The journey of my broken marriage has some real darkness, and difficult holidays aren’t necessarily real darkness (perspective). I realize as I write this post how many old pains, deep wounds there are to mend. Please bear with me as I work through these things. I’m sorry if I seem trivial…and thank you for visiting.
Last night. In a beautiful connection, we felt each other and held each other and caressed each other. It was significant because Christmas was unexpectedly challenging-actually, painful. We struggled to stay connected over the last couple weeks, and I spiraled into a pretty dark place.
Last Christmas, the first following the discovery that much of my married life had been a sham, we fled. Husband, our three boys and I loaded up in the car and drove 20 hours to meet up with daughter and her fiancé, and to meet his family. It was a completely different environment, including places we’d never been (Adirondacks), places we love (NYC), meeting delightful new family and friends and a focus on the upcoming nuptials of daughter and fiancé. From beginning to end, the holiday season was entirely different than any year since our marriage, and our little family unit worked hard together to make it all work – and it did.
This year, Husband offered to let me “drive” the decisions for what our Christmas would look like, and I considered traveling again but having just hosted a wedding, paying for college for two students and thinking I was ready, I decided we could return to old traditions. The Christmas Eve tradition, in particular, in which we go to the in-laws along with 60 other people and lots of booze and presents and brokenness.
It was excruciatingly difficult to walk through the path and actions we had taken for the majority of our marriage, smiling and nodding at all the folks. The Christmas Eve events had always been marked with pain for me: my MIL had decided after year one of our marriage that I was the HATED ONE, and everyone else either agreed, or avoided me so year after year it was a miserable experience that I endured for HUSBAND and our children.
Everything in our world is so dramatically different than it was in December 2013, yet that scene played out just the same as it always had through the many years of our shared life. The same masks were tightly adhered to each of the players in the drama. Same words were falling out of their mouths. Same pretenses and cliques and ridiculous bullshit.
BUT IT IS ALL SO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.
Being present in the PRESENT that looked so much like that past was literal crazy-making. Then, MIL does her annual ding ding ding time…listen to ME because I pretend “it is all about Him and all about others” time…and then pats herself on the back for the good deeds she has done over the past year…
And this night, she reports her faith leader has declared the upcoming year the Year Of Jubilee. What does it MEAN? It means, she tells us, that the year is to be marked with mercy. MIL continues on, reading a description of what mercy is.
You know, the one who was WRONGED from head to toe, beginning to end, for 25 years and chose not to seek retribution. Who chose not to seek revenge. Who chose to, despite her own personal and gut-wrenching pain and ache, to care for her husband, and to find a way to somehow include the lying, nasty, manipulative group who are his family in their lives…in my life. That would be me.
But the self-righteous MIL went on and read a whole page of words, smug look on her face, choosing from time-to-time to look at me (and she normally looks anywhere BUT me). Not with kindness or humility or appreciation, but with nasty little brows raised high in loftiness, daring me to forgive – her? Her son? It was so incredibly sickening; eventually I could not allow myself to look at her, and instead looked around the room. Such fraud played out before our eyes, but in this sick family system, no one calls BULL SHIT. This woman, who slays people with her tongue, lies and carries out retributive actions on so many, is educating us – ME – on mercy and forgiveness. And everyone stands there and nods despite having been victimized by her at least once through the years.
I’m SICK, literally sick.
Then, the annual gift-giving. HUSBAND and I had contributed to the group gift for MIL and FIL, but in addition, I gave MIL three more gifts, wrapped in lovely wrapping accompanied by personal notes. The frenzy of gift-giving happened, the 15 cousins exchanging, and then MIL giving out the child/in-law and grandchild gifts…there were diamond earrings and canvas photos and elaborate American Girl sets. Nothing for my kiddos, nothing for me. MIL comes along and says, Oh HUSBAND, come out here with me so I can give you your gift, and presents him with some camo chair for hunting. Nothing for our kids, nothing for me. MIL comes along and hands me 3 ornaments saying daughter already got hers, nothing for our kids, nothing for me. We are getting ready to go, MIL says DON’T LEAVE YET, I NEED ALL MY CHILDREN NOW BACK HERE and someone says Should Spouses Come? And MIL says NO! Off they go, to the back of the house with MIL’s oblivious husband/FIL remaining at the party, at the bar, engaged in conversation and laughter while the drama goes on around him. HUSBAND returns, we gather ourselves and our kids and our cousin gifts and our sister-brother gifts and make our way to the door…which takes 20 minutes…and eventually tell MIL goodbye (and she looks at me with a beady piercing stare and says curtly Good Night, stiffly throwing her arms toward me) and thank you and still nothing for our kids, nothing for me.
In the car, HUSBAND asks our kids if their grandmother gave them a gift.
No. They answer.
But it’s our fault I guess, says the youngest. Our fault because she didn’t know we were coming since you didn’t RSVP.
Stunning silence. I’m stunned, and can only remain silent.
My baby-boy has been made to believe by MIL – his GRANDMOTHER – that if he doesn’t do things JUST SO – according to her rulebook or expectations, then he shouldn’t expect a gift. From his grandmother. On Christmas.
And it’s his fault.
And he’s okay with all that.
I realize how very very very broken my children are. I realize how very very very broken HER children are. This is their normal, and it is so not-normal, or loving, or kind, or merciful. But this is HUSBAND’s life experience, what shaped him, and is now – to a lesser degree – shaping our children.
There is so much work to be done to right the wrongs that started long ago.
Incidentally, there were gifts. When we got home, there was a bag that HUSBAND thought was from his SIL, but there were gifts inside for the boys and me:
Each boy got a hoodie, and a book on how to be a gentleman. And there was a $25 gift certificate to each for a fast-food chain. And for me? 8 Christmas-decorated hard plastic luncheon-sized plates.
I’m regifting the plates next year. Regifting them to MIL, since she obviously really liked them.
Finally, last night wrapped in HUSBAND’s arms, I began to see light again. I am thankful for that.