When I struggle emotionally, I’m prone to feel like a freak, utterly unrelatable, like no one else suffers from my particular malady, be it anger explosions or self-loathing or battling envy.
And man, what is up with the holidays and emotion overload? I swear I start off excited to enjoy a special holiday with my family but many times, I sabotage my own happiness.
On Friday night before Fourth of July Monday, we set off for K’s mom’s house in CT. During the tornado watch. But we didn’t just set off as easily as that prior sentence sounds. I only worked on Monday so that I can be with the kids the rest of the week after M’s school let out Tuesday at noon . We kept active and social with playground runs, a trip to MoMA, and playdates, but by Friday, I was feeling agitated. Spent.
When K got home that night, I was already in a mood. I was taking the boys’ not listening too personally. Also, unbeknownst to me, I was nervous about our CT weekend, an emotional minefield. We hadn’t seen his brother’s family in too long so I became nervous and also subconsciously flashbacked to how unsafe I had felt with these in-laws in the past (though we are now pleasant with each other the few times we meet up, thank you Lawd).
During a jog around the neighborhood after K got home to relieve me, the damn sabotage cycle commenced.
My thought balloon formed as I jogged: “Why can’t I just stay home? That way, I don’t have to feel nervous and not be all self-conscious about how to do my face while on this other planet called Greenwich. It doesn’t have to be terrible like when K and I had a huge fight on a previous holiday and they actually left without me. Why can’t I calmly just state that I am sorry to cancel but I will be taking three days for myself, without it turning into drama?”
But I knew I was wrong. I had agreed to this CT weekend weeks ago and part of our recurring fight cycle is that for holidays, emotions overwhelm me and I want to bone out, when most of the time, word is bond for me and I do NOT flake.
I have open wounds about living across the country from my own family and friends for almost every holiday, previous holiday sabotaging and fight cycles, childhood wounds and all sorts of lovely shit.
Only in hindsight, as in NOW, as I write this four days later, I realize that I wanted K to connect and engage me after my tough day with the kids. Instead, because he does not get as emotionally overwhelmed when taking care of them (he advises that I learn to tune them out sometimes), he does not fully know how to connect with me when I am pissy about a bad afternoon with them. Pissy because I feel like I failed, pissy because I feel like I’m not the more patient version of myself from just a few years ago.
And he also wants to give me space to breathe. I want that too but I also want him to come alongside me and help me untangle my feelings.
So when I said I may stay back, I think I wanted him to affirm me. I wanted him to say, “You can gift yourself with some Me Time next week, I assure you, but this holiday weekend, I beg of you, to please join us because *we are not the same without you.* We need you. You bring a fun spirit to our family and make everything more magical. I know you are feeling nervous about CT and I understand, but I will not abandon you or leave you to otherwise fend for yourself if you feelin’ unsafe…” (BECAUSE YES, DON’T ALL MEN SPEAK JUST LIKE OPRAH?)
To K’s credit, he did try to cobble together a version of this statement but he also got frustrated when we started squabbling and said what I could not take at the time: “Don’t worry, we will be JUST FINE without you. No problem. You will just regret not coming because you love to be out in nature and you will miss out on your kids.”
I was hurt so I lashed out, “FINE?! NO PROB?! MISS OUT ON NATURE?! Oh, don’t worry about me! I can get with some nature all by my damn self while you guys are just fine without me in CT! AND I AM SO FUN. I BRING THE FUN TO THIS FAMILY.” (See? When I don’t get affirmed, I start affirming myself but also insulting K, who is pretty damn fun.)
So many times, my emotional response is to skip Sadness and land on Anger. Sadness feels like it could crack me wide open. Sadness feels like I have no power. Anger deceives me into thinking I have power in the explosive fireworks I unleash.
After much delay, we got on the road late at night. Not all was well but at least I was able to get in the car this time. I felt like a failure for keeping the boys waiting as we fought, and now that M is bigger, he even started imploring me to join them on the CT trip and laying out reasons why I should go. It hurt my heart to hear him try to persuade me.
Going forward, I need to be able to VULNERABLY take a risk and say, “K, I am feeling all kinds of things re CT especially after a tough afternoon with the boys. Can you please remind me of why I should go and also why I am needed in this family, though you seem to be able to handle it all without me?”
But OMG, who can speak like that?! I think I am a very raw and vulnerable person but to ask exactly for what you need emotionally!? It feels like I am giving him ALL THE ANSWERS on the Scantron test so all the correct “answers” are cheating.
To be continued…I hope? Maybe. (Because I gotta write about Saturday, too).
P.S. In this age of social media, I need to remind those who are struggling during the holidays to know that the perfect red-white-and-blue photos are only part of the story. Beautiful memories WERE created but there are demons to slay to get to the Kodak moments. At least with me and my family.