Normally, I tend to take obligations to others or “disciplinary” obligations to myself more seriously than obligations to care for myself. I made some good progress with the self care obligations this past week. I came down with a cold this weekend. I felt guilty about not going into work, about not going to the gym and having to leave the office party earlier. But I realize I often get sick around Christmas because I don’t take care of myself well enough early on. Aside from the fact that I end up feeling worse and sometimes end up with sinus infections, I still end up having to take time away from these things (work, exercise). In the case of exercise, even longer because I didn’t take care of myself properly at the beginning. So I did something I rarely do, I called in sick at the start of the cold. I excused myself from exercise for a few days and generally gave myself permission to take it easier before/after work when I returned to work. Still have a bit of a cold, but I feel a lot better and I think I’ll get over this sooner. I’m improving when it comes to listening to what my body’s trying to tell me and at self care.
Then there’s emotional self- care. I found out my great-aunt has decided along with the aunt who has issues that the aunt with issues will host Christmas. I’m not sure if this aunt (my mom’s sister) has a Personality Disorder or not, but there have been meltdowns with her on holidays (though not recently around me). And she’s living in a home which doesn’t hold pleasant holiday memories for either her kids, me or my brother. To avoid confusion, we’ll call my great aunt, Aunt Mary and my mother’s sister Aunt Rhoda. And my mom & Aunt Rhoda’s cousin will be Cousin Mimi. None of the names here are anyone’s real names, just names I’ve given to make this easier to follow.
Aunt Rhoda insists we had idyllic holiday celebrations at her place, even though the reality is there was excessive drinking and not the happy kind. I’m talking the it ends in tears and harsh words, threats, drunken driving home kind. At least once, we kids were all outside in our coats in the dark and cold because it got so bad. My uncle was also really abusive to his kids year round. While she hasn’t come out and said so, I think Anne (Rhoda’s daughter) understandably doesn’t want to spend her holidays at the old childhood house o’ pain. She does, however, include Aunt Rhoda in any plans she makes. But you know the personality disordered, it’s never good enough. If Anne doesn’t go along with Aunt Rhoda hosting at the old house o’ pain, Aunt Rhoda blows up, stops talking to her and smears her to the whole family. And she ends up spending whichever holiday it is with Aunt Mary. Personally, having been the target of smear campaigns, I’m sick of hearing them. I change the subject to keep the peace but what I really want to say is, “for the love of all that’s holy, own your own stuff, start working on it and stop scapegoating your daughter.” Of course Aunt Rhoda’s son is the golden child, which kind of reminds me of my own Family of Origin dynamic.
We already have our hands full dealing with my mom/Aunt Rhoda’s cousin, Cousin Mimi. Once I made the mistake of letting Mimi know I was going to another city where a mutual relative lived for a work conference. I compounded that error by inviting her to a social event I had an extra ticket for. When I greeted a former male co-worker the way I had a former female co-worker (nothing inappropriate), Mimi said to the head of my department at the time, “looks like my cousin’s getting lucky tonight! ” Mimi has to be the center of attention at all times or she starts pouting and giving people dirty looks. She will gather info on people and then ambush them with it (yes, I’ve learned to stop giving her info!, lol 🙂
For some reason, Aunt Mary, who is a basically sane, decent and kind person insists on having these 2 over for holidays which she usually hosts. I really don’t like being around either one of them, but I’m not going to let them keep me from my Aunt Mary or her sons & her son’s partner. I enjoy spending time with them.
Last year when the plans changed for Aunt Rhoda to host, I let Aunt Mary know that if there were any meltdowns or bad behavior, I was out of there. Fortunately, I didn’t have to follow through, but it felt good to know I wasn’t “trapped” there and I have the power to leave if things got bad, unlike when I was a child. But I did feel guilty that Aunt Mary & one son took a car service because when they asked about sharing a ride, I said, I’d be willing to, but if it got bad enough to leave, they’d either need to take car service home or leave with me.
This year I’m giving them the same choice and I don’t even feel guilty about it. I’ve had too many holidays ruined by out of control behavior & emotions, if it means leaving this gathering and going to a friend’s home instead, I’ll do it.
It just makes me wonder why so many people put up with bad behavior over the holidays. I’m not saying everyone has to be all merry and jolly, but how about civil? Is that so hard?