26 December 2008

Taking Life on Life's Terms

He'd been complaining about our visit for days. First, his house was dirty and he needed to clean. Then the fence was destroyed when the neighbor's cherry tree fell during the last bad storm a couple of months ago meaning that Billie and Georgia wouldn't be confined to the back yard. Then there were complaints about his split shifts at the hospital. None of this mattered to Cameron and me, we weren't visiting to judge his cleaning abilities, let the dogs run amok or interfere with is work schedule.

Then there was "I don't want to hear one iota about my drinking."

Two weeks before, at a meeting with my sponsor at Starbucks, I had expressed concern to Matthew about staying with Thom. Not because Thom has "fallen off the wagon" after more than five years or that we've been "on it" for three months, but because I didn't trust him not to try coercing or berating us into joining him. Interestingly, after that meeting at the coffee shop Matthew and I drove to my first Spiritual Angle study meeting where the topic dealt with avoiding situations in which we once participated and how such an approach may be considered a contrast to recovery and/or spiritual growth. Since that meeting, many of the others I've attended have been dealing with family, expectations, disappointment, resentment and a myriad of other emotions that surface at any time but particularly during the holidays. What I've taken away from these sessions is that I need to accept what comes my way and be at peace about it.

I suppose by telling Cameron when he returned from Knoxville in October that I may just want to stay home with him and make this Christmas about us -- that we needed some "us" time -- I had been prepared to stay in Memphis. At the time I couldn't wrap my thoughts around the six-hour drive north, the interstate, the usual drama at Thom's, the constant driving from his house, to my mother's house, to my father's house, to my sister Tina's house, to this restaurant to meet this friend, to another to meet that friend, the tired six-hour drive back to Memphis all within two half-days and two full days. I liken the experience to being a deer in headlights for the entire time.

But, around Thanksgiving we had decided that a trip home for Christmas would be nice. I didn't ship any gifts to my family with the exception of my sister, Lisa, who was in Biloxi without enough vacation time to make the trip to "Kentuckiana," because I would be there. I was looking forward to the feeling I get when we drive into Louisville from the south, seeing "my city's" beautiful skyline, calling my mother to say, "we're here," stopping at White Castle for "six with mustard, ketchup, onions and pickle with their delicious crinkle-cut fries and a Big Red before settling in for rest at Thom's for the night, making plans for the next day to share time and gifts at my mother's with my family around the Christmas tree. I could drive to Scottsburg to see Norma at Renslow's Bargain Barn and deliver her some cookies. I could do all the things that run me ragged but keep me connected to people and places I love once a year.

So, to say that I was getting excited about the trip -- finishing laundry, pulling together dog necessities, vitamins, charging cameras, and taking gift inventory -- would be an understatement. I didn't realize that while I was preparing for the trip that my expectations were building. Of course, I knew what to expect, generally, as I have done this for many, many years. I expected there to be some sort of drama with Thom. I didn't, however, expect it to put me in a place to make a decision about whether or not to go home -- at literally the last minute.

Returning home from a Came to Believe meeting around 1:30 on Christmas Eve, hours before we would pack the car and head to Louisville, I got a call from Thom, who said, "you're going to have to find another place to stay. The roof leaked and flooded the living room and soaked the sofa. I'm going to have to dry out everything and wash the sofa cushions." He went on about "him, him, him" as he's so prone to do. I bit my tongue. I didn't say "we can figure it out." I simply said, "Thom, go take care of your stuff. Goodbye."

After I put down my phone, I went to the bedroom where Cameron was napping and said, "we're staying home." I worked really hard at not getting angry with Thom's insipid self-absorption. I realized that getting angry was a sign of my own self-centeredness. I called Lisa and commiserated with her for a minute about not going home. But, during that conversation I realized that both of us were really at peace about being hours away from the rest of our family. I called everyone in Louisville to tell them how our plans had changed and wish them a "Merry Christmas."

Since then, Cameron, Edith, Georgia, Billie and I have had a wonderful Christmas. We still are. The tree is lit. Music has been playing. I talked to Lisa on Christmas morning while she unwrapped her gifts. We're baking cookies and watching movies. We're having "us" time. I'm packing up gifts and homemade fruitcakes today and sending them north. We might even brave the outside world and do a little shopping this afternoon.

Let it suffice to say that I am working at taking life on life's terms while letting go of my expectations. It's difficult to do but I'm learning.

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