Between the years - familied out and too much sugar in the system....

It s that weird time of the year. The Christmas buzz is over, the New Year only a couple of days away - next year is really next week. New Years resolutions float around and people have this dazed look in their eyes - a result of too much food and too much family contact. Which brings me right to the point: Family. Contact. With my mother on a plane back to Germany I am left with my normal psycho cocktail of emotions: sadness, relief, guilt and hope that next time everything will be easier.

How do other people do it? Spend happy family time together without diving head first into bottomless pools of unresolved childhood issues? How do they manage not to have their buttons pushed every time a mother makes that annoying chewing noise or a sister  monopolises every conversation with tales of her achievements?  Most people either don't  talk about their true feelings about family or they don't have my issues, which I can not believe - because - I really do not want to believe it.

The unchallenged fact as far as family goes is that everybody has to love each other no matter what. We don't have to like each other, we don't even have to know the next thing about each other - but we sure love each other. If things are tense or hostile or outright confrontational, we try and smooth them over, get through the afternoon/holiday as best we can and try not to think about it for the rest of the year. But we don't talk about it. And nothing ever seems to change. Or does it?

In movies with actors like Diane Keaton, Michele Pfeiffer or Julia Roberts, families, no matter how dysfunctional,  all seem to be working towards one final happy family end. They shout and scream at each other in the process, but they eventually sort their differences out and end up really understanding and loving each other happily ever after.

In the reality I see, people get stuck at the shouting and screaming part and from there move straight on to resignation and repetition. Year after year, holiday after holiday. Family time after family time. What is it with families that we just don't seem to get over our old patterns and move on to just being people together?

Or more importantly what can I do so that my children won't suffer through a holiday with me wishing they were elsewhere but at the same time finding the thought of being without me deeply sad and disturbing? 

I don't really have an answer. What I know is that I can not change my family. I have to find out what is good and bad for me when it comes to spending time with them. And be honest about it. Without being hurtful.  Today I can  try to look at my mother not so much as the mother who failed me in so many ways but see the person she is now: The grandmother my children adore; the eccentric old lady who in some ways can even be a role model for me on how to get older and still surprise the world; the person with whom I share the longest history and the most complex of feelings. I don't have to work all these feelings out anymore and analyse them to death. Today I  want to accept the boundaries and limitations of our existing relationship and be able to express them.

When she  pushes my buttons and my first instinct is to grab the next kitchen utensil and do a Jack Nicholson impersonation, I get over this moment as quickly and calmly as possible by  telling her that she needs to shut up now. Which she sometimes does and sometimes does not get. But the important thing is that I now know and say what I need. It doesn't make us love each other happily ever after but the ground does not open up and swallow me either.  It just makes it easier to be together. And yes,  this is still what I want. Spend time with her, let my children know their Grannie, and know that we are in each other's lives.

With my mother I am one step further this year as we worked out that 2 weeks are really the limit for both of us. And as I say good bye to her now from my seat in cyberspace my psycho cocktail of relief, sadness, guilt and hope is turning into a utterly ambivalent :  Miss you already!


Matti said…
Happy new year, Tinchen.
Good for you and Mummchen that you are in each others lives. You are for a REASON and every little insight will bring you further along your way to a "happier YOU'.
No matter what past, present or future, we all have to deal with it and we are doing it as best we can. The key to us being more content is probably to be more accepting, un-judgemental and LOVING. That's what matters in the end.
Hermann Hesse puts it in very simple and powerful words: 'Wer lieben kann ist Gluecklich'
(Who is able to love is happy).

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