December 24, 2014

Holiday Anxiety: If you're anxious and you know it, clap your hands

The Farmhouse and Washhouse by Carl Larsson
Christmas is complicated. On one hand, my family is eager to leap into the fantasy, pocketbook-restraint-be-damned. On the other hand, there's apprehension in the air which can't be cured by an aerosol can of Sugary Holiday Scents. Or a fragrant electric plug-in setting houses on fire once-in-a-while but who can worry about that when your neighbor's house is lit up like an air traffic control tower for alien spaceship landings? That's not my only worry in this neighborhood. I worry about gigantic inflated snowmen bursting into glass-shattering bullets of frozen plastic since my bed sits under a window facing the snowman battalion. I won't even mention the pink Flamingos with garish wreaths on their necks and pray my neighbors never visit our local drugstore carrying a complete line of Styrofoam Christmas gnomes will Generation X's appreciation for bad taste never end? 

If you're anxious and you know it, clap your hands 

One sign of healing post traumatic anxiety is being aware of your feelings. A second sign of healing is being able to smack both hands together without scaring yourself. *clap* To preserve your relationships with family and neighbors, you need to know your patience will be short and your frustration will be long during the holidays because when you don't know you're anxiously walking on eggshells, you won't know you're the one leaving yolky messes on carpets. Anxiety heightens irritability and that's a holiday wisdom to remember when your Aspie nephew is repetitively tapping Jingle Bells on his chest and your sister needs six hours to find the perfect spot for a single tree ornament and your daughter is grieving her first holiday with multiple sclerosis and you are stressed to the max trying to remember where you put the Finnish Sour Cream Cake recipe because the family depends on pasties to keep people chewing a lot instead of talking too much.


Did you know clapping hands at high-stress moments breaks through irrational fears of Alzheimer's and then you can remember where you put the recipe you weren't able to find when you were cursing? Clapping, not cursing, is my secret to remaining calm in frenzied chaos. (ha, as if!!) That and about six post-it notes on my forehead which I forget are there until seeing my reflection in a store window and realizing I look like a pinata. Which reminds me of a Costco incident a couple weeks ago when my daughter said in the book aisle, "Mom, did you know your shirt tags were showing?" I looked down at my front buttons and saw they were backwards (but thank god for small blessings because they were closed) and then realized my shirt was inside-out. *clap* So what if strangers behind me had been reading the fiber content and generous sizing of my shirt? So what if they wondered why a chubby lady was clapping vigorously in the book aisle? I had gifts to buy and a cake to make and why did that rat bazturd leave the family on Christmas m-o-r-n-i-n-g? Why did our water pipe burst on Christmas Eve last year and why for heaven's sakes, did my nephew choose the holiday season to run away when he was seventeen? And why, despite my efforts to forgive-and-forget, does my family-of-origin bicker and bite while professing sacred beliefs in "THE FAMILY"? There are many questions in life that have no answers and we can ruminate on the reasons why forever; or, we can face the past and accept what happened instead of trying to control or change it. We don't need to know why people do the terrible things they do. We just need to keep ourselves from following suit and t-h-a-t, my friends, is easier said than done.

Christmas by Carl Larsson
Ggggrrrrrrrracious and a bit Audacious

Unrecognized anxiety makes me irritable, that's a warning for me to check in with myself. To get real with myself. This means admitting malcontent is my issue, not someone else's. And it's okay to be more upset than usual considering the hideousness of our Christmases past. I'm more critical, more blaming, and all-around less easy going than usual and that is an evidence-based fact. Acknowledging the truth, as uncomfortable as it might be, prevents me from thoughtlessly acting on my anxiety. Like saying to my sister, "Here's an ornament for the tree. Think you can find the perfect spot to hang it by Christmas morning?"

I don't always recognize Holiday Anxiety soon enough, becoming persnickety with the people I love, frustrated with the people I like, and disgusted with those I don't. Like my last post about being called a narcissist which wouldn't have upset me in June or July. By November, a "full of herself" Botero painting was the lead image on my complaint. Because most of the year, I'm not upset by trollish accusations, I didn't pause to reflect on my feelings in November. After due consideration, I think Botero's was a perfect painting. Woman Reading suggests shucking pretenses, allowing our buck-naked self to be seen by others and ourselves. (thanks to TR who encouraged me to reflect on my deeper feelings). Yes, I was more sensitive to criticism than usual.

And then, while forgiving myself for being anxious and undeniably irritable, I was taxiing my daughter downtown when a driver careened around me. I had been moving into the left lane when he bolted ahead of me, forcing me to swerve abruptly to avoid a collision. My first reaction wasn't clapping. It was cursing. And then, salvation! Another driver flipped him off and another driver honked her horn at him and then the best thing of all:  the driver ahead of him slowed to a snail's pace, forcing Speed Demon to a mere creep while the rest of us sailed on by. Clapping ensued, but not for my anxiety. Oh, the pleasure of immediate justice! After witnessing his aggressive behavior I realized something. It made me admit that left to my own devices, I could easily be raging in a car, too. His extreme hostility was a moment of clarity and in no-time-at-all, a well-practiced and healthy pattern of learned behavior kicked in:


Carl Larsson
Gratitude: I am grateful we didn't have an accident.
Graciousness: I didn't flip the driver off
Giving: How's everyone in the car feeling? Are you okay?

This learned behavior happens so often it's scary. It's scary because it makes me realize how "programmable" we are, a realization that threatens our narcissism. We'd like to think we're independent agents unique to ourselves, thinking for ourselves, completely justified in reacting the way we do because hey, our feelings are facts. Our narcissism says hostility is justified, our anger is someone else's fault. If only they'd hang ornaments faster or stop with the thumping, we'd be charitable angels and then we could correct prior years of Christmases ruined.

Gratitude and Graciousness

If you're feeling anxious, clap your hands and count your blessings. Gratitude mollifies the Inner Scrooge. Maybe a wise Sunday School teacher taught me to express gratitude when feeling sad, mad or bad. I must have learned this trick from a clay-footed angel at some point in my early life because "gratitude" has become an automatic practice countering feelings of loss and sadness. I don't even think anymore---it just happens, which is both comforting and distressing! Comforting because it means we can change automatic behaviors through persistent intentional practice; distressing because it means blame and hostility are learned, automatic reactions, too. So expect to be more anxious than usual, a state of being that can be diffused by a grateful heart and lifted by gracious behavior. That's how we change dysfunctional patterns---we stop repeating the hostility.

And remember, narcissistic families blow up when family members show up. If you know this in advance, you can adjust any notions of magical thinking you might have, allowing yourself to enjoy the moment. Narcissists are always disappointed in the moment since reality never measures up to the fantasy in their heads. When people don't measure up to the narcissist's impossible expectations, even the people who care most about the narcissist, they'll pay a price. You aren't being hyper-sensitive or paranoid when you have a history of dashed hopes and sorrowful memories after years of walking on eggshells. Nobody ruins Christmas like the perpetually disappointed narcissist who envies other people's happiness and acts on his/her feelings without conscious intervention. Think about that when insight allows you to see your less-than-stellar behavior because insight means you can take responsibility before you lash out in anger. If you don't catch it in time, you can apologize. 

Was I really upset with a sixteen-year-old driver? Was I really upset with a blog critic? Heightened anxiety means almost anything can be a trigger for the unleashing of distressing feelings. Being anxious is a normal and expected state of being when holidays have been cyclically traumatic, as holidays generally are in narcissistic families. Expectations are high, tolerance-for-distress is low, and people expect the other shoe to drop which is far less painful than when it's been thrown at your head.

Clapping (metaphorically or literally) snaps us back to reality. Gratitude heals our losses and relieves our narcissism. Graciousness builds character, connecting us to our better nature and to other people. Giving creates meaningful relationships---an invitation to share our lives with another person and they with us.


If I could bake a cake for each of you I would, because cake is incontestably the foundation to human civilization, not some mammoth-size chunk of meat roasted over a survival-of-the-fittest fire. So celebrating the holiday spirit from our very civilized household to yours, here's the recipe for my daughter's favorite Christmas Cake. It's easy and delicious and maybe you will think of us if you love this cake as much as we do.

Finnish Sour Cream Cake
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups sour cream
2 cups sugar
2-3 drops almond extract
3 cups flour
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamon

Combine eggs, sour cream, sugar and almond extract and mix thoroughly. Sift dry ingredients together and gradually add to egg mixture. Beat until smooth and well-mixed but don't over-beat or your cake will rise too high in the center. Pour batter into a WELL-buttered bundt pan that has been generously dusted with granulated sugar. Bake one hour at 350 degrees. Cool 5-10 minutes before turning out of the pan. Let rest overnight before serving, allowing the spices to permeate the cake. So good, you don't even need icing. 

Getting Ready for a Game by Carl Larsson

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all,


  1. I am so glad you posted this! I am laughing all over, belly laughs, and I am leaking water on the seat. (I pre-plan with a towel when I read your posts......)

    I am also so glad you posted that lovely cake recipe. For one thing: I am running out of food to feed my step son, and his father (my husband) as they don't do anything except EAT. And EAT.

    I swear I have spent an extra $1000.00 on food for the EIGHT days he will be here. (leaves Friday, thank God!)_

    ANd I am clapping mightily this morning. Received 4 very insulting emails from a French writer, Pierre Lambert...saying I didn't know crap about Berber Culture (he had a PhD in Ethology, was married to a Berber woman, etc. and I was a "LOW END" writer for a LOW End market and would never be anything but. Geez. He sounds like my narcissistic mother! What a way to start a day.

    (his main objection (besides I dare to write about Berber culture in Tin Hinan) was that I used an Arabic name (Aicha) for Tin Hinan.....and I was the laughing stock of the "Elite" Berbers. And he admitted that he hadn't read any of the chapter but was stopped at the name "Aicha". (Plus, and this is the kicker: he has written two books on Mickey Mouse and Pinocchio, and not anything I can find on Berber culture. LOL!!)

    Calgon take me away. Plus, my step son shows quite a bit of Asperger's Syndrome.....and I had my suspicions before, but within 8 long days and nights, I believe my gut is right: He never stops talking (looping conversations, mostly monologues) and eating. Jesus...I made a pan of brownies and there were 18 and he ate them all over a night! Jesus God!

    My husband's approach to all of this? "He's a growing boy". This growing boy is 32 and overweight. LOL!

    My other son, our adopted son, who is away in NC mountains seems so much less trouble, but that is just because there is a lot of distance between us. LOL! Had he been here, it would be more of the same.

    To top it all, I received a Xmas card from the Narcissist Mother: no 'love'....just Mom. I would ignore it, and planned to, but the husband said: send one back....take the high road. Jesus Frog!

    So, Xmas is a time of extremes....a husband meltdown in front of the son, yelling things at me, and my disappearing into my office. *Too bad there aren't doors to keep them out.

    But I have the best revenge yet: I just won't cook for them. They can put the Xmas ham in the oven and google for how long, and what to cook with it....and I feel a long headache coming on, and even though we have avoided having the foo year??? I'm going somewhere and hide. Alone. With a dog. And your Finnish Sour Cream Cake that I won't share except with the dog.

    Merry Xmas!

    Love, Jane.....who has a low tolerance for people for some reason this season.

    1. I am so glad you posted this comment, Jane! You've made me laugh out loud, too...nothing like pure honesty to take the edge off the "fantasy." I've been watching the Hallmark Channel while cooking in the kitchen and after six or eight hours of Magical Forgiveness Stories and Super-Altruistic Mysteries, I have to switch to the Chiller Channel and ground myself in reality. ha!

      I'm chuckling about Pinnochio's biographer criticizing your "low end writing." The audacity! The narcissism! Amazing you can laugh about it---must be because you know your worth. It's so easy to be angry when someone criticizes our "passion", especially writing. For some reason, writers seem to be rather defensive, do you agree?? I saw this is the art community and experienced a bit of the "YOU SUCK" phase when one of my favorite pieces was rejected from an art show. I cursed the jurist and then about three days later, I thanked him. And that is the beauty of being able to process suckiness and learn from it.

      We should expect to hear meltdowns like the one your husband had (and thanks for providing me some "company" cuz had a meltdown on Monday, too. Very unusual for me and by the next morning, I was able to talk things through. Maybe I'll write about it later...there's someone at my door and I hope they have presents!

      Love to you! And Merry Christmas!



    It got worse. Because I used an "Arabic" name, Aicha (which is Turkish, not Arabic) Mr. Pierre Le Peu claimed that I was adding and abetting the Arabiszation of Europe! That I was opening the door to terrorism, and I was just naïve and that was the best he could say for me. Oh, I was more insulted for the Berbers that helped me write this book because of their stories, emails and conversations in different restaurants I danced in (when I was a belly dancer....)

    Really, little old me?

    Well, I was cowed, for a long few hours...but then decided that he was a crazy Frenchie....and they as writers look down their long noses at all of us other writers who aren't French. LOL!

    I did go back to Chapter One, Tin Hinan....and it made me cry. It is so impassioned....and I don't know that I could write such a novel again. Plus, had this misogynistic/narcissist just read down the damn page, I think he would have been pulled in by the scene.

    Oh well, I do know my worth as a woman and as a writer, but It Did Pull Me Up Short. We take these things so hard, don't we? You know yourself, experience in art world and writing world. We put our entire heart into these things, because they prove our creativity and our self-worth...which is hard enough to establish after the wars.....

    Merry Xmas, dear heart....and to your family, and especially to your dear daughter.

    Love, Jane

    1. Quick note to Jane: One editor wrote out how to make bread; I've helped with making bread and made it myself for decades. What do you say? She also lectured me on horses, explaining she went to the trouble of looking it up; I owned one. Another editor told me a survivor would never go back to square one; I'd fictionalized my own life. No editor has criticized my fiction; they've torn apart what was fact. What can you do? I ranted to myself and anyone who would listen and refused to change the facts. Some people need to tear others down to feel good about themselves. How cool that Berbers helped you.

    2. Thank you, Judy. It was such an attack that Pierre Lambert sounded like my insane mother! He was just an arrogant, narcissistic, misogynist jackass. But to continue to attack someone who was unknown to him and admitting he never bothered to read the chapter? Just a fool, not a writer. Yes, when people attempt to change the course of what you are doing (and it is for the good....) there must be something behind it all. I would say, from his 4 emails, one right after the other, that this man is just a bullyboy. And yes, Berber acquaintances helped me with their stories of their lives, their friendship and they are the most gracious people I have come across. They know no stranger, they are full of the humanity that most struggle to achieve. I learned a power lot from them. These books are written in isolation, they speak of the lives of real people...even when they aren't. LOL! Thank you, Judy, it was a dark few hours when I was mulling over whether I really was a writer...and that was what he wanted to do: undercut my confidence, not only as a writer writing about Berbers, but he went for the throat. I decided that I wouldn't let him do this to me....And saying that I was aiding and abetting terrorists, etc....was so over the top! I can laugh now, but these things might be good because they make you take stock of yourself. Thank you, again, Judy.

    3. "...they make you take stock of yourself." Yes! I didn't change the bread scene, but I did tweak the horse scene. I emphasized the going back to square one. The criticism made me a better writer, I think. I needed to believe in myself more than them. Keep writing. :-)

    4. Judy...that's the rub. When we have come through the fire of family (and other) is hard to believe in ourselves. But for most of us, as Rollo May says, there is a 'centeredness' deep within us, even when we don't access it, are in the trauma of fighting or trying to live through the personality disorders of family and others....that is the bed rock of our core. When we acknowledge this....centeredness...and it trips into our creativity (or is the set of our creativity) we are able to have confidence that is sometimes shaken, but never leaves us.

      And exactly: "I needed to believe in myself more than them". That's the ticket to life I believe. The slings and arrows of jackasses will always be aimed at us, but our belief in ourselves, and our creative abilities ...will make us able to spring back.

      Hugs, Jane

    5. Great conversation! Pepe LePeu's criticism went beyond that Normal mark, entering the realm of "the narcissist". There's an edge to their criticism that is more about evacuating their misery than offering useful feedback.

      Criticism usually doesn't feel great and yes, it challenges our egos; however, narcissistic-criticism is intentionally hurtful or even cruel. I think people who've dealt with narcissistic relationships have healthy discernment skills because we know when someone has gone "too far", which is what narcissists generally do.

      Until our self-confidence has been restored however, we are vulnerable to critical attacks. Note I said, "attacks" because hey, words can serve as stealth bombs, shaking our confidence and destroying our passion.

  3. Back to what CZ was saying: I think the initial emotions simply are. The problem is that we are taught unhealthy ways of responding to those emotions. We've learned about how to belittle, insult, shred from experts. Because we want to be healthy, we spend the rest of our lives endeavoring to recognize unhealthy responses and learn healthy ones.

    When I woke to my NM's birthday email, rage exploded, for about fifteen minutes. I could let her emotional blackmail ruin my day or I could file it away and have a great day. I've created a fold titled "insanity." Everything she emails goes in that file. I didn't respond in any way. I enjoyed the phone calls and emails I received throughout the day. This is the first year I've been able to truly enjoy my birthday. I avoided NM and EF almost entirely. Guilt attempted to shadow my day, but I reminded myself that I was choosing to protect myself in healthy ways. I hope to improve on this.

    I did not know that about clapping. I'm going to try it. And thanks for the laughter, which definitely helps. :-)

    1. ha! Well, the inspiration for clapping came from the Rubber Band Technique "snapping" us back to reality when we lofted into reveries of malignant hope. I actually used the rubber band in the beginning of my "healing" because it was way too easy to rationalize his behavior and pathologize mine. "Snap!" and I left my head and returned to my body. "This horrible thing IS happening NOW" is what I'd tell myself after a snap-back-to-reality. Then I could do something useful, something that actually lessened my anxiety rather than trying to escape it. (which is always dysfunctional and maybe even self-destructive!)

      I love your folder titled "Insanity"...ha!! What a great idea! I might need a banker's box to store all of my insanity files, including one on myself. ha! That you were able to enjoy your birthday in spite of your parent's interference says so much about your recovery work. We truly can "detach" from hurtful parents if we're willing to face our pain and "relearn" healthy behaviors. I think some of us (myself especially) learned coping skills as children that become dysfunctional as adults. We will need to re-educate ourselves and then practice, practice, practice our way to detachment.

      By the way, I am always inspired by people who've taken responsibility for their lives and are willing to do whatever it takes to be healthy. No matter what might have happened in childhood, we are responsible for our lives as adults and I've noticed that people who don't do this work, tend to pass it on to their children (and others).

      Hope you and everyone had a very Merry Christmas! We had a lovely lovely time this year!


  4. I laughed and winced through the whole post. Your holiday is the opposite of mine, CZ, which is very low-key. Dinner with some friends last night, and today, just catching up on cheesy Turner Classic movies. This is a zero-stress Xmas for me. Of course, it's also a zero contact one, so that helps (except for a few email exchanges with sisters, and NF). Lady Nyo, your mother sending you a card and just signing it "mom" (without the word 'love'), HA HA! been there. So transparent. I don't agree with your husband. There are some places that have no high roads left to take! But do whaddya gotta do. Meanwhile, CZ, you are doing a bang-up job holding it all together, like always. Just don't break any fingers clapping. As always, such perfect choices of art work too. Sending you love today, and every day. And warm hugs to your daughter too. love CS

    1. Zero Contact=Zero Stress! There's a reason why "No Contact" is offered as a solution when every attempt to negotiate a healthy relationship has failed. By healthy I mean: mutually reciprocal as in mutual respect.

      As you say, sometimes there are no "high roads" left to take. Sometimes people are only fooling themselves, pretending to be taking the higher road when in fact, they are avoiding the situation and denying their feelings (pain, fear, etc.). I am learning that once we've achieved a certain degree of autonomy from the narcissist and are no longer dependent on the narcissist, it is easier to take the higher road without lying to ourselves. We'll know if we've made healthy progress by our lack of obsession about the narcissist. We won't know and won't care if s/he is strolling through a meadow because we're fully present in our own life.

      We had a lovely Christmas without any upsets or fights or bickering or complaints. There was no pouting, no snarking, no hurt feelings, no distraction from our Christmas Joy. No kidding. It's the kind of Christmas that would bore a narcissist to pieces. ha! It may have been the best Christmas we've ever had!


  5. Hi CZ! You know, I think I've said this before on your blog, but if only I had read this a few days earlier, my holiday away might have worked.

    After reading your wonderful post, I'm wondering if perhaps my family holiday visit failed because of what I chose to bake? Or, perhaps that I chose to bake at all?

    I am not a baker, but have discovered these croissants from a local store. They are frozen. You take them out of the box and let them rise. Seeing them fluffed up the next morning after a night of rising makes me feel good and they are yummy! Well, the store had a seasonal product, much like the croissants I'd been buying (I thought). The dough is shaped into a circle and filled with cranberry and walnuts.

    My son held the rising round dough in his lap during our trip to visit his grandma (my mom). I was afraid it would start rising in the car if I'd left it in the box. About half an hour before our arrival, I started to think maybe my mom might not like the pastry. I just had this feeling.

    I let it sit for a while after we arrived and then realized I had forgotten to bring the box, so I didn't know what temperature to bake it at or for how long. 375 was right, but I turned it up to 400 for a few minutes and the cranberry juice cooked a bit too much as it drizzled out around the dough.

    My son said it was, "dank," which he explained meant exceptionally good. Mother told me I should go back to the store and ask for my money back.

    My trip ended abruptly the next morning, after my dog apparently tried to curl up on the sofa and my high anxiety level (I realize now), increased tremendously when I heard my mom speaking to my dog. Oh, if only people wouldn't make noise around me first thing in the morning!

    I recalled, while driving home with a terribly heavy heart, that the first thoughts I had that morning were of past traumas, present difficulties, and fear of future trauma.

    I got up on the wrong side of the bed! I wanted some resolution. I wanted to stop being dismissed constantly. I wanted my mother to stop rolling her eyes at everything I said. Every opinion or feeling or idea I have, is met with the rolling of the eyes.

    Christmas day was probably not a good day to seek resolution because in reality, there will never be a good day for this. The only resolution, apparently, will come from me.

    I'm always confused when a blow up happens. I always feel it is all my fault. Everything that goes wrong and I'm told as much. I asked if we could work things out, but the only response was, "work what out?"

    I have this problem with not being taken seriously, harshly judged, often criticized and having what feels like me (all of me, everything I am), dismissed. Yet, while I feel this way, I get beautiful gifts and I know I am loved. She loves me. What is that called? I always forget the word. When these two opposite experiences happen simultaneously.

    As always, thank you for sharing your insights, CZ, and providing this wonderful healing place.


    PS Your cake recipe sounds delicious! I should have baked a cake, I guess ;)

    1. Hello Dogkisses! Try baking the Finnish cake one day and let it rest for a day before eating. It remains moist and delicious throughout the week. But DO NOT, under any circumstances, SHARE THAT CAKE WITH YOUR MOTHER! I would never forgive myself if an eye-rolling invalidating mother had a chance to ruin "our" relationship. That may sound far-fetched but I'll bet if you told her a cyber-friend had shared this recipe, she'd find a way to ruin your pleasure. Yea...

      I think what's so hard about gift-giving mothers, who do all the right things in all the right places yet undermine their daughter's joy, are the most confusing and depression-causing mothers in the world. If a mother was consistently awful, always critical and judgmental and accusatory---well, that would be sad BUT it wouldn't be CONFUSING. You could even prepare yourself for a visit because you'd know what to expect and when she criticized your cake, you'd laugh inside. You might not laugh out loud but you wouldn't be CONFUSED. You knew what to expect (thus reducing your anxiety) and she'd do exactly as you expected. That doesn't make us crazy, that doesn't keep us awake at night. It's the gift-giving love-professing mothers who roll their eyes and trivialize our concerns, that elevate our anxiety.

      It's the inconsistency I least that's the conclusion I've come to with people who appear to love me yet do things that are subtly undermining, even critical! My head feels like a ping-pong tournament. And then to have your feelings dismissed with "work what out?", well, that would be classified as crazy-making. As if you were imagining things and making a mountain out of a molehill when in fact, you know and I know that eye-rolling is disrespectful and dismissive.

      Cognitive dissonance is the word I think you're looking for. It is a very disorienting experience because we don't know what to believe: Mom loves me; Mom doesn't love me. You might come to the conclusion I have: these folks can't get themselves together.

      It's easier to deal with their lack of congruity if you don't dismiss the eye-rolling or blame yourself. She rolls her eyes AND she gives presents. Some people are just dense. Knowing what to expect and knowing her incongruity is not about you. may reduce your anxiety. Also, just being aware that you are more anxious than usual, increases your awareness. This awareness prevents me from acting on my feelings. Not all the time of course...

      It was very RUDE of your mother to criticize your cake even if she didn't like it particularly. Of course you felt bad about that---our gifts don't have to be perfect. That you went to so much effort to bring something for the family was the point---even if the cranberries had been moldy (which they weren't!). That was very shitty of your mother, very uncivilized and she missed the entire point of your gift. Well, some people are denser than bad biscuits and there's nothing we can do to fix the problem after they've baked.

      I hope you had a better holiday once you returned home with your son. <3

      p.s. I will actually say to myself, "Self...Anxiety is talking pretty loud right now. Take her for a walk or a time-out." It sounds ridiculous I know, but acknowledging her presence and allowing her to sit in the middle of my chest, helps me avoid making matters worse. I am not perfect at this by any means but I am getting better at recognizing my anxiety before reacting. I have a good story to tell about my failure to stay calm though---maybe I can type it out this week!


  6. Thanks for your feedback CZ! I really appreciate it.

    What a hard day it was and I've hoped she would call, but she hasn't. I called her once and she told me, "It was just a ruined Christmas Day," but I thought to myself, hey, it wasn't just a "day," but was our day; our Christmas. She said too that she would take all the blame. Sigh...

    Manipulation, cruelty and gift-giving together is terribly confusing. Cognitive dissonance is the term. Odd I should have such a hard time remembering that!

    I've looked back at my life and realized things have been confusing from the beginning of my memories.

    I feel horrible about things (Christmas and all the other times I've walked away feeling like a criminal for my lack of gratitude or desire for respect) CZ, but I guess that was the point. I can't believe it took me 'til age fifty to realize what is going on, and I have a feeling this will always be a source of hurt or sadness.

    I wish I could have taken a walk and perhaps, stayed a bit longer, but this time, I just didn't have the extra energy to squash my entire self to nothing and that's what staying felt like I'd be doing.

    I am better now. Depressed, but better. My son has been really nice and he swiped the last of the pastry. I don't know why he didn't tell me he was taking it, but I was happy to see the plate empty.

    And I thought I was done with Ns! Ha! Right.

    Love and Hugs.

    1. Oh, I'm so sorry, Michelle! It doesn't help resolve a problem when parents take "all the blame", making us feel even worse about ourselves. Mothers and Martyrs, ack!

      Sure, she started the ball rolling with her comment about your cake which would be hurtful to anyone. It would be hurtful because the criticism probably represents a million other ways you've been rejected in the past. LOVE means appreciating the cake simply because a daughter cared enough to bring it. To criticize the cake without appreciating the gift, was insensitive and would trigger feelings of rejection in the past.

      Your Mom kinda sounds like she's passive-aggressive and can't stop herself from putting you down in some way. And then, when she sees the impact of her behavior, she feels guilty and apologizes without any "insight" on her part. If she could recognize how she was feeling, perhaps she could stop ruining Christmas for everyone.

      But don't feel too badly about the way things turned out! There's a good chance that leaving early will make your mother stop and think before she rolls her eyes next time, or criticizes your gift. Leaving is setting a boundary with her. You let her know by your action (leaving early) that she could not treat you that way. Next time she'll be more thoughtful before opening her mouth and inserting her foot.

      You deserve to be treated well by your mother, Michelle and you could lecture her all day, or send articles, or gift books, or an letter about your feelings; but the best darn teacher is Setting Boundaries. Standing up for yourself by refusing to accept disrespectful behavior. Just because she's your mother, she doesn't have the right to "roll her eyes" or any of the other indignities she might engage in rather than have a real argument forcing her to examine her "snarky" behavior. If you leave when she acts that way, she will probably stop doing those things...its worth a try.

      Love and hugs to you and your darling son,

  7. Hi CZ,
    LOL! I laughed and enjoyed the post, if only I had read this before my holiday festivities.

    I had stress going into the holiday and DH and I were able to make it all the way through Christmas before we had our first argument. That is a record, I'll take that for sure. So, in line with the post. I am grateful DH and I didn't have arguments that couldn't be resolved by taking a old-fashioned toddler time out and regrouping to speak calmly and rationally with each other. Woohoo!

    Graciousness, I was able to send Thank You cards without passively aggressively saying something.

    Giving, well, does donating the passive aggressive gifts we received count? I'm guessing, not.

    Okay, not perfect, progress?

    I'm glad to hear you had a nice Christmas. Sending you hugs and wishing you and your family all the best for the new year. Love, TR

    PS. You're welcome. I wince a bit at the Thank You because I behaved inappropriately in presuming your feelings.

    1. Hello TR! Glad you're back from Christmas vacation and you're still able to read and laugh. ha! And congratulations on your new record (making it all the way through Christmas before having your first argument!). It's so stressful visiting family members when they've laid land mines and booby traps all over the house and you never know for sure when you'll trigger one of 'em.

      I thank you for making me re-read my post and become very honest with myself about my feelings. It's when I'm unaware that I get myself in trouble. An argument can start as easily as this:

      "Mom, are you feeling okay?"

      "OF COURSE! Stop bugging me!"

      If I know I'm really "not" okay, then I can be honest with others and myself. The beauty of a healthy relationship is that we can be persnickety from time-to-time and people are ready to forgive. That's because persnickety-ness is mutual and forgiveness divine. ha!


      p.s. Did you try the cake? I'd love to know if anyone made this delicious treat!


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