I love my family. I would take a bullet for any of them, and I could name all of the specific ways in which my love manifests, but doing so feels either self-aggrandizing (I support them!) or infantilizing (I support them!) or both, so I won’t.
But all of that being said: sometimes, like I think everyone feels, being near my family is stressful.
I moved away in my mid-20s, hopping and settling in three different cities over the last several years. And I always go back from Christmas, but I have yet to move back. No matter how “awesome” my home state (CO / i.e., “oh my god I love Colorado!”) is. No matter how much friends wish I still lived there. No matter how many times my parents and siblings lament to me over egg nog* at Christmas: when are you coming home?
*it’s beer and wine.
And every time they ask me this, I shrug and give the same answer: “I don’t know” or, more specifically: “I’m fine where I am for now.”
I can breathe.
I don’t always want to be home. I want my own space. I don’t even want to be tugged or hung on during the holidays, and I especially don’t want this for more than, like… a day. Period. I want to visit, yes, but then I want to leave.
Sometimes love needs to look and feel a certain way to serve both parties and not just one.
And yeah, my love is self-serving to a point. But shouldn’t all love be??
I am opposed to “selfish love” (which is an oxymoron, btw.) My writing should make that clear. I’m not advocating that anybody monopolize through their relationships and loved ones.
But I am an advocate of everyone negotiating their needs, even against others’ wishes and wants — and compromising on what they’re willing to give, when, where, why, and how.
I will support my family. I’d take a bullet for them, sure, if necessary.
But I will not make myself physically and bodily available just because it’s “that time of year,” and I certainly won’t do it for 16 hours a day for a week straight. I don’t want a permanent place setting at the Sunday dinner table.
These are the sorts of boundaries we all have to define for ourselves — and we have to be honest about them, both in our own lives, and with others.
And this, to be clear, does not just make us okay loved ones — it makes us stronger ones. Because when someone understands and is clear on where they draw the line, they can also give more freely — and earnestly — with the rest.