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Dec. 27th, 2010

Last part of family Christmas over, done with, and survived.

I miss this being a time that I'm actually looking forward to instead of mostly dreading. Work is of course part of it. It's not just the stress, it's that it's absolutely impossible to escape the commercial aspects of Christmas. From my perspective... the insanity isn't people being stupid/consumerist/whatever, it's part of the system. Institutional. A few months ago a customer told me by way of making small talk that he didn't actually need the book he was just buying, but, well... I replied that if we only ever bought the stuff we truly needed the economy as we know it would collapse. If everyone, or only a good percentage of the population decided not to buy into the Christmas hype, we'd be facing a problem.

I can't escape this. I know we need the Christmas sales. There's our bosses telling us that our shop didn't do very well, and I feel guilty although it's really no fault of mine, and I worry (then again, I always worry too much) about whether they'll ask me to work fewer hours, and what I should do then, agree while looking for another job, or not agree and rather have them fire me... and so on and so forth.


Christmas with my parents still makes me feel tense and apprehensive, especially as it's now only me on the 24th, even though it's been mostly rather quiet and drama-free in recent years. By Friday noon at work I'd already managed to work myself into a depressive mood.


My father has these occasional bouts of mea culpa when he tells my sister and me that he knows he's done everything wrong when we were children, which, I guess, is good for him, but for one thing difficult to accept as an apology, since it's so general and often about minor things that didn't specifically trouble me, and for another thing, I don't think he really gets what the problem was.

I don't think he gets that when he started yelling about something completely stupid that for some reason nevertheless upset last weekend when we were doing our Christmas baking I stood at the sink (I'd been doing the washing up) frozen in place, 38 years old, and felt like a child hiding under the blanket with her fingers in her ears so that she wouldn't hear what's happening at the other end of the apartment. My sister managed to talk to him, I only wanted to disappear, to grab my things and run home.

Last year, when I read Patrick Stewart's account of his childhood experiences, a lot of that really resonated with me. It wasn't that bad, but on some basic level the similarities are there. There actually was one time when I stood between my father and my sister and suddenly there was a kitchen knife in my hand.

(It feels strange writing this; I'm not sure I even told the therapist about that, although I did tell her about the one time I wanted to call the police; it feels strangely unconnected to me, but how are you supposed to feel about something like that?)

I know so many people had it far worse; I was never beaten or sexually abused, my parents support me, and theoretically I know they love me, despite everything. I know that I don't have much of a right to complain about anything, but looking back, what I want so much that it hurts is a childhood that felt safe, instead of like navigating a minefield and always trying to sense when the next explosion might come. For me being alone is safe. This is so ingrained on some deep instinctive level that I can't escape it. And I can't help thinking this is why I crave security and stability so much.


And in the end I'm no different. I tried to be, but I'm not. I don't even remember a time when I haven't been uncomfortable around my father, but at the same time our characters are very similar. I feel trapped. I always hated about my parents that in several ways they were stuck in situations they clearly were completely unhappy with, but refused to do anything about. (That's how it felt to me as a child, now I see it more as being incapable of doing something about it.) On some irrational level I guess I still blame my mother for not leaving my father and taking us with her, and my father for the decision to have children at all, considering all his psychological issues. I even blame myself from stopping my mother the one time she apparently was ready to leave, clinging to her, crying. Or at least that's how I remember it. I don't remember how old I was. I do remember the bag she'd packed. But I'm the same. I've never learned that there might be ways to get out of a bad situation, and I'm as incapable of doing it now as they were then. I stick to a job that I realise is killing me inside when I allow myself to think about it, but that I'm forcing myself to resign myself to, because I'm too afraid of where I might end up and have absolutely no hope that the future might possibly be better. Maybe losing this job would be the best thing that could happen to me, because it'd at least force me to do something.

The only thing I've managed to do, although through no conscious effort of my own, is at least not drag anyone else into the mess of my issues, pass them on to another generation.

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