What a glorious time of year! Trees swathed with tinsel. Carols playing on and on and on. people rushing about buying things, giving things, getting things. Families coming together to pretend everything they really like each other.
Excuse my sarcasm.
Christmas has been a challenging time of year for me. I don’t begrudge others their Christmas cheer. I even join in sometimes to be sociable. At the end of the day, though, Christmas reminds me of the awkwardness, discomfort, abuse and downright trauma I experienced throughout my youth.
My adopted parents always did the big Christmas thing. Santa, tree, presents, enough food to feed a third-world country, and alcohol by the bucket load. They tried to make it a fun occasion for me and my siblings. And it was. Then, during the years of my developing awareness, it all turned to shit.
Those teenage years, when you become aware of your parents as people, and not just ‘mum and dad’, can be a rude awakening. I was smacked in the face with my parents’ flaws. She was a controlling manipulator. He was an abusive drunk.
The development of my own identity collided with my new understanding of my parents. I was not like them. This was a ‘duh’ moment; being adopted this was always the case. But now it was as plain as the nose on my face. I was not only not like them physically, I also did not think like them, share their values, view the world like them, or believe in their fantasies.
Christmas became a time of torture, an excruciating event to be endured. When I hit my twenties I made excuses to escape. I even moved to another city to avoid the day. The guilt I experienced (another legacy of the master manipulator) was unbearable. It wasn’t until my thirties that I began to not care, to stand up for myself, and insist I did not want to take part in Christmas.
Now, in my fifties, with one parent gone, it has all changed. Maybe for good. I have just experienced my first Christmas with no contact from my adopted family. Maybe they finally understand I am not like them. Whatever the case may be, it seems our years of pretending to give a damn about each other are over.
It’s sad, I know. Even I feel sad, when all around me are doing things with their families and having fun. But I have new families. My friends are always there for me, and they support me without forcing their own beliefs onto me.
Maybe that’s the true message of Christmas. Families are found, not born.