Holidays are a time for thanksgiving; for gratitude of all the gifts, family, and friends in our lives. Then why is it that family gatherings are inevitably like a drunken family therapy session? I cannot be the only person to both dread, and look forward to, spending the least amount of time humanly possible with my entire family. Don’t get me wrong, I love each of them dearly. Just not all of them together. I look forward to opportunities my children can create memories with each of them. But I am always hoping lots of wine will be served, and that for once, I learn to keep my mouth shut. (Which I don’t, by the way.)
I’ve realized I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. I vow every single time to NOT fall into old family dynamics and I promise myself I WILL act my age and be appropriate. And when I’m so proud of myself that I’ve shown how evolved I have become, they get so pissed off. I’m not playing the expected role in this show. And they are not happy with this sudden and unwelcome change. Yet in the many moments I fail at trying to rise above it all, I still lose. I get the “Oh look, there she goes again. Of course she would…..”
I experienced how ingrained these family dynamics were on a trip abroad a few years ago with my entire family. For two weeks we traveled together and were inseparable. (I am pretty sure I was drunk when I agreed this would be a fantastic idea.) Those two weeks were the loneliest and most isolated days of my entire life. I was able to step back and watch all the dynamics play out. And I realized in sad horror that we all have roles to play; and that the scapegoat was always me or my father. My mother and sisters have their own brand of Bat-Shit Crazy going on, but somehow, my father and I have been assigned the Bad Guy roles. I felt so lonely because my personality and value as a person did not matter nearly as much as the role I had been assigned.
This is a really hard dynamic to break free from when no one else in the group wants to shake things up. After all, whose family would it be then? If we change the dynamics and the expected roles that we’ve grown up with, and that we’ve grown into, who are we? I guess that is something to be thankful for then–a place to easily fit into that feels like home. Like family. There is nothing else like it. Thank God…