As a kid, whenever I would tell my friends that my parents were divorced, their automatic reaction was something along the lines of, “Well at least you get two Christmases, right? Two Birthdays… Two of everything… So cool.” And even as a kid, I recognized that this was a small consolation prize for what being a child of divorce was actually like, and that in reality, whenever the holidays came up, it would be much less “cool” than the other kids imagined.
You see, after my parents divorced, my mom and I moved halfway across the country. As a kid, my mom was my other half. Where most kids of a best friend their own age, I had my mother. She was the one constant I could rely on. When it was time to travel halfway across the country to spend every other holiday with my dad, it wasn’t exciting or cool to me—it was just difficult. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my mom later told me that my anxiety about the holidays would make me physically ill. Almost every holiday I spent split between families, I had some kind of sickness. The flu, strep throat, bronchitis, mononucleosis. One year I coughed so much that I pulled a muscle in my neck and could barely move for the entirety of the holiday break.
You would think that growing up would make the holidays a little bit easier, but to be honest? It hasn’t. I’m 29 years old, and single as hell, so when it comes to the holidays, I’m left with the same split that I was as a kid. Mom or Dad. Only now that I’m an adult, the decisions aren’t made for me. I’m the one who has to choose. And because I hate making decisions (yes, I’m one of those awful indecisive types), and because I feel guilty about making a choice (afraid I’m going to hurt someone’s feelings), I usually wind up spreading myself thin and trying to make everyone happy. Which in turn, makes me very unhappy.
This year, I have siblings on both sides coming in from out of town, both of whom I haven’t seen in awhile, and both sides of my family opening the door with invitations. And naturally, I want to make it all work. I’m a people-pleaser. I want to see both sides of my family, but I also really, really need this holiday to be an actual holiday. I don’t know about you, but I need a freaking break. Between work, my personal life, and this residual election anxiety, I need some downtime. And if I’m honest with myself, I know that downtime does not include spending an extra six hours of back and forth on the interstate to see both of my families on Thanksgiving Day. Because I’m the one who winds up tired, and cranky, and me tired and cranky? It’s not a gift to anyone, let alone myself.
This fall, I’ve been particularly stressed out, even sans holiday plans. To top it all off, when the election came down, I knew I needed to focus this Holiday season in particular on recuperation, rather than using it as an attempt to appease both sides of my family. So rather than trying to cover all of my bases this holiday season and spreading myself thinner than the last sliver of butter on your dinner roll, I’m rewriting my holiday season to suit me. I’m relegating my anxiety to the back seat, and letting myself take the wheel. This year, it’ll be a tale of one turkey. I’ll be enjoying Thanksgiving with my mother, stepfather, and two younger brothers. And I’ll see the other half of my family a few days later. Because when it comes down to it, Thanksgiving isn’t about a single day. It’s about what you’re thankful for. I’m thankful for every facet of my crazy, disjointed family, which means that I’m giving them both their due, without trying to do it all in one day. We’ll FaceTime on Thursday while stuffing our faces with mashed potatoes and gravy, and there will be plenty of leftovers for me by the time I get to see them face to face. (At least I’m hoping. My dad makes a mean pumpkin pie.)
Once I laid out the plan for everyone, I realized that I was the one who had the hardest time with trying to split the Holidays in two. That I’ve been the one putting an immense amount of pressure on myself in trying to make it all work. And that everyone else will be happy to see me when they see me, as long as they get to see me eventually. Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of growing up and growing into myself has been learning how to make decisions for myself, and learning that when it comes down to it, nobody else is going to make those decisions for you. But for the first time, I feel like I’ve made the right decision by me, and I know that this holiday season is going to be easier because of it.
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