It took over 24 hours for my brain battery to run out of juice. I didn’t sleep well, 5 hours at most waking up a lot (as always in changed environments, and this was even an entirely new one), 2 more hours over the day, and I’ve been among people pretty much constantly.
That’s… incredible. The circumstances are among the worst possible. Christmas, family setting, high bullshit envy potential because this family is fucking amazing and so incredibly healthy, I’m far away from home, there are up to 6 people in one place, there were activities I haven’t participated in since my family days. And still, this family and especially my ever-loving, caring, accepting partner managed to keep my brain running on “This is pretty great!” – not even “eh” or “ok”; an actual distinctly positive, comfortable, enjoying emotion – for way over one whole day. Even my hopes were lower.
This is beyond ranges I thought possible for me. And I’m not even broken down right now; I’m just very, very exhausted and taking a break walking through the area. I might not get back to where I was 6 hours ago, but the risk potential is a low one on the spectrum of an exhausted brain. You accept every kind of shit until someone shows you, personally, as an experience, that it can – and should! – be better.
I’m so incredibly thankful to be allowed a part in this family’s time, and life now as a partner of one of their members. This is more stabilizing, impactful, helpful and important than most can probably imagine especially outside of this filter bubble of mine – let alone see on my face. There’s no place on earth I’d want to be at more than here in this very moment and the surrounding days, and I can rarely pinpoint that at all.
I know where I’d be now, mentally, if I’d be at home right now and over the next few days. I’d be close to death, and wish to be dead pretty much constantly as it’s been the case every year around this time, especially when being around my biological relatives. That’s the same for me as it is for many of my friends and all the powerful and important people I know who are less lucky these holidays. (All the love to you. <3) I’ve been there every year until this one.
I know how incredibly important this is, how hard it impacts you, and how long it affects your mental status: Forever. Because this is how actual acceptance looks like. The opposite follows you forever, and this does as well. Even if this doesn’t work out, even if anything happens even tomorrow, I know this feeling now. And, for the future, I know now not to accept and settle for anything less in the future like I’ve been told by people who called themselves my family until today. They are not, they’ve never been for me, even if they wanted to. This, right here, is how that’s supposed to be like and that’s a thing my biological relatives were never, and will never be, able to achieve even remotely.
Family is a choice. My choice lies here, not with people who make me want to die minutes into their physical proximity to me or two words into any form of communication. Because now I know that I’m allowed to have – and deserve – this: Actual love, full acceptance without any conditions, the feeling of actually being valued as who I am, emotional security, and respect to my very core.
And that is the most wonderful Christmas gift of all time.
(Time of writing the first draft: Yesterday – Saturday, December 23rd – 23:00)
Two weeks after Christmas, I wrote a Twitter thread about the most significant thing that happened during the days I was there. That thing happened shortly after I wrote all of this, so it’s not respected in any of the above yet. I’ll paste the content below; adjusted for this medium and purpose.
I want to tell you a story about Actual™ respect in a way that goes down to taking you as you are, how you want it, how you need it, and is unconditional (you know, how it should be) – and incredibly fucking rare, while being vitally important for me.
Once upon a time last christmas about two weeks ago, the human most important to me offered to let me spend christmas with them and their family. That was incredibly valuable for me, even just the offer, because I basically never had any family in the sense of its meaning. Also, christmas and all kinds of events like it, including birthdays or even just visits of “family” members, have always been pure horror for me, as I know it is for a lot of people I know whose families don’t respect them in a similar way as mine didn’t.
I had planned to spend Christmas alone, even though I knew how fucking hard that hits me every time I do it – it was still better than the alternative (which says a lot because in such days I’ll usually be suicidal). Their offer gave me hope for a somewhat better time. How that Christmas worked for me has already been explained here, but what I didn’t mention is how I received my (main) gift, my new camera; the thing I’ve wanted since years which not having anymore frustrated me incredibly.
It was the time of presents; everyone looked for theirs under the tree and opened them. They acted as they wanted, already a new thing for me; my bio-family had set protocols with specific orders that implied that only one present was to be opened at once at any time. This was way more pleasant.
I got handed a box with my name, I don’t even know anymore by whom. “Here you go, so you have something as well” was how it felt like, and what I had hoped for to happen at best because that situation was critical for me (as the entire event was). I let it sit on the table, unopened, and just observed, also as a method of self-protection because if I move I might break something (emotionally; the mood; my mindset). I observed the family opening their gifts, being happy, having a great time. I was happy for them without much envy, which was not to be taken for granted – family has been a highly triggering topic for me since a while at that point already.
Eventually, after 5 minutes or so of sitting on the side, not being paid much attention to (which was good), I decided to open my gift. I knew I’ll receive two movies and a belt, as I could never stop myself from looking at my amazon wishlist every Christmas and birthday for bought items.
I saw a box which was, obviously as it was standard packaging, a camera. I froze for a few seconds (which already practically never happens), then looked up to see any reactions on the family’s faces. They were not paying much attention, doing their thing.
I asked “Are you fucking serious?” into the room (normal voice level and “socially acceptable” slightly ironic tone); the father (whoms old camera it was, as I learned later) nodded, smiling, and my partner looked at me with obvious satisfaction for three seconds – and then both went back to their things.
The effect this had was this: They let me know that this was intended this way, that there were no mistakes happening, that this was planned, and for me. And they let me experience it for myself, they left me alone for a while so I could figure things out. They paid attention to and cared for an anxiety I have that even I myself have not figured out at all, and an incredibly hard time dealing with. They didn’t question anything of that – they just accepted and worked with it. That’s a level of understanding and respect I had never experienced in my bio-family, ever.
After about half an hour of getting to know and figuring out the camera, which actually was me just trying to experience, take in and live fortune and bliss for once, my partner came to me and spent a few minutes letting me explain a few things about what I learned (-> letting me vent some of my excessive emotion) and showed me how happy they were – and then went back to their stuff. I needed 1.5 more hours until I felt that I was done with the camera for now.
This was so incredible and perfect on so many levels.
They knew how incredibly critical this situation is for me. They knew how important this camera was for my life (and, as it turned out later, it was even more than any of us thought). They were aware and accepted how much I suck at showing emotions, how much I hate that, and how quickly I feel – am anxious – that I’m ungrateful, make mistakes, let them regret letting me be a part of their time and life.
They respected all of that. They respected all of me, no matter how irrational, ungrounded, “counter-productive” any of the things that I am are. They gave me all the room I needed without excluding me. They gave me the vital security of the situation being good the way it is, that I don’t do anything wrong, that I’m appreciated, wanted, a valuable part of this family’s life. Even if just for these couple of days.
There was nothing that could have went more perfectly, respectfully, inclusive, and caring there. I never experienced “family” before. I know now how these things should go. I didn’t before; how could I? I do now.
And I learned that I love Christmas. I only hated my experiences with it.
Get yourself a family like this one. I will. Anything less than this never was, and never will be, family.