The day before Thanksgiving my two sisters arrived in town. I love my sisters, I admire many things about them. They know how to make me laugh, and we love going to Target without our kids and spending hours aimlessly perusing the aisles, grateful for each other's companionship to offer opinions and just chat.
But my sisters are critical, judgmental, and elitist. Setting aside the fact that they would probably condemn my husband if they knew our circumstances, they still frequently make me feel small and inferior.
On Wednesday, less than 20 minutes after arriving at my mom's house and seeing my sister, she had already hurt my feelings. I went into a bathroom and cried for a few minutes. When I came out my mom offered some words of comfort and I regained composure. I stuck it out for the evening but by the time I got home I was a mess. I was irritated with Pete and took it out on him and the kids. Finally I went to bed a heap of tears. Then the crying got worse as my negative thoughts spiraled out of control.
"Why can't my family be kind? I've been so emotionally unstable the last couple weeks, I really need a safe place. I need some kindness. Shouldn't my family provide that for me? I don't want to spend Thanksgiving with those people! Thanksgiving! Why am I laying here in a pathetic sadness when I have so much to be grateful for? Why can't I just be happy? Why do I feel so sad?!"
After a good cry I forced myself to stop being judgmental of my feelings. It's okay to be sad, I told myself. And I fell asleep.
On Friday Pete and I had an argument about spending the right amount of time with each of our families. (An epic struggle that never relents around the holidays.) He said some things that hurt me and once again I felt overwhelmed by my emotions.
"Can't anyone just be kind to me?!? Why must there be conflict everywhere!?"
Even as I said it, I knew that conflict exists for me only when I choose to engage in it. But I was feeling so emotionally fragile, so incapable resisting the bait. I felt like I was on unstable ground, like I just couldn't find my emotional footing. Everything was just on the surface and any slight provocation put me over the edge.
I knew I wanted to enjoy this time with my family. I knew I didn't want to fight with Pete. Despite these two incidents I was able to still have a good time with my siblings and appreciate the holiday and the memories. But I didn't get through without applying some serious recovery principles. I gained enough insight to make it out okay, and I want to write this week about the following three ideas.
1- Why do I expect my family to fulfill my need for support? Why don't they?
2- What does it mean to not judge my feelings?
3- How do I love my family in a way that won't bring out the worst in me?