The Happiest Season

I was watching a wonderful movie called “The Happiest Season” with my wife on Thanksgiving. It’s a romantic comedy/drama that you can find on Hulu. In it Kristen Stewart plays an orphan. Her parents passed when she was 19. As a result she doesn’t really like holidays.

That sounds sillier than it is.

Her girlfriend convinces her to go meet her family for Christmas. But her girlfriend has not come out to her parents. Lots of crazy things happen.

Equal parts hilarity and heart. Five stars.

There’s a scene where the family is meeting her for the first time and they have this attitude of “I’m so sorry about your parents.” They pat her on the shoulder and they have incredible concern for her.

And she’s just like “Um…it was a long time ago…”

It’s sort of played for uncomfortable comedy. The family is a little over the top with their sympathy, saying things like, “You’re so brave. And you don’t need to be.”

I’m telling you all this for a reason.

I didn’t really know how to explain it until I saw it in the context of this movie. That’s exactly what it’s like.

I lost my parents when I was 19 too. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a clear presentation of what it’s like. I started thinking holidays were stupid after my parents died. I became a negative person. I’ve definitely made more than my share of mistakes.

And the sympathy is exactly what it was like for many years too. Now that I’m 40, a lot more people my age have lost their parents. It’s not nearly as unusual as it was. But through my 20s and even into my 30s I received plenty of “Oh, I’m so sorry.”

It wasn’t easy. I carried the weight of that loss for a long time. I guess I still do. For years I was just miserable. And I also I wasn’t really capable of letting people get close to me. I didn’t know how to show up for relationships like I needed to. I was just sort of broken and numb.

I still carry some baggage. I have real attachment issues and fears of abandonment. That’s gotten better but it will probably never totally go away.

The truth is we’re all carrying emotional baggage from childhood. We like to think we outgrow that stuff, but I don’t think we do. Whether your parents were mean, or didn’t show the kind of love you needed, or passed away too soon like mine…that’s manifesting in our relationships. It can take a lifetime to figure out how to put that baggage down.

I’m still working on it. Are you?

Is That Weird?

I think I was raised in a different way from most people in America.

When I was a kid we never talked about religion or politics in our house.

We went to church once in a while, but never with any regularity. And I have no idea how my parents voted, or even if they did.

A lot of the people I know weren’t raised that way at all. In a lot of cases people are raised with two religious faiths. Faith in God and faith in political party. In many families these things are talked about every day. Sometimes I actually wonder which is more important to people.

I don’t want to denigrate anyone for raising their kids the way they want to. I think we’re all trying our best.

But I can say I’m glad my parents raised me that way. I think it really helped me see the world in a unique way.

I don’t know if they did it on purpose. I don’t know if they didn’t care much about religion or politics and so it just never came up. I don’t know if they were waiting until I was old enough to talk about those things.

I don’t know if it’s related to the fact that by the time I was old enough to vote in a Presidential election they were dead. Maybe they would have suggested I vote a certain way in the 2000 election. I’ll never know.

I could find out, of course. I could ask my brother who is eight years older than me. Or I have relatives I could ask. But I like not knowing. I don’t sit around wondering, “how did my parents vote?” I just sit around thinking, “I’m glad they never told me.”

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person who grew up this way. I do think it’s rare. Tell me your story in the comments.