Apart from a used Kleenex, there’s nothing I dispose of faster than the generic Christmas “Update Letter”. Otherwise known as a “brag letter”, these often accompany an equally annoying printed Christmas photo card. While I’m all about spreading good cheer around the holidays, these letters are so fake, I’ll take my seasonal dose of bullshit from another source.
Many of you are probably thinking: “Wow, that’s a harsh, bah-humbug” response”. Perhaps. But take for example, my mother-in-law. She tried her hand at this version of snail mail trash and even went so far as to send us (my husband and I), a copy! Wherein, among a slew of family accolades that were hardly brag-worthy, we learned that one of our “marital goals” was to summit all of Colorado’s 14er’s (mountains exceeding 14,000 feet in elevation). Whaaaaat?! Actually, this is a goal that lies too far from my heart. Mine. NOT my husband’s. He eschews hiking and particularly those treks which induce a heart rate over 100 bpm for any length of time. So why did his mother think it appropriate to make that shit up? It’s not like the people receiving the letter will write back and comment on this lofty objective. So why then is it necessary? True, now we have Facebook, and Instagram, where every lost tooth, virus and and first poop in the potty are documented and boasted about for all of cyberspace to read and comment upon. But making up false goals and achievements takes the b.s. bragging to a whole new level.
After giving it much thought I decided to write my own “Christmas Update Letter”. A real one. Not the false fluff that most of them contain, but a true, real, authentic this-is-what-REALLY-happened-to-our-family-this-year, letter. I daresay it will be a far more interesting read than the sham forgery most families cough up year after year.
Dear Friends & Family,
Where do I begin? 2019 started strained and stressful, much like the year that proceeded it and it continues down that sad path as it stumbles to a close that can’t come soon enough. My husband’s company continued to suck the life and funds out of our relationship and family and lo and behold it ended up landing us in couples therapy. We spent a good couple of months acting as only roommates can. Little communication, less connection and zero sex. Super fun. I added another anti-depressant to my staggering array of “self-help” drugs and amped up my day/evening drinking substantially in an effort to maintain a mediocre mother/spouse status to anyone looking on.
The kids spent a boring-ass summer at their not-so-engaged grandparents where most days they begged NOT to go, which sent me spiraling into a self-induced, bad-parent hell. Prior to the half-assed “intervention” that consisted of my in-laws and I practically bitch-slapping the naked truth in his face like raw chicken cutlets, my husband wore blinders bearing the name of his business and sacrificed more than I care to recollect in an effort to see it through.
My weight yo-yo’d with my ever-present PMS (side-effects from the medication/wine cocktail I consumed almost daily) to cope with the kids intensifying drama; all a result of our crumbling household. Grades plummeted, not that I should care, it’s elementary school after all, and interests waned until I, too, started making up fantasy activities they were ‘planning on’ or ‘interested in’ trying. I can’t even count on one hand the family time spent together that we actually DID something and where no stress or blow-ups were involved. Parenting skills slipped. Outbursts prevailed.
While friends and family traveled and took summer trips, we couldn’t even eek out a free camping trip in the backyard. Stress levels remained above normal cortisol thresholds, threatening to crack the deteriorating foundation of a life we worked so hard to build. I continued to drive countless miles to and from my back-breaking, low-paying but sanity-saving job, training horses, and narrowly missed a crushed skull and several other injuries not worth mentioning because, hey, I’m still alive. Winning!
As James sunk more and more of our retirement into his wretched dream, I did a pretty good job of fake-supporting him once I realized that the D-word was imminent. Some days I wished for it like a child wishes for the tooth fairy to come. As if all this wasn’t enough, his grandfather had to kick the bucket on my birthday, the ONE day I thought I might actually get a reprieve from the madness that swirled around me on the daily. Nope. Just a somber dinner and an “I’m sorry your birthday sucked this year.” Wow. Thanks sweetie.
On the bright side, while our hard-earned savings dwindled along with our dreams of moving and owning our own small farm, our debt continues to reach soaring heights, something we agreed we would never allow to happen. Another goal missed, another negative target hit! As we continue the ever-quickening backward slide in the abyss of never leaving our cookie-cutter home in our too-white, non-diverse neighborhood, I can look back and smile at few choice gifts this year left us with:
– Be careful following your dreams. They’ll either disappoint you or put you on a fast-track to destitution, disappointment and self-loathing.
– If you ARE going to follow your dreams, do it alone. Loneliness beats dragging others kicking and screaming along in your wake of self and family destruction.
– Moving is probably never going to happen. Not like you thought, not like you hoped and certainly nowhere near the fucking timeline you anticipated.
– When it comes to marriage, there is always a “BETTER” side of the family. That’s mine. Always. Hands down. No question. Period.
– Horses, although expensive, are cheaper and far more effective than therapy. For me, anyway.
– I’m still skinny and relatively physically fit and no matter how shallow, that’s something to me.
So while I would genuinely like to share glad holiday tidings with family and friends, I cannot fucking WAIT for this year to end. Can’t say I’m super excited for another one to begin with so many unknowns looming, but it’s going to happen so I might as well brace myself now. While I have little hope left that we’ll actually crawl out of this crap-hole we’ve created and resurface stronger, better, and smarter, I do have a small shred reserved. I tuck it deep in the recesses of the my cluttered mind, somewhere between my fantasies of great expanses of alone time, and if-I-had-it-to-do-again, marrying extremely rich, not-present miser who wasn’t interested in any sort of physical relationship.
In closing, Merry Christmas – Happy New Year and all of the other holiday cheer crap we’re expected to say but no one really means.
The Smith Family