The Dreaded “Annual Christmas Update Letter”

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

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A Letter Never Sent

Very recently, I embarked on what I considered to be a great job opportunity doing something I love. It was mostly rainbows and unicorns, with just a few gargoyles thrown in, but generally speaking, I did my job with professionalism, safety, courtesy and respect for my manager, her clients and her business.

Then I was bitch-slapped. And ignored. Then applauded, then bitch-slapped again, this time harder. I was lied to, avoided and shorted compensation which I feel I deserved every penny of. I am not one to fight fire with gasoline – quite the contrary as I typically avoid confrontation. But this situation, this lack of communication which led to all sorts of dishonesty and drama has occupied too much of my brain space to just let it go completely. So I wrote this letter intended for my ex-employer. Will I send it? No, I don’t think so. It defeats the purpose of taking the high road. But there’s a not-so-small part of me that really, really wants to. But for now, it feels good just to get it on paper and read it to myself like I was reading it to the passive-aggressive, crook of a person I had the displeasure of working for. May we never cross paths again. Until the high road has taken me far above and beyond where she is and I can look down, smile and give a little wave.

Dear Name-not-to-be-mentioned,

Wow. I have to say I’m really disappointed. I’m disappointed that you weren’t an adult enough to communicate with me, that when you did communicate, you were dishonest about it and that you went back on your word and fabricated a payment system that we did not fully discuss. I’m disheartened that you didn’t think enough of me to provide me with the tools necessary to successfully manage your clients while you were away – lucky for you, I’m an intelligent, resourceful, proactive individual who is not afraid to ask questions or make mistakes; and I figured it out. Lucky for you, I do my best and in this case by best was damn good. Maybe too good for you.

While it took you over a month to pay me, I continued to give you the benefit of the doubt. Afterall, you’ve never had an assistant, who could blame you, right? I immediately responded to the very complimentary email (despite some backhanded compliments) that you sent upon your return. You were so grateful –“BEYOND grateful” for me; in fact, you were happy, your clients were happy, everyone wins, right?

I didn’t know you had magician capabilities. Immediately after that email, you disappeared. I gave you two weeks after I sent my invoice – along with the two, very simple, yet very detailed spreadsheets I created both to track my work and to make your billing easier. I waited TWO weeks thinking maybe you were busy catching up from your trip. When I finally followed up you said you were waiting to hear from me! Coming from someone who was so eager to get working together and figure out how we could best communicate when you were home, you don’t seem to have the ability to use the number of technological tools available to you to reach out to me. According to your “genuine” email – you are VERY protective of your family and those who work for you (which at the time still included yours truly). Funny, if abandoning someone, leaving them completely in the lurch and making them look like an incompetent human is how you “protect” them, I’m very concerned for your daughter and those close to you.

I am not one to call names; that’s not really taking the high road and in this case, I need to because apparently the road you travel on is not only lower than low, but rutted and full of potholes. You are a dishonest phony, a bad business woman, and a passive-aggressive, insecure person. Well, I guess I just traveled on your road for a minute. Didn’t like it. Wasn’t at all comfortable. So I’m going to climb back up to the high road now.

Originally, this letter was going to be a lot shorter because my primary intention was to thank you for the opportunity. But my tune has changed slightly. I’m sure, if I keep persevering, another great opportunity will present itself. If not, I’ll create it myself. I’m good like that. But what I really want to thank you for was the learning experience. I learned what not to look for in an employer, especially in the horse business. I learned (again) how petty and easily threatened women are by someone that just knows what they’re doing and always puts their best foot forward to do the job right. I’ve learned to put EVERYTHING in writing clear as day, to ask as many questions as possible and provide as many clarifying statements necessary to ensure my side is understood. I’ve learned to deal with a strain of difficult people that I’ve never really encountered before. I’ve learned when to keep my mouth shut and that taking the high road is always the better way. I’ve learned that spending time and energy on selfish, dishonest people is a waste and should be stopped even before it begins. And probably most importantly, I’ve learned that when (not if), I have my own horse-related business, regardless of what it is, I will conduct it with honesty, integrity and most of all, I will communicate to an excess.

While a small part of me would love to throw you under the social media bus and watch you flail and squirm, that wouldn’t be the high road would it? And my guess is that it would only feel satisfying for a moment. Who knows what you’ve said about me, what the word is around the barn for why I’m no longer working for you; which I’m assuming is the case but you never really said so…fact is, it doesn’t matter. I have people that can back me up. And while I wouldn’t put anything past you at this point, I would hope that as an adult (albeit a very, VERY disillusioned one), you wouldn’t burn bridges for me. At the end of the day, I’m just a horse-lover. I’m passionate as all hell and whether it’s my business or someone else’s, ultimately, for me, it’s not about the cracked-up individuals that seem to infiltrate this industry, but the animals that make it possible. It’s about the horses. You might do well to remember that from time to time. If it weren’t for them, you wouldn’t have a business at all.

Again, thank you for opening my eyes to what I need to avoid, in this business and in life in general. While I don’t wish you harm, I certainly don’t wish you well either.

In all sincerity,

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