“What do you want to do for Christmas this year, hon?”
I felt myself jump, even though I know I didn’t actually do it on the outside. We were driving home from dinner, and I mentally cursed the twenty minutes on the freeway ahead of us. Twenty minutes of what would very likely be a Marital Dispute.
Someone, probably God, was punishing me.
Faster than you could say “Let’s change the subject, sweetie,” the memories of the past few Christmases wheeled through my mind.
Like last Christmas, when family members didn’t cooperate with my ideas and Mike and I opened presents alone. I felt guilty for forcing my plans on him, throwing his whole Christmas into disarray because I had to win. Even though I got my way, we both wound up disappointed.
Then, the first Christmas of our marriage, when money was so tight I shopped for gifts at our local resale store trying to get the most for my thinly spread dollars. That year I stretched our budget so far I thought I would snap from the pressure. Mike and I sniped at each other the entire month of December, arguing over who spent more time with which family and bickering over every penny spent. Instead of a season of marital bliss and hot cocoa by the tree, I used my terrier-like focus to pick at sore spots for the sake of My Own Way.
Continuing the backward spiral, before we got engaged I threw a giant fit because Mike made plans for Christmas and my Christmas Eve birthday without consulting me. “But I’ve always spent my birthday with my family!” I pouted, which at the time sounded an awful lot like reasoning to me. As it was the first Christmas for me out of rehab, every feeling felt raw and scraped, and I fought on “principle.” Unfortunately, these “principles” didn’t account for Mike’s secret plan to propose that night.
We did things my way. He waited another two months before popping the question.
These jolly recollections halted at a time even further back, a time unrelated to Christmas.
In this memory, I’m sitting in the director’s office at rehab, discussing my work on the first step. The director’s bright blue eyes bored a hole right through my hollow soul.
“You’re a very controlling person, aren’t you?” she asked me.
The question took me off guard, I remember, because I was the most laid back person I knew! Didn’t I always let people do whatever they wanted? I let them control the radio in my car. I let them say whatever they wanted and I never corrected them (even if they were wrong). I let them hurt me and I never said a word, I just let them. Ha! Me, controlling?
“Nat?” Mike’s voice interrupted.
You’re a very controlling person, aren’t you?
I took a measured breath. “Honestly, as long as we’re together, I don’t care what we do for Christmas.”
I meant it, too. Thank God, because we still had another nineteen minutes ahead of us.
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