Thanksgiving: A Reminder of What I Don’t Want To Be

Thanksgiving is my annual reminder of what I don’t want.

Perhaps I ought to give a warning. Blogs and other publications traditionally offer warm-and-fuzzy, aren’t-I-blessed, isn’t-family-great posts around holidays. This isn’t one of those. Back to the story:

I returned from Thanksgiving, as always, far more stressed than ever. A lot of this is nobody’s fault. In addition to the fundamental unpleasantness of traveling long distances, big crowds in confined spaces are a personal nightmare of mine. While I like most of the 22 people who descended on my brother’s parents-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving, that doesn’t change the fact that there are 22 people in one house. There are limits to the amount of time you can spend in the bathroom. I’ve tested.

The crowd really wasn’t the big deal—it just helped fray the nerves I needed to deal with the real issue. You see, my immediate family is marked by, well, some really fucked-up power issues, often combined with a desire to pretend that demonstrations of power are actually acts of kindness and self-sacrifice. Being talked over, being told what I really mean and what I really think and what I really want, being given “advice” whose central component is how defective I am, having my plans changed on a whim, and receiving good old-fashioned temper tantrums… well, I don’t particularly want to relive them right now.

This holiday was relatively well-behaved, but after a lifetime, every little bit grates.

I have to admit, I don’t have good coping mechanisms. Stress-eating is a big problem (which is actively encouraged by certain parties). I breathe deeply, which does nothing, and I focus on playing with the nephews, which helps but can be exhausting.

In the past couple years I’ve also allowed myself to blow up (in words only) when someone deserves it. That scares me, to be honest. I don’t want to scream as randomly and regularly as I was screamed at growing up, which is why it took me 37 years to do it at all. (I made a vow to myself as a young child not to.) But it helps, and I’ve never shouted without provocation, and I usually don’t scream even with provocation, so I feel ok.

Despite that, after holidays with the family, I arrive home frazzled, bloated, and sick.

But this year, there is a very slight upside, because I realize that the experience is a reminder of what I don’t want. I don’t want to be a constant shouter or shoutee. I don’t want a life where solitude is impossible. As much as I love my nephews, I don’t want kids of my own. I don’t want food to be the crutch (and weapon) it has always been. And above all, I don’t want the powerlessness, worthlessness, and respectlessness I always feel with certain family members.

Can any good come of this reminder? That’s a trickier question. Being frazzled, bloated, and sick are self-sustaining conditions. The weekend helped to remind me of some of what I do want, but it comes with the reminder of my weaknesses and vulnerabilities too. And all the inspirational memes in the world don’t take those weights off my throat.

I feel like I should make a dick joke to wash away some of the bleakness. But that’s beneath me. Instead, I’ll just eat a banana, dipped in yogurt, and await the morrow.

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