunt and Uncle angrily on the verge of divorce, I was struck with a thankfulness that somehow through everything, my parents still love each other.

I was successful in my efforts to keep my focus on my own little family. I cleaned and fed my kids, I kept my living area clean. I guided my kids, I gave my kids and husband attention. It was hard to find the time to take good care of myself, but in keeping my boundaries strong, I was doing just that.

I admit, I am not as strong as I’d like to be. It helped that I was out of the house almost the entire day that the seasonal baking was being done, otherwise I may have felt just as shamed as usual. I had to “disappear” for several hours on Thanksgiving afternoon, the tension was just getting to be too much for me. Towards the end of our visit, I felt as though I was going to have a panic attack from all of the emotions I had been experiencing, thankfully a lunch date out with my husband helped me to re-center.
I hope that at some point I can be the same exact person wherever I go whomever I’m with. On visits to my childhood home I still struggle with shutting down into the fearful, angry, submissive person I was as a teen. But in the end, this trip was better than I anticipated. I maintained my boundaries, I focused on the needs of myself, my husband and my kids, and I was as real as I’ve ever been.

 

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