Learning to Be Thankful

And happy

Amber Fraley

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Photo by Jovan Vasiljević on Unsplash

I’m one of a number of Americans estranged from my parents. Occasionally I give an update on how that’s going, for anyone out there who’s considering going no contact, or anyone who’s gone no contact but is conflicted by that decision.

I’m writing this now because the holidays have always been the most difficult days for me since I broke up with my parents. (We’re coming up on about five years for one parent and a year-and-a-half or so for the other. They’re long divorced.)

This Thanksgiving was the first I didn’t feel a shred of guilt that my parents weren’t blessed with my presence. The day was for me to enjoy with my husband and daughter, period. In fact, this was a Thanksgiving with zero drama-causing relatives in attendance at all, and I have to tell you — it was divine.

This Thanksgiving I was thankful for happiness. I was thankful to not have the heavy cloak of guilt and verbal abuse pushing down on me, because the effect is both mental and physical. I was thankful to not have to get stinking drunk just to tolerate it. I was thankful to be able to talk and laugh with my nephews. I was thankful to play games and spend time with my beautiful daughter. I was thankful for my husband, who never puts me down or otherwise makes my holidays miserable.

My husband and I watched the movie Home For the Holidays over the Thanksgiving holiday because it’s a yearly tradition of ours, along with Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and the turkey bombing episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. These traditions are important in our family.

Home for the Holidays used to be a lot funnier to me, because I could identify with all of it. Watching it this year took on a slightly different tone. Why do we put up with that kind of abuse and racism from our family members, just because we’re related? Home for the Holidays seems to conclude that’s just the way it is.

I don’t think I agree, anymore. (To clarify — I don’t think Claudia’s parents are abusive. Highly annoying? Yes. Wrong about some things? Sure. Abusive? Clearly not. Crazy Aunt Glady? Again, weird, somewhat annoying, but not abusive. Now, Claudia and Jack’s bigoted sister Joanne? She’s abusive.)

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Amber Fraley

Writing about abortion rights, mental illness, trauma, narcissistic abuse & survival, politics. Journalist, novelist, wife, mom, Kansan, repro rights activist.