When we bought the little woodsy cottage at Halfmoon Lake, the previous owners left their beautiful dining room table for us. I’m not sure what type of wood it was but it was long and probably seated 10 comfortably.
I had so many plans for that table. I even had a picture of people seated around a large table, covered with Italian food, on the vision board I’d made a year prior to buying our cottage. It only took a mere two months for me to realize that no one would come to sit at our table. I posted this gorgeous hunk of wood online and sold it to a young couple from Austin for $200. That’s all it costs to come to harsh truths. Sometimes less than that.
Having been trained to push people away, I never stay anywhere long enough to burn bridges. I find ways to end relationships one way or another; I move, I quit jobs, I often decline invitations to do things, I convince myself people don’t like me and could never love me. I sabotage relationships with people who say they do love me. I stand on the outer edges and watch everyone else play and I tell myself that’s enough. Well, it’s not enough. My soul wants in yet my head says don’t; and unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just wanting in.
When I was in school I trained myself to think that I’d never be anything other than a weird girl with Deaf parents who doesn’t celebrate holidays. I believed everyone saw me that way because as I was growing up I was repeatedly told that no one besides those who shared my faith –borrowed faith, it certainly was not mine- could ever be there for me, could never like or love me. And if they did, they were lying. My whole network was in the truth.
When you tell your classmates, “No, thank you, I can’t accept your Christmas gift,” it’s easy to start thinking you don’t deserve any gifts. When you tell people, “I can’t come to your house, because you’re worldly,” it’s no wonder you wind up sitting alone during lunchtime. I felt lucky my birthday was in the summer, then I wouldn’t face the awkwardness of anyone wishing me a Happy Birthday and struggle to say “thank you.” All this and more were ways I drove people away.
Fast forward to my 20th high school reunion. I got real, and with the help of few glasses of wine, mentioned how I always felt like an outsider- weird and unlikeable. It was 20 years later, what do I have to lose? To my surprise, I was corrected: “I never saw you that way” people repeatedly told me a few times that night. So why did I feel that way for 12 goddamn years with these people? IT’S. WHAT. I. WAS. TOLD.
Not accepting gifts or turning down invitations to worldly people’s houses were situations we rehearsed during the dreaded Thursday night meetings at the Kingdom Hall. Yes, rehearsed. While classmates got to rehearse their place on the sports teams or lines for the school play, I was rehearsing ways to keep people at bay and share the great news of Armageddon, on stage in front of a whole congregation of sheep. Once the demonstration ended it was met with approving applause. If you happen to be the kid on stage rehearsing this scenario, as many of us were, you catch on real quick. Saying no to worldly people will end in thunderous applause and a virtual thumbs up from Jehovah each time. Instead, my naysaying was met with awkward glances and no follow up invitations.
Boohoo, right? Everyone has problems, and there’s dirty water in Yemen, so fuck you and shut up, Rebekah. This may be true, aaaaand it doesn’t make this shit go away. It doesn’t make my existence, day in and day out, any easier. I still often think there is something wrong. I’ve done something wrong or said something wrong. Imagine second-guessing every move you make with ongoing self-judgment. I’m sure I’m not the only one, to feel this lonely type of existence. Far too often, this is what my days are filled with.
So, here we are. It’s Christmas again. I’m now able to accept gifts, attend your party, watch a traditional holiday movie, wear an ugly sweater and sing a friggin’ carol if I want. I set up a sad Charlie Brown Christmas tree, the lights, ornaments, and made a shit-ton of Italian holiday cookies. I even got a one-eyed Christmas Jack-ass and named him Dominic. Does that mean I feel merriment pumping through my veins? Not a bit. I’m just faking it. With all the years of fear-mongering mind control at work in my wee little brain all those years ago, THIS. SHIT. DOESN’T. GO. AWAY. There’s not an on/off switch for any of us. In addition, I’ve known of too many people that grew up the way I did and sadly, they’ve ended their lives. I miss them. The hostage-brain doesn’t wash clean. Not easily, anyway.
I have no good memories tied to any holiday, let alone the biggest one of the year. My memories consist of going home early while festivities commenced at school, saying no to gifts and potential best friends, holiday candy, coloring pages…etc. This time of year still feels like a straight jacket that’s the wrong size and there’s no one at my table.
Please excuse me as I wiggle around and find my comfort zone. Keep reveling in your yuletide glee. I’ll just be hanging with my Jack ass, Dominic and this homemade Limoncello. Salute e non cento anni!