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I know I’ve posted about this before, but I really hate the holidays. In years past, the ludicrous production made over a single day on the calendar manages to cram ridiculous amounts of stress into my brain. I’ve ranted before about failed attempts to please everyone on the holidays, and this year, I’ve sworn it will be different.

Although, I’ve made this promise to myself before, I suppose I never do learn my lesson. Last year, after all, I had set myself up for an essentially stress free holiday and it went to pot in nanoseconds. The saddest part of it was that I didn’t anticipate it coming, and I really should have.

I didn’t post about it at the time, but it was my first Christmas living in estrangement from my mother. As many of my regular readers will recall, this is not something I went into lightly, nor was it taken very well by members of my family. Still, it was a very painful time for me, and whatever forces that were at play during that time certainly made sure that I felt it.

The call came in from my brother (who lived with my mother at the time), but because I always have my phone on silent, I didn’t pick up. A few minutes later, he called back and left a voicemail and a nasty text. “C’mon, Mom’s in the hospital.”

Nothing makes your gut sink then seeing that information, regardless of how I felt about her as a person, how miserable I was in her company, how angry I was about my upbringing and how sad I felt over having to cut her out of my life. There was no way to describe how it made me felt. The implication, although unspoken in my brother’s communication, was that this was my fault.

Surely, this was the message she wanted to send me. I would find out a few days later the bare minimum of information I could stomach, which was that she’d had a grand mal seizure and was hospitalized Christmas morning. I imagine how scary it must have been for my brother to find her that way, feeling alone, scared, and panicked about what to do. He managed, obviously, since she apparently survived.

What I found out from my research is that sometimes these things just happen. And, it couldn’t have been my fault that it happened. However, the timing of the situation was just too convenient to be anything other than orchestrated on her part, at least to some degree. She has a habit of starving herself when she’s stressed out about something, which could have very well been going on when she realized I wasn’t going to respond to the messages she had sent herself and had sent on her behalf.

I also found that abusing alcohol can cause these to occur as well. My family is no stranger to the bottle (or boxed wine), and abusing alcohol could easily have contributed here. I imagined the many slurred phone calls I had endured from her in the months leading up to my decision to cut contact, how certain I was that this behavior had certainly not changed in my absence, only changed target.

Whatever the reason, the event happened, and the message from my family was abundantly clear: this was my fault. My line in the sand was being challenged and I was the jerk for making this happen. Logic and reason aside that I couldn’t have caused this, just as I couldn’t have cured cancer with a phone call, or something else just as ridiculously unbelievable, I couldn’t shake the dark cloud that now hung heavy over yet another ruined holiday.

As much as I work toward personal growth and health, the dysfunction will never leave me. I realize now, that the scars run deeper than I had previously known, cutting down to the bone. The sad truth is not that I’ll never get to have the Norman Rockwell ideal of a holiday, but I don’t even get the comedic, holiday movie crazy version of a holiday. Instead, I’m left with the most Kafka-esque version of the dark underbelly of the human experience. And people wonder why I get a bit cranky this time of year?