I know it’s over a month away, but I have to start planning for Thanksgiving. My partner and I will be driving quite a distance to see our families, several states away. The whole thing is giving me a headache, just thinking about it.
We’ll be visiting both sides of the family, who fortunately live close to the same interstate (though several states away), and it’s going to be a production.
Family #1 we’ll be visiting (my side) is big. My hyposensitive, sensory-seeking mother loves to pack the house full of people, with as much noise and activity as can fit — sometimes even more. She’s loud, she’s high-contact, she goes through life banging into things (and people), and she’s in constant motion. The house will be full of a bunch of us, including my sister’s family, in from halfway across the country. A couple of her kids strike me as ActuallyAutistic, with my nephew in particular reminding me so much of myself. I’ve been wanting to broach the subject of Aspergers/Autism with him, and this might be the best tie.
Then again, I might be so fried and whacked out by the activity and constant bombardment, that I can’t even put two words together… just play along, like I’m a paddler who’s been dumped from their boat in Class 4 rapids.
We have to figure out how we’re going to manage the lodging, because my partner has extreme scent sensitivities, and the idea that my parents have — to put us up at a nearby community gathering space — is no good.
So, we have to figure out where we’re going to stay (the local hotel is affectionately called “the roach motel”, so that’s not an option – we both have a horror of bedbugs, too). We have to figure all of this out, along with the timing of when we’ll visit.
My sister’s got four kids, all of whom are very interactive and engaging. They’re super active, physically and mentally, and the lot of us end up in a perpetual motion state. It takes a lot to interact with them all, especially while my mother is trying to get on every single conversation and get us to do and talk about the things she’s interested in. My mother is the most childish one in the room, during the holidays, and she’s a whirlwind… which makes it even more taxing.
And then there’s my other sister, who’s disabled and has a lot of challenges in her life. She does a lot of talking/processing about how to handle it all, which is fine — the thing is, many of her conditions are actually the results of her poor lifestyle choices, and they could actually be fixed with proper nutrition and exercise. I’m not judging — given her background, I don’t fault her at all. It’s just really hard to see her suffer, when she has some solutions right in front of her. I hate seeing her suffer. It’s like watching someone slowly die of thirst while sitting on the other side of a hill from a stream of clear, running water.
It’s just painful.
After a day or so of my family, we get in the car and drive another six hours to my partner’s family. They are the complete opposite, in that they’re perfectly content to just sit around the house, watching t.v., reading the paper, staring at their smartphones or laptops, or talking about the latest drama surrounding the family felon. They’re nice people, wonderful people. The problem is, from morning till night, they have the television on and blaring. It’s everywhere. It’s unescapable. They have to have “the game” on — take your pick of any college football game in progress — and they have to have some sort of noise in the background. I guess that’s to block out the thoughts in their heads?
The environment is extraordinarily challenging for me, especially since I’m nothing like them, I’m working overtime trying to figure out how to interact successfully with them, and we have a history of missed social cues and clues, and general screw-ups. I once couldn’t figure out how to turn the gas on their stove off completely and I couldn’t figure out how to ask for help… and then we went out for a drive. When we got back, the main living area was filled with the strong smell of gas, and they freaked out. Had someone flipped on the light, the house might have blown up. I’m still disconcerted about that. No, not disconcerted. Downright ashamed.
I’ve always been the “odd one out” there, because I come from a completely different part of the world, I don’t share their accent, and for years, my Royal Aspieness compelled me to try to mimic their accent and mannerisms. I did a terrible job of it, and I embarrassed myself (and them) in the process. I’ve since gotten over that need to blend with them that way. But it still chafes me, to know how ridiculous I sounded. They accepted me, anyway, but I’m still embarrassed to be around them, because of it.
The worst thing about this impending trip, though, is the other family members who will be joining us. As family members, we love them. As society members, they want to see queers like me and my partner run out of town on a rail. Along with all the n*****s and “rapist Mexicans” goddamn feminist dykes, flaming faggots, commie kkes, fucking rtards, and pretty much anybody who isn’t a able-bodied white heterosexual right-wing conservative devotee of the current GOP candidate.
Oh . My . God. I’m going to be dealing with these people while I’m overtired, hypersensitive, overwhelmed, bombarded by noise and light and a host of other unfamiliar sensory experiences. I’m feeling a little like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane right now — if there’s any way this can be lifted off me, dear Lord, please, please do it…
And then we turn around and go back to my family, who are on the way home.
By that time, I’m usually so fried, so numb, so wiped out, I’m barely feeling anything. I’m just a walking zombie. And in past years, I’ve had very close calls with accidents, on the “tail end” of these visits. It’s just so much. And now that I’ve got my official autism DX, it’s literally impossible for me to brush it off and conveniently forget about it.
There’s no more doing that. At all. Kind of makes me reconsider the wisdom of having to have that official autism assessment. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just not know…?
Er… um… no.
Anyway… So, yeah, I have a lot to prepare for. The main thing I need to do, is just keep cool, take good care of myself, and ensure I’m really rested and mentally sharp, before we start this whole drama tour. I know I’ll be tired, even before we leave the house, since my partner is not the speediest packer and traveler, and we’ll be driving for hours in holiday traffic, just to get to Family #1. I’ll also be coming off having to work extra to cover the week that I’m away. Then there’s the gauntlet of that stay in the midst of mayhem… and the additional drive to Family #2. In holiday traffic. To be followed by days and days of non-stop football games on t.v., wailing and gnashing of teeth and drunken fights about the recent elections (whatever the results, nobody’s going to be happy).
Yeah… that Jesus in the Garden thing…
But there’s no way I’m getting out of this, this year. We need to see our families. And although I dread the thought of doing it, every single year, and I’m pretty much destroyed when we return and can’t do or interact with anyone outside of work for a month, afterwards, we’re always glad we went.
It just takes prep. So, that’s what I’m doing now.
Time to check on hotel rates in the area. And map out a plan.
I can do this. We can do this. It can be done.