Although both my parents have passed away, I vividly remember the experience of going home for the holidays. I loved my parents very much, and they shared amazing qualities: intelligence, talent, humor, joie de vivre, and a complete adoration for me, their little girl.
They were also highly opinionated, drank too much, and were nothing short of manic.
When my mom was up, my dad was down. When my dad was down, my mother was at her best. My childhood was an emotional seesaw, and I reached the point of nausea at least once a day. Each year after I'd left the nest, I worked hard to make my peace with their behavior so I could enjoy our next vacation together. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes--often--it didn't.
The positive feelings would start in September, and build in velocity until I walked through their door the week before Christmas. But before I could get a good aerobics class in, chant my spiritual mantra ("Please God, help me accept my family just the way they are!"), or read my favorite passage from Rumi ("There is a place beyond right and wrong. I'll meet you there -- after I tell you how I really feel!"), the agony of our family karma (the crap we're here to work through) would begin. Despite the fact that we loved each other, our personalities clashed like Drew Barrymore ram-rodding her roller derby opponents in Whip It.
We were like a volcano only pretending to lay dormant. By the first dinner (and sometimes sooner), irritation, misunderstanding, judgment, blame, and often times statements we'd live to regret began to spew from the Robins crater. Here are a few of the beliefs we had about one another that caused hurt feelings:
* I thought my mother shouldn't be a snob because it embarrassed me
* My mother thought I was too nice and should be tougher if I was going to make it in this world
* My mother thought my father was a horse's ass and shouldn't watch hours of football and bet on the games
* My father thought my mother shouldn't nag and simply ignored her complaints and demands, which infuriated her
* I thought my father should show his love for me more - we never did anything together besides an occasional game of tennis
* My father felt beaten down and believed he shouldn't have to try harder
* My mother judged my fathers professional choices and thought he should make more money
* My mother criticized my professional choices and thought I should go back to school
* I felt my mother should never have given up on her career when she had me and that it was a pathetic choice
* I found my mother anxious and unnerving and thought she should find more inner peace
* She found me tense and quick to snap and told me I should give up my spiritual path because it clearly wasn't working
* I didn't like the person I became when we were together and felt I should be able to handle the holidays better
Family crap, as I like to call it, permeated every holiday. We talked civilly, we talked not so civilly, eventually we yelled, then we screamed, often we cried, and after all that, we made up. It was fun to be together. It was confusing to be together. It was exhausting to be together. I'd leave, needing a vacation from the endless drama of my family karma.
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May your holiday be blessed with the wonders of home, hearth and holiday cheer. Also the learning that is necessary to know how to see past personality differences to the love, agree to disagree, regardless of how passionate you feel about your position, and experience gratitude for the not so good times, knowing that they arise for your advancement.
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