Christmas is crazy isn’t it? I don’t know why more people don’t just cry uncle and start doing what they want for the holiday instead of what they think they have to do. Maybe they just haven’t hit that brick wall yet. I hit the wall years ago thanks to the Terrible Job. And now I am slowly building a celebration that makes sense and has a quieter kind of joy to it.
There was a bit of a glitch to deal with last week, though. My aunt in Texas sent me a second Christmas card which kind of startled me.
Then I opened it and got really pissed off.
Inside was a $25 gift certificate for IHOP. The Christmas card contained her instructions for what I was to do with the certificate. She wanted me to enjoy lunch with my mother on her. She hoped my mother would learn someday that people are more important than things. As “your wise aunt” has already discovered.
Knowing what I know about the terrible rift in their relationship, I found this to be incredibly condescending. And I was very resentful that she elected to put me in the middle of it as her peacemaker. Did she really think I would team up with her against my own mother?
Old me would not have seen this boundary violation for what it is. Old me would have obediently followed her instructions and then gotten hugely whomped on by my mother who would have been more than happy to vent all the toxins right back on me. Old me would have been buried in the unhealthiness of both sisters and a rift that had absolutely nothing to do with me.
Phew. Old me is gone. But new me did not know how to make this into a fun or satisfying mission. Life is just messy I guess.
I had to think for a couple days about what to say in my note when I sent the card back. I came up with a benign yet truthful explanation for why I was returning the gift card. Personally I thought my note was a work of art.
But my aunt was pissed. She emailed her response to my note. It contained an interesting mix of charm and aggression–what we call “stroke-slap” at our house. Stroke-slap is a way of putting someone in their place without totally alienating them. Sort of like the Stockholm Syndrome without having to physically hold someone hostage.
Needless to say, the email did not win me over to her “side”. I am not without a certain amount of understanding of why she would be angry with her sister (who has been my very own mother all these years). I can understand both sides and I can understand how it all came to be as the inevitable result of being raised by my grandmother who had untreated bi-polar depression.
We ALL need healing. We ALL need to build a self from the ground up since that process got interrupted very early in life. And we pretty much each will have to do this individually.
Or maybe parallel-ly would work better. That should be a word because it is definitely a thing that I am trying to do. It’s my way of being in relationship with someone who does not understand boundaries WHILE I am building the necessary boundaries. And hoping that some bit of it will sink in so that the other person can begin to see that boundaries are a thing and that they are good.
Boundaries have the potential to liberate a soul. And that is what we all want even if we don’t realize it.
My response to the somewhat astonishing email was short and to the point.
And she responded AGAIN with the stroke-slap business.
I decided to let her have the last word which was a smiley emoticon.
If nothing else, I can now see when I am in over my head with people.
Yes, this did bring me down while it was happening. Luckily I have such low expectations of Christmas that feeling down wasn’t exactly a tragedy for me. I let it flow and did some comforting self-talk and Voila! The down feeling gradually receded on its own. This healing thing is really happening! It’s taking a long time but it’s happening.
This Christmas just might be a turning point in the journey.