On Thanksgiving day when I was eleven, we had a pretty good holiday dinner and a pretty good time with relatives, which means not very good at all and with wonderful food. It has snowed over night, about four inches of pure white snow and it was so shiny and bright outside. That clarity of the day outside stays bright in my mind; the beauty, the purity, the joy.
At holidays my adult siblings would return. I never understood why they were so interested in showing up, being mouthy and cruel, eating tons of food, and leaving an emotional abuse wake in their passing. I suppose that answers that question.
I’ve finally concluded, through my life experiences, that cruel adults want to be cruel to children, or they wouldn’t be. From my experiences: it fuels them, it excites them, and they do it because they get something huge and sustaining from it.
Most holidays like this were buffet style; serve yourself. My mother would limit my food, making me desperate for food most of my childhood and so a day with a full table of food that I could pick and choose from was sort of my idea of heaven.I could avoid all my trigger foods that my mother used to try to force on me and make me eat.
I would serve my own plate and go sit down in the living room, as far away from all of them as possible. Some older siblings would follow me in, unfortunately, looking for easy prey, making fun of me, upsetting my stomach, making my life miserable, accusing me of being “too sensitive” when they saw any kind of reaction.
If either of my parents were still alive I don’t believe that I would have any contact with either of them or go to any family functions. Both of my parents were hateful emotional and verbal abusers. My mother especially would encourage and reward hateful speech towards one another, from the time I was very tiny.
I tried for all of my childhood and for many many years to change that dysfunctional alcoholic dynamic that victimizes others with glee. About ten years ago I decided I would never go through that again at holidays. I spent over nine years in a row alone on all the major holidays, at major mealtimes. I would always tell myself, you may be lonely, but you are not being abused, I won’t let them abuse you again on a day when we can make our own happiness. I tell myself now, you were always alone, they were just there abusing you while you were lonely and abandoned in the same house. No more. Never again.
Last holiday season I spent time with some of my family of origin members. It went okay. But let me just say it is not because they are all healthy now. It is not because I am all healed up. It is not because I have great boundaries and have really good techniques for dealing with my siblings. It’s just that I am willing to walk out the door and never come back, they get no more chances, they know that and I don’t think that would stop them from horrifically verbally abusing me if one of them wanted to. I just know how much shit I will put up with from them and that I will walk out forever.
It doesn’t change them. Nothing has really ever really changed them. They would have to completely change their lives, their beliefs, their behaviors, their actions, their words, their tone, their intents. And they don’t want to. They don’t want to do healing work and that is their choice. But I am worth them changing for. I am worth being treated with love, respect, rules, limitations, and boundaries.
I am changed. But my being changed doesn’t protect me from abuse, not from any kind of abuse, no matter what the victim blamers say. I just have more tools in my tool kit of life and ways of coping, but for them. I just won’t spend more holidays being their victim.
Healing from childhood abuse and developing boundaries still doesn’t always guarantee a safe and abuse free holiday environment. I’ve learned that life is an experiment in balance and functionality, especially with family of origin. Okay, bring it on. As I often say in my mind about them when they cross a boundary, go in peace, but just go.