Despising the holidays

My mom invited me to eat at her house on Christmas. I have no partner as an excuse. My kids are invited as well of course, or else they will be with ex.

I don’t want to go! I went last year because I hadn’t gone for two years. I know that she will feel ashamed if her husbands family is all there and I’m not there.

I suspect her horrible gossipy best friend would say something. My mom has always been a huge fan of gossip. It helps her feel important and somehow helps her individuate maybe?

Anyway. I haven’t responded. Part of me thinks I have a duty. As a decent human. To go and make plans to only stay for one hour. That would be the decent thing to do.

That’s really hard for me to do. Last year I showed up at the right time that they invited me. And then her husband’s kids showed up an hour late and her husband’s alcoholic brother kept saying he was going to come but several hours in said he was too tired. So we were all just waiting forever with everyone on their phones except for the gossipy friend and my mom. Eventually I went on my phone too because I didn’t need to prop up the gathering.

And the food was all terribly salty, fatty, and bland, no balance of acid, heat or spices. The gossipy friend got more opinionated as the wine flowed. My mom acted like the timid little sister to her gossipy friend and they teased and mocked my mom’s husband (sister of the best friend) for fun.

Ugh! So I do think it’s ok to say no but it’s polite to say yes because she has been generous to me and my kids throughout the year in whatever way she can.
Can you tell her you love she’s invited you as it is so kind but that you’d rather not be with the crowds and maybe go out to dinner her and your family the next night?
Thank you for the responses @Tinyflame @Freddyt @Charbella . I think those are good ideas about coming up with alternatives. That way she doesn’t feel dropped.

it sounds like she might feel like she needs an ally to deal with her 'friend'
lol. You would think, right? Nope—my mom is deep in codependent enabling land so being controlled and controlling others are her love languages.

It really helps me see—just in this moment—how that modeling and conditioning lead me to be blind to my enmeshment and entrapment with ex and my parents. Her dad was an alcoholic and her mom had a passive aggressive victim mentality. My mom told me she tried going to therapy once but couldn’t stop lying to the therapist. My T referrred to my mom as a collapsed person. She’s never lived alone in her life. Her world is codependency and gossip and criticism. She’s never depressed. Ever! She just lives that way and it suits her.

I love her because she’s my mom but I relate to her in a different way. I can’t trust her to stay present with me if I have a problem—she wants to fix it immediately and usually I end up consoling her or she does stuff later to fix it that I then have to deal with.

Well, I guess this thread is turning into me processing my mother! Lovely! I suppose there is a connection between mothers and the holidays—they are often saddled with the job of “doing Christmas.” As Kate Bush said, “Mother stands for comfort.” Even when Mother does it all wrong she is the one who is supposed to get it right.

I’ve mostly checked out from expecting any comfort from my mom—no completely. And can’t remember ever feeling comforted by my mom. I have memories of her trying to comfort me, and grateful that she was trying, but I don’t think it sank in. Ok, maybe when I was 6 and sick, her presence was comforting. But definitely not as an adult. Actually for adult me, I felt closest to her when I was gossiping with her. She really rewards that with her attention.

I don’t want that attention anymore. And she isn’t able to offer other kinds of attention. I don’t feel sad for her. It’s her life. And she’s not sad. She doesn’t show anger. She’s just kind of like a servant who teases her keepers. She is a huge fawner.

*Sigh*. That’s enough derailing the thread. Sorry. I think I was trying to figure out why it’s so hard for me to be around her, especially in the presence of her disfuncional crew, which is her husband’s family.
I used to prepare for such things with conversation changers. My dad was a judgemental self righteous member of a cult like religion, but he listened to basketball on the radio so I would spend a few weeks getting up to date listening to sports call in shows while I drove and reading some articles in the sports section, When he started listing the faults of the neighbors or his in laws, I would try to get him to talk about basketball. Some times it would be the go to tool 3 or 4 times in a day, so I had to learn to let him finish the subject and move on, otherwise I might deplete my total available topic list trying to keep it going.
When confronted with highly opinionated people in general, family in particular, I take the role of the student and learn all about why their opinions are so well grounded in fact and worthy of praise, even embarrassment that I may have thought differently, thanks so much for the education. Then I take a shower when I get home.
Everyone has a hobby and you don't know, maybe asking about it might turn into a long conversation that you can enjoy. No one asks me about my hobbies and I don't feel comfortable talking about mine unless asked. Ask them about theirs and the bottle is uncorked, it may even go around and you may get asked about yours. i will never make a quilt, but asking a quilter what it takes to get started and what was the biggest challenge you faced and the greatest achievement and pretty soon you may find yourself explaining the reasons that a grateful dead show is better than an arena rock show to an eighty year old woman like I did.
I had to deal with parents and family that were in a cult like religious torpor, maybe easier , maybe harder, but I survived it without any blood, don't give up on general principle, especially if you plan to out live them. It can be done, if you want it to happen and are willing to be mentally assaulted.
A mental image: Nature abhors a vacuum. When talking to an over opinionated self righteous moron, thats not a headache you feel coming on, thats just your brain being pulled into your forehead by the forces of nature trying to satisfy the vacuum in your assailants head
Thank you @enough !
highly opinionated people
Funny thing is that my mom is an enabler chameleon so her opinions are nonexistent and only conform to those of whomever she is talking to. Which is depressing.
Everyone has a hobby
You haven’t met my mom! Her hobbies are supporting the hobbies of those in her circle! The enabling strategy of social interaction is survival for sure. She’s basically a narcissist magnet—and she prefers it that way!
thanks so much for the education. Then I take a shower when I get home.
Love love this!! I recently stepped into a shit trap with the parent of one of my students by not doing just this. But I swear I learned this time!
I completely get this. This year I’ve decided not grouping the holidays will be helpful. My mom invited me to Thanksgiving and I did not answer. I took some time to think why I didn’t want to and why I should and decided I can handle Thanksgiving and I will wait and see how I feel about Christmas.

I also took some time to figure out what keeps me from enjoying the holidays because “mine were always perfect as a kid”. Well first I had to dissolve that fantasy. I mean mine were good in comparison to most of the world but also there was anxiety as a kid that I just didn’t realize. Just realizing there was a reason for not wanting to go helped. Then there’s the matter of it being the first Thanksgiving without my dad and a whole other level of wanting to avoid that but really it’s either I avoid holidays forever or I decide that they’re going to happen and he’s not going to be there and avoiding it, doesn’t change it. Hate that, but still true.

So I’m going, but I’ve also negotiated with myself that I will NOT be killing myself to make a bunch of food, because mounting stress on stress is a guaranteed way to make it harder. Now for the follow through portion of the plan…
FYI I SUCK at boundaries and accomplished none of these things.

My mom called me and asked me to do an extra dish, one I don’t even eat. I was so mad. So I said no, then she was upset and I felt bad so I offered to do the pie she was doing and she wanted homemade crust instead so I did that. Then I decided we’d need more rolls than the frozen ones which meant a big cost so I ended up making those. Then my mom had the nerve to ask why I didn’t just stick to my plan 🤬.

So now I’m trying to figure out how to get out of the big family Christmas without it being the end of the world to my family and extended family. Why can’t people just be okay with others wishes? I think I’m going to say I don’t want to go without my dad, because it’s true. But also I hate going with the big family, too many people and I’m dying of boredom. Now I just need the follow through component. I’ve considered asking the doctor for a note…I know I’m awful.
I need to respond and I can’t get it out.

“I’m not sure if I’ll be able to join or not.” That will buy me time but that could increase my anxiety as I don’t have a good excuse. (Judging my reasons.)

“Thank you for the invitation. I’ve noticed that I tend to get really anxious at gatherings. I would like to see you around Christmas though. Would you like to meet up for a meal the next day or so?”

“Thank you for the invite. I would like to celebrate Christmas with you but… (brain melt)”

I think I could do the second one. I noticed that her husband seems to want to be with her at all times (very much reminds me of my ex) and if he’s not with her then he has to schedule something for himself to feel okay. And that’s his preference. There’s always this kind of unspoken tension that I keep expecting to blow up some day about how I won’t hug him or that I don’t want to include him. But maybe I’m future tripping and I’m pretty sure they’re both smart enough to realize that such an outburst would backfire.

Ugh. I can send the second one. I don’t want to but I think I can.

“Thank you for the invitation. I tend to get really anxious at gatherings. I would like to see you around Christmas though. Would you like to meet up for a meal the next day or so?”
I did it. She hasn’t responded. I think I did it well enough. Doesn’t have to be perfect. I leaned on @Tinyflame ‘s wording. It said,
“I would like to see you for Christmas and I'm not trying to give you a hard time but I have a hard time with holiday gatherings. My preference is one-on-one time. How would you feel about meeting for a meal a day or two after Christmas? If daughter is with me she would come of course and I would do my best to bring the boys.”

*sigh*. I think it was good of me to come out and say that the gatherings are hard for me and put it on me not her. And I think offering an alternative that I would like was a good thing. Ugh. Uncomfortable but feels like clean communication and consideration.
She responded with appreciation for my honesty. Then she said something strange. That she understood because she felt that way when I was young. I have no interest in opening that box but I have an idea of what she means. My dad was awful to her and she was expected to go hang out with his family and pretend like everything was so great. I mean she kind of put that expectation on herself but at the same time she had no modeling of standing up for herself. She was conditioned to keep the peace at all costs. And she never developed the self-awareness to break out of that. Which is very sad. But I’m not taking on the role of mom’s savior or therapist. I will be there for her if she ever develops self-awareness. That is a very sad thing to say. Something to grieve. Ah well. Not right now.
I'm glad it's working out @OliveJewel . Really proud of you! Just a friendly suggestion- disregard if not helpful- but maybe it's possible to get together and not read in to it? That is, this for example:

Then she said something strange. That she understood because she felt that way when I was young.
might have simply meant she empathizes from a time in her life and she understands, vs blaming or questioning you.

Idk about you, but I've been wrong before. They say the human mind likes to pigeonhole, but people are exquisitely complex. Not that that means you have to forgive her, or even understand. Only to know that context is/ was critical: choices made under duress (external and internal; bills to pay, repercussions); beliefs; models; (lack of) support; desperation. anxiety, despair, illness be it physical or mental, stress, burn out, fear. One's private thoughts in their heart no one knows and weren't shared. It doesn't have to be pathological to be a deleterious choice, rock and a hard place is a good example of that. Even what we come to learn or 'know' is based on what's been discovered, but unfortunately does not include what is not. I remember someone close to me seeming textbook passive-aggressive. Turns out they were the furthest thing from it, and I was wrong and did not understand. They also were not able to help me understand or communicate it. I guess sometimes we do it to others and sometimes others do it to us.
felt closest to her when I was gossiping with her. She really rewards that with her attention.
^^ Maybe there is similarity to her friend?

Either way, what's good for you? Can you enjoy her company for a short bit? If you do love her, can you recognize this is just an opportunity? You both won't be around forever. Or, quite all right to say no thank you.

Boundaries are a loving thing. They don't come from a punitive place. And in a sense the communication you mentioned, or honesty, can go a long way. Though you don't have to elaborate.I believe it was Lionheart that posted this. Maybe it will help a bit"

(Hope it goes well whatever you ultimately choose! 🙂 )

Thank you for the link! Definitely helpful checklist for someone conditioned to be a people pleaser like me.
she empathizes from a time in her life and she understands, vs blaming or questioning you.
I don’t think she was blaming or questioning me. And I do think it was her empathizing. It set off a sense of needing wanting to help her feel okay or process about how she had a hard time at family gatherings since she has never told me about that before. But I really do not want to hear her talk about my dad or his family to me and about how mean he actually was to her when she pretended all along that he wasn’t. I don’t want to hear her talk about my dad at all. And she frequently wants to talk about him when we are together. Now that I think about it, there’s a silver lining to seeing her at a gathering— doesn’t talk about my dad in front of her husband but she sure as hell brings him up when it’s just us and then I have to pivot. I have told her straight up not to talk about him to me but I haven’t reminded her in a while. I’m strong enough to do that even if it makes the situation temporarily awkward as she apologizes or tries to continue talking about him. I’m getting strong enough to handle that kind of thing now.
Maybe there is similarity to her friend?

Thanks for helping me reflect upon this. It has stirred up some grief inside me that I’m not wanting to face. Grief work—who likes *that*? 😝
read the link too. i guess I never thought I owed anyone any of those things, my problem is I feel like I am owed an apology if anyone says I owe them any of that stuff. And if there is none, then maybe I owe them the favor of filling in the stuff their parents missed like, hey, being a judgemental ass is.......just an ass so stop being one.