I didn’t travel for Thanksgiving, this year. My partner and I got sick the week before, and after days of fever, hacking, coughing, sneezing, and feeling like we’d been dragged by horses through the Sonora, we called off the trip on the Sunday before we were supposed to leave.
We had planned all along to leave on Tuesday. Preferably around noontime, so we could drive during daylight for at least half of the way, and we’d also miss the day-before-Thanksgiving traffic. But neither of us were in any shape to do that. We were disappointed. Our families were disappointed — ranging from a bit peeved to really pissed off at us. But there was no way we could have gone.
Anyway, it was no great loss, because here are the things we “missed”:
- Driving 1500 miles round trip, across seven states, in the heaviest U.S. traffic time of the entire year.
- Dealing with people who hate gays, deep in Trump country (we bought some Christian symbol magnets to put in the van, to cut down on the social static)… you can’t be too careful.
- Sleeping in strange beds, in conditions that are typically either too cold or too hot — and some with forced hot air heating, which both of us can’t tolerate well.
- Political and theological pontificating by relatives Who Think They Know… but really have no clue.
- Food that neither of us can tolerate – too many carbs, too much heavy-duty fat, too many sugary desserts, much of it cooked in ways that tie our innards up in knots.
- Constant over-stimulation.
- My side of the family Loves-Loves-Loves constant movement and chaos. My mother is hyposensitive, constantly seeking sensations — LOUD NOISES, LOUD TALKING, LOUD SHOUTING, LOUD MUSIC, LOUD CROWDS, LOUD-LOUD-LOUD!!! She loves to pack the house full and have company just stop by because they were in the neighborhood. (Augh!) My father cannot sit still. He’s in constant motion, always on to the next thing, always talking, always pontificating, always riffing on some Deep Thought he’s had (which unfortunately is seldom as keep as he things – I haven’t the heart to tell him). I wonder sometimes if he’s got a whopping case of ADHD, to match my mothers Autism. It could very well be. Neither are neurotypical. But they fit right in, because nobody where they live is, either.
- My partner’s family is the opposite end of the spectrum. They’re extremely sedentary… downright sluggish. Their constant stimulation is the television(s) they always have on in the background. They can’t seem to be in a room without the t.v. on. Even if they’re not in the room, they have to have the t.v. on. And it’s football. Usually football. Or cartoons. Something you can wander in and out of, without getting invested, something noisy, with the occasional crescendo to catch your attention. In some ways, that’s even harder to take than my parents’ brand of chaos, because there’s so little physical activity involved, and it’s just so mind-numbing. Going from one extreme to the other is always a huge source of stress, each year.
- Change to my routine. No riding my exercise bike in the morning. No making my coffee and egg and sitting quietly on my own, without any interruption. No taking a few hours of quiet to write and read and listen to music and think about things without interruption.
- Too much interaction. From all sides. Everybody loves to interact. What is it with people? They can’t just BE? They can’t just sit in the same room without needing someone to reassure them that they’re fine, that they’re OK, that they exist?
- Constant reminders that we are different, that we aren’t like the other people in our family, and that we just have very different lives and values. My family believes I’m wasting my life, because I didn’t follow in their footsteps, and my partner’s family believes we’re both underachievers, because we don’t have the college degrees, the professions, the status, the kids, the cars, the big house, that are clear signs that you’ve “made it”. We’re queer. We’re neurodivergent. Our pictures don’t get put on the refrigerators along with everyone else’s. We don’t get mentioned to other people, when they ask how the kids are doing. We don’t get to have conversations about things that matter to us, because those things have little value or reality in the worlds we enter, when we visit family for Thanksgiving. We’re exiles. Willful or not, we emigrated from those worlds many decades ago, and we’re not moving back permanently. We can’t. And we won’t.
- And more… More than I can list, right now.
But none of that happened this Thanksgiving. We didn’t have to wrangle with the rejection, the exclusion, the overwhelm, the assault, the erasure. We had a quiet week all to ourselves. I rested on Tuesday afternoon. I shopped on Wednesday and then raked up the rest of the leaves in the yard, and I cooked on Thursday. We Skyped with our families on Thanksgiving evening, caught up with them and got to chat. Friday through Sunday were bliss — sheer bliss — when we got to just move at our own pace and do whatever the hell we wanted to do… which was basically read and write and hang out with each other.
It was really quite lovely. And getting back into the regular routine — while it’s a welcome resurgence of predictability — hasn’t been easy. Fortunately, I’m able to work from home at least one day a week, so I did that on Monday. Yesterday I was in the office, and it was good to see everyone again. But I could have done without the open space situation. The office where I was yesterday (not my usual office) was all open — and bright — and full of people “stampeding” back and forth behind me. So, that was a pain in the neck. But what the heck… I was in and out of meetings all day, so I didn’t have to deal with the open space situation all that much.
Today, it’s back to my real regular schedule. Drive in to the office. In rush hour traffic. Camp out in my cubicle, dial into conference calls, try to get some stuff done. And wonder where the hell November went?
Seriously, it’s bizarre, how quickly November went. And October. And September, come to think of it. Actually… wasn’t it just July? Ah well, so it goes. And yes, it does go.
Christmas will be another stint away from family. There is no way we are making that trip, this winter. It’s too much. And with everything going on in the world, we just don’t feel safe traveling to see people. Not just yet. I’ve had plenty of instances where people Down South think I’m a man, and they freak out when they see me going into the women’s restrooms. The last thing I need is to get my ass kicked by some yahoo who’s “confused” by how I present my ambiguous gender. I also don’t care to get pepper-sprayed by some lady who thinks I’m a pervert. That’s what people are being told to do in the parts of the world where we’d be traveling. I got my own pepper spray — I’m not fucking around, if someone comes after me — but honestly, I’d rather not even have to deal with it.
We’ll go see everyone in the spring, when the weather clears and we don’t have to worry about lack of daylight — and the roads full of people who are all bent out of shape about our political and cultural situation.
It’s a quiet year, this year. And good thing. I really, really need the quiet.
Especially this year.