Let's face it. This “No Contact” thing can be pretty shitty, especially on a holiday. But being “In Contact” was even shittier. Remember? Whichever one we choose, shit happens.
Remember back to the B.N.C (Before No Contact) era? Mmmm, I can see it plainly in my mind's eye. Grandpa's standing at the kitchen counter expertly carving the turkey, surreptitiously cramming “nibbles” into his four granddaughters' mouths with greasy hands. The mouth-watering scents of buttery dinner rolls, candied yams and stuffing hangs heavily in the air. Grandma's there too, bustling thither and yon, anxiously stirring this and hurriedly dishing up that.
How I miss the Norman Rockwellesque illusion. The warmth of family, cohesive and comforting. Soft hugs from Grandma. The glow of grandfatherly pride in Grandpa's eyes. Playing UNO with my cousins. Being tickled unmercifully by my uncle. Admiring my aunt's pretty jewelry.
Ah, those were the good ol' days.
Holidays are a time when it's too easy to sink in the quagmire of self-pity. A time when the “blues” of loneliness and solitude may test our No Contact resolve. A season when illusion seeks to trump reality. The stark reality that our families are toxic as shit.
One of the best things about holiday feasts are the leftovers. But while other families enjoyed turkey sandwiches and day-old pumpkin pie, my family sank our teeth into the other relatives. As soon as we navigated the labyrinth of the long Minnesota goodbye and settled in for the drive home, Daddy's diatribe began.
Uncle should spend more time with his family, instead of that foolish deer hunting. Aunt shouldn't spend so much money. She nags her kids too much. And those awful leggings! Their children don't enunciate well enough. “They talk with mush in their mouths,” Dad always says. Grandma shouldn't work so hard. She should spend more time chatting with her guests. And Grandpa! How rude that he kept sneaking off to check the football score!
All the way home, my parents chewed up and spat out the very people they'd fondly hugged goodbye just half an hour before. And in the backseat, their impressionable young daughter was silently taking notes. After all, I never wanted to be “bad” like our loved ones, apparently pathetic life-forms, richly deserving of Dad's criticism. A million “should's” and “should not's” haunt me to this day.
Like I said, toxic as shit!
But in 2000, the inevitable happened. As they say, truth will out. It always does.
Grandpa died in 2000 and with him the facade of “family” died too. My father and uncle haven't spoken since then. I s'pose that's when my Holiday Blues started. How I missed the illusion. And I wasn't the only one. Grandma soaks her Advent calendar with tears each year, blind to her role in the triangulation that destroyed her family. What was it King Solomon said in Proverbs? Something about a foolish woman tearing down her house with her own hands.
Last month, I celebrated the two year anniversary of the N.C. era. Yessiree, I've been No Contact with the whole flock of 'em for over two years, including my own parents. Nary a one of 'em could understand why. They protested their innocence. Sent the sheriff to my house to do a Welfare Check. Then ran furiously to their attorney when finally faced with the truth.
So today, I'm not gnawing on a tasty drumstick, but there's serenity in my soul. I'm not savoring homemade cranberry sauce, but my Dad and Uncle aren't subtly one-upping each other. I'm not stuffing myself with pumpkin pie while my relatives interrogate and judge my husband. No boundary bashing, no one-upping, no tears, no snide remarks, not unspoken judgements, no “should's,” no shit!
So screw the blues! The N.C. blues can't hold a candle to the B.N.C. agony.
This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for No Contact. Best damn decision I ever made!