A single step



Maggie says, “Don’t take the tree down yet,
 I’m really digging it.
“Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction [for you] ends up being the biggest step in your life. Tip toe if you must, but take the step.” Gemma Stone

Holidays come and go, but this is the first year I’ve skipped both Thanksgiving and Christmas at my parent’s homestead. So it has been a bit odd, and I’ve felt bad because my mom is wonderful and means well, but it’s been in my best interest to stay away to get some distance.

We got back from an overnight stay at Karl’s parents’ place, which is a two and a half hour drive from where we live. We went to a Christmas Eve party at his sister’s house, and the next day we stopped in to visit my mother in law’s 90 year old dad, who was an absolute treasure to spend time with. I was amped the whole trip to be finally meeting my in-laws. I married Karl without ever having met his family. I was too ill to travel or have company for a few years. Now, finally, I am well enough to get out more, and I met his family for the first time over this holiday. I was savoring every minute. At his family party, most of his brothers and sisters and relatives were drinking and talking in the kitchen. I found myself in the quieter room drawing pictures on the living room floor with Karl’s little nieces and nephews.
 
Most of Karl’s family and relatives live either on the same block or within walking distance of each other, and so they bring their family dogs to the party. So I met quite a few dogs, Bindy, Olive, Motley, Baxter and Binga to name a few, as well as a slew of cats, each with their own personality. I met one cat, a soft black longhair named Cocoa. They warned me she was snippy and bit people. Also that she had only one front tooth, as the others were pulled by a vet after being rescued from a cat hoarder who kept 50 plus cats in her house but didn’t feed or care for them. I leaned over so I was looking at Cocoa and told her I was so sorry she had to have her teeth pulled, that it must have really hurt, that I was sorry that had happened to her. She leaned her head down and rubbed it on my hand, as if to say she wanted me to pet her. So I did, and she started purring. Two minutes later she’s crawling on my lap letting me pet her. My mother in law, who I’ll refer to as Jackie, told me that Cocoa doesn’t warm up to anyone in the family, and that something amazing had just happened. I personally believe that animals understand perfectly what we communicate to them, and Cocoa was just relieved to hear another human saying in effect, “I understand what you went through.”
 


My niece Sabrina working her
candy cane tights, LOL

One of my new sister in laws who I’ll call Marjory sent me a message after I met her at Karl’s family Christmas party. She is quite stylish and suave, and is quiet and calm in the way she carries herself. Something I admire. She mentioned how she too had a chronic illness (which I didn’t even know). She shared how glad she was that I made it to the party, and she invited me over to her place next time I found myself in town. She wants to hear all about my time living in NYC, and what teaching was like up there. Hearing from her was one of the highlights of this week. Many of those closest to me still do not ‘get’ me, and still think I could technically get ‘rid’ of this illness if I tried harder. What a whimsical and laughable notion! I do wish that were the case! So it will be nice to spend time with someone like her who won’t judge, someone who grasps the situation through personal experience.

My sister Louisa and her two kids Patrick and Sabrina came up to visit us yesterday, and they spent the night. Playing the role of wife, homeowner, hostess and cook still feels new to me, like a coat that I’m wearing that I’m not used to quite yet. I made a roasted chicken, gravy and mashed, and veggies for us all at dinner, and showed everyone around the house. I still feel like a kid, the perpetual traveler, the one who doesn’t settle down…. so I felt odd saying, “How do you like our home?” I felt like an actress in an apron showing up on set in this kitchen I called my own cooking dinner for my sister, her kids, my other sister and my husband. I like that I am at the center of a hub for the first time in my life, and not just one of many supportive spokes on someone else’s wheel like I used to be. Other people rely on me now, and my actions directly affect more than just me. I’m invested now, and it is an interesting coat to be wearing. I wonder why it still feels like a new coat, why each time I move, it feels awkward as if I didn’t break it in yet.




My nephew Patrick

I shared with Louisa that I didn’t like the thought of Mom at Christmas with only two of her six kids there to share the holiday with her. Louisa said she didn’t think Mom minded, as three of the grand kids were there too. I told Louisa I just didn’t feel comfortable going to the homestead, because Mom doesn’t stand up for any of her daughters. There’s a more than sizable chance that based on his recent track record, Louisa’s husband will once again open his yap and say something derogatory about me or my other three sisters… something derogatory but dipped in a sugary Christian coating complete with Biblical references, chapter and verse.  My mom and dad will just smile at Clark with sheep eyes. Really, I am not a masochist, and I don’t enjoy being oppressed on such a cheery holiday, so I choose not to go. Louisa couldn’t understand what I was sharing with her. She still thinks that no one is treating her poorly. Her standards and the way she views herself is low. I wish I could pluck her out of her body and pop her inside a version of herself who is being treated with respect, so she can experience a healthy baseline. But no one can do this but herself, and she is not ready. Still, I can’t bear to watch her being degraded, so I don’t choose at this time to go to family functions.

We also had the mandatory check up on the status of my immortal soul, and Louisa was saddened because I told her (once again) I have no fear of hell. Without a fear of hell, I don’t need salvation. When I said that, it was like a bomb dropped and there was silence, and Louisa started crying. She really feels bad about me burning in hell. I told her it was fine, I wasn’t going “there,” and that hell was what you make for yourself here on earth if you so chose, consciously or not, and it’s much worse than simple burning of the flesh. That we make our own heavens here on earth as well. Thankfully, the kids had ear buds in their ears watching movies during this conversation. I was glad I stood up for what I believed in, but from now on, it’s not worth it if it makes Louisa cry. We are all on different paths, and that is OK. We all get to the same place in the end, so there’s no sense trying to change anyone when they are fine where they are. Even though I don’t like seeing my sister hurt by my family and her husband. In the future, I won’t delve into my beliefs… I will focus on sharing how much I just want to see her cherished and respected in her own home and family.
 

I am glad that Karl has my back and encourages me to stand up for myself. He knows I don’t like confrontation, but he encourages me to speak up and respect my boundaries. This was not always the case because we both used to be in the religion. There was a time where he suppressed me when I spoke up about pretty much any topic, especially my beliefs, thinking it was the Godly thing for him as a man to do. It has been extremely difficult for me to stand my ground and for us to find our footing while tearing free from the family at the same time. The fibers of my family and their beliefs are so tightly interwoven that separating from the religion is the same as ripping myself apart from the customs, habits, gatherings and basic heartbeat of my family. I try to find one facet of my family’s life that I can still be apart of that is untouched by religion, but I can’t find one. So we have been detaching ourselves slowly and painfully, like the separation of skin and a resistant band-aide. Wish we could just rip this bugger off in one quick motion, but I suppose that since this is life, the process is messier and more time consuming than that.  Since we left the religion (me first, and Karl a year later) and took the first steps towards liberation, it’s like a pebble has been tossed in a lake, and the rings around the pebble have spread in super slow motion in an ever widening circle. Every several months, I look back and see we have moved so much farther away from where we were two years ago. The rings eventually widen and soften so that eventually they are no longer there, and the place the pebble fell is no longer marked. We aren’t exactly to that point yet where breaking free is a distant memory yet, it is actually still occurring… but it is encouraging to look back and see the rings are widening.
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