So this is what happens:
A month ago, my MIL asked if we'd like to go on a cruise at Christmas. I thanked her for her generosity and declined.
(We did this once, many years ago. It was not just a nightmare, it was a disaster. And right there, 20-month-old in tow at the San Juan airport, I said that I was NEVER traveling during the holidays EVER again. I've stuck to that for 14 years so far. And trust me, it's not a unilateral decision.)
So yesterday, celebrating the spouse's birthday at Octoberfest with his parents, my MIL made a glum face and said that even though we didn't want to go on a cruise, everyone else did. I kept my neutral face on (you wonder why this is my default expression?) and expressed my desire that they all have a lovely time, while inwardly cheering. No one had said anything about the rest of the family at the time that we'd been asked, so not going was the best possible decision here. I'm not sure why my MIL makes a glum face when she offers up these announcements. She is hoping that we feel we're missing out? Most assuredly, we don't.
(The spouse dislikes--intensely--several people in his extended family. This makes family gatherings incredibly awkward, and listening to his diatribes before, during and after makes me very tense. Thus, I'm all about avoidance.)
"Since we'll be gone at Christmas," my MIL continued, "we thought we'd come down to your house for Thanksgiving, and you can cook. Hahahahaha!"
And there went the plans to go to Sequoia for Thanksgiving.
Then, my mother called today.
"I'm coming to visit you for Thanksgiving!" she said.
"You might as well. B & C already invited themselves," I told her.
"Oh well, I promised your brother I'd spend actual Thanksgiving with him. I'm coming to your house the week before."
Again, does anyone ask? I'd never dream of assuming that I'm just welcome to show up at anyone's door, family or not. I'm so worried about being a bother to others that I could never even consider such a course of action, and will steer clear if I think that an invitation is not sincere or that someone feels forced into issuing one.
It's certainly not that I begrudge my family my time, or the energy it takes to entertain them or cook for them. It's that the demands continue to escalate until there is nothing left, each individual somehow believing that their needs are the only ones I'm being asked to meet. It doesn't matter how frequently I say or demonstrate that this is not the case.
Eyes on the door.
Go listen to some good music: "Moves" from the album Together by The New P*rnographers. I know plenty of women who face this same problem, and some men, too, though the men I know seem to be better at saying "no." I'm not really a doormat, but I'm trying to be faithful to the idea that there is finite time here. I don't want to be the one regretting that I didn't make time for the grandparents at the holidays. And to be fair, I made time for myself for Albuquerque and Columbus and Pittsburgh. Would do it again in a heartbeat.