My birthday is coming up.
I hate my birthday. In fact, I hate every single Holiday. I hate being reminded that I don’t have a family that gathers, that laughs, that (even begrudgingly) sits together for a meal and shares anything with each other.
We used to, years ago. Although as we found out that the only things my family could share with each other were words laced with venom and manipulative vitriol, there was an unspoken agreement to stop trying. We just weren’t that kind of family.
Someone will cry. Someone will get too drunk. Someone will yell. Someone will storm away. Someone will break something in a rage. Someone may do all of the above.
I think at some point that person was me, despite it being just me, my mother and stepfather together at the time (neither of which I have any relationship with anymore).
I’ve tried going to Holiday celebrations at other peoples’ houses, though each time all I’ve ever felt is extreme discomfort and shame.
Who are these people who aren’t screaming at each other every 5 minutes? Why is someone going to start crying? Where’s the alcohol? When does the yelling start? Where do I fit in here? What will my role be this time?
I typically last about an hour and a half before my I make my inevitable escape to the (furthest) bathroom, collapsing against the wall as I burst into tears, desperately trying to remember the layout of the house so I can plan a discreet exit that will go unnoticed.
I have no idea how to function within a nontoxic group of people. Am I toxic? Am I a product of all I’ve ever known family to be? Of course I am, I have to be.
“This is why I can never have children”, I tell myself, sobbing on the bathroom floor as I listen to them laughing in the next room, discussing what party game to play first.
What the hell is a party game?
I remember Christmas Crackers, but those memories are from long, long ago, before I turned 7 and all the dark times began.
I don’t speak to most of my family; and for all of my adult life (until the final break), I managed to keep them at a comfortable distance. I was never really sure why, I just knew that’s where they needed to be.
Birthdays came, holidays would pass, and each time I’d shut myself inside, alone and crying to myself, planning excuses in my head which I could use to get out of any type of invitation they may extend to me.
A plan that proved completely pointless, as none were ever extended anyway.
My friends never seemed to understand why I would become so depressed around the Holidays or my birthday.
An ex-boyfriend gave me a Christmas gift once, a very cute, very soft teddy bear. He looked on in sheer horror as I cried hysterically while opening it. To be honest, I didn’t really understand why I was crying, either. I just did.
The holidays are still hard for me. My birthday is still hard for me.
But I’m turning 30 this year.
I’ve worked very hard the last few years to cut a lot of negativity and toxicity out of my life.
Admittedly, some of that was internal, and some of that was external.
A great portion of my family was a large, toxic force that had affected me for my entire life, and I do not feel any remorse for removing them from my life. I remember feeling as if a literal weight had been lifted that day. I felt like I could fly.
I’m going to enjoy my birthday this year. I’m going to enjoy Christmas this year. I’m going to because I deserve to. I’ve always deserved to, and so does everyone else.
For some of us, toxicity and negativity is impossible to avoid, particularly if it’s family; but we all have the power to remove it and to take back what is rightfully ours: a life that is ours, one that we are free to enjoy however the hell we want.
All life is worth living, and what I am taking back, what we can ALL take back, is the right to live it any way we want: Happier, brighter, unafraid, beautifully, bolder, and unashamed.