Sometimes there will be those days—days where my family pretends to be a normal, happy, loving family. They’re called holidays. Oh, we’re a fine bunch, spending Thanksgiving at the empty house where my sister is staying. Traditional down to the cranberry sauce. And then you think, this isn’t my life. It’s too foreign—like an episode of The Twilight Zone. Invasion of the Body Snatchers. My family is anything but traditional. We hardly know what a table is for!
This, I think, is where my hatred of holidays comes from. The only one I proudly participate in these days is Halloween, and that’s because Halloween means horror—fear. All things quirky, weird and dysfunctional. Thanksgiving and Christmas, on the other hand, are two of the worst offenders. You try to pretend to be a positive, happy family. Shove all the problems under the rug for a while. Me, I can’t stand that. It’s just putting on masks and pretending, and every store in the area lives for it. It’s all so commercial. They know we long for those happy families that really don’t exist, and they ruthlessly play to our weaknesses for all they’ve got. You can have a happy family if you do this.
I’m so sick of playing house.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are for the fakers. New Year’s is an excuse to throw wild parties. Valentine’s is for the mushy romantics. St. Patrick’s day—the sum of all evil on my list—is for the idiots. Easter for the Christians and family enthusiasts. Mother’s and Father’s day for the family enthusiasts to ignore all the crap their parents ever did to them. Independence Day for family enthusiasts and red-blooded American nationalists. And Halloween—it’s for the dysfunctional screw-ups like me: the freaks and the loners.
So over Thanksgiving, while around the country people were sitting around with their friends and families and having a fantastic time, and others were wishing they could, there I was, sitting in a dark corner of a stranger’s house, wishing I didn’t have to play the charade.
Now, with Christmas on the horizon and the stupid Christmas music becoming practically unavoidable, I’m dreading a repeat. Out comes the rug again, just waiting to be put to good use. This time, though, at least we’ll all be at my apartment, where there won’t be the awkwardness of a strange house. Even better? I’m working that day! It’ll cut down on all the cloying, saccharine-flavored bull crap I have to put up with this year.
Today in church we had a special Christmas program, where a few families sang some Christmas songs, and talked about how lonely we college students who weren’t going home for Christmas must be, because Christmas is a time for family, etc, etc, etc. It’s a time for being together, and being grateful for what we have. They all talked about how grateful they were to have such an awesome family, and singing about how there is beauty all around when there’s love at home.
It’s moments like these which can cut the people like me to the core. Those of us who maybe don’t have parents kind and dear. Who look at our own homes and think, there’s no love spoken here. Those of us who got lost at the dysfunction junction so long ago that we don’t know the way back. What are holidays but a reminder of what we’re missing?
To those of you out there who are like me, I wish you the best. Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and so on. Enjoy this time in whatever way you see fit. If you don’t have a family you can spend this time with, remember that family doesn’t need to be defined by blood. Do what it takes, but happiness, joy, and peace to you all.
I have a good friend (isn’t that shocking?) named Scott, who is a Mormon born and raised, like me, but didn’t turn out as well as I did, for all intents and purposes. He’s been trying to be a good boy by our standards, but then he turns around and does things that are considered very serious in our religion. And then he feels the need to tell me about it. Every time. Like I’m the priest and he’s going to confession.
He tells me all those things that I really don’t care about, that I really don’t want to know. Why? Because I’m the best friend he has and I’m his support line, and my support really helps him. No matter how many times I’ve told him I don’t want to hear about his escapades with underage drinking, pot, and sex, he just keeps telling me. He says he wants to get better and be a good LDS person, but he just keeps doing it. When he gets a Sunday off from work, he doesn’t even bother trying to go to church, instead spending the time with his non-Mormon cousin, who is nowhere near a good role model, no matter who you are.
And he’s still turning to me for help when things go wrong.
Now, I’m no saint, either, that’s for certain. My massive pride will be my downfall one day. And I can have a holier-than-thou attitude toward people like Scott, although I would never say that to them. I can’t understand him. I just want him to stop. Whether he stops doing what he’s doing or just stops telling me about it every time I see him, I don’t even care anymore. He doesn’t get it, and he doesn’t want to take any time to try to learn. And here I am, the best friend who’s supposed to sympathize. Not my style. I don’t do sympathy. Someone tells me about their problems, I assume they want a fix, not just someone to sympathize. Sympathy is a stupid reason to tell someone what’s wrong.
And let me tell you, if you’re a Mormon who believes what the church teaches, inactivity (jack Mormonism) is never the answer. I’ve been there. Done that. That was a big part of why my high school life sucked so much. I was dating a non-Mormon guy who didn’t care one whit what I believed, I was stupid enough to think I could change him, I wasn’t going to church or Seminary, or reading my scriptures. And without those things in my life, it turned nasty. Boyfriend dumped me for another girl after only a month, and sister became. . . well, her charming self.
I’m not saying that church, or Mormonism in particular, is an inoculation against opposition. Bad things happen in life. Otherwise, life would be really boring. Religion, in general, is there to make us better for it. We learn from our mistakes. We grow to be better. When crap gets bad, you have God (whoever that may be to you) to fall back on. And sometimes you have exactly what you need to deal with the situation.
Case in point, I read East of Eden for the first time about a week before my sister was arrested. Let me tell you, the character of Aron is a perfect fit for her. Nothing exists in her world unless it is perfect. If I hadn’t read that book at that time, I wouldn’t have seen that. I would still have thought I was the problem.
Call it what you want. Coincidence or divine intervention. Me, I see the hand of God in my life every day. The more I go to church, the more I pray, the more I read my scriptures, the more I see Him. That’s why it’s hard to see so many people, like this friend of mine, not realizing what it took me an inactive ten years to figure out. We need to make room for God in our lives, too.