I realized I was done with large, if not most gatherings – hosting, or attending, when a brand new jar of locally made ketchup, a gift from a friend, crashed onto my kitchen floor.
Enough was enough.
My mental health, having some grasp on my anxiety, was more important.
It started way back, when I was a kid. Being from not one, but two very large families – holidays were always loud, and jammed, literally, with people.
As I got older, and obligations either from work, college, or a significant other’s family came up, the non-stop, celebrate everything, slowed.
I can’t believe I didn’t notice the change within myself as my attendance at family gatherings began to drop off, one by one.
I had more moments where I didn’t feel like one of those toys that you wind up, and it jitters/vibrates/shakes around. Wherever I happened to be, the edges of my eyesight weren’t getting fuzzy. My chest didn’t feel heavy. I didn’t have that sense of urgency, that loss of breath.
Like a good girl, I still went, at least, to a bare minimum of gatherings.
After having my son, attending a Christmas Eve family thing, I felt like I was dying.
At his first birthday, I had all I could do to keep my head on my shoulders and not shout at everyone to get out of my house. My safe space. The space that brought me calm.
Dutifully, I honored the Independence Day small gathering that had somehow become a “thing” since we had moved into our house, a half-mile from the county’s biggest celebration festivities for the day.
But that was the pivotal moment.
Watching every single person in my house, lost in conversations, watching television, vying for my son’s attention, while I bustled in-and-out, in-and-out, back-and-forth, prepping food, cooking food, setting up plates, utensils, condiments… and then, with full arms, the ketchup slipped.
And I almost did too.
Every bit of my insides were there, just below the surface, ready to vibrate through my pores, and spill onto the floor with the broken glass, and red goo.
It was that night, holding my son, watching fireworks bloom in the sky that I made the decision: enough was enough. No more.
Not just for myself, my own sake – but for him. I need him to see that, even with family, it’s okay to set boundaries. To say no. To protect yourself, through and through.
Do I wish I had done it sooner? Yes. Without a shred of doubt, or hesitation, yes. I wish I’d considered myself enough to make the choice sooner. Not wait until I was in a position of example, influence.
The past is the past. I can’t change that.
What I can do is: Keep moving forward.