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Somebody forgot to give me an updated role description

22nd August, 2020

I loved Christmas as a kid, it was always at our place, as Mum and Dad had to be home to milk the cows. Dad has a big family with lots of cousins to fill the back yard, swim in the para-pool and make for a great game of bat down in the cow patted paddock.

The night before Xmas Mum and I would do a special dinner for the 4 of us, Mum, Dad my brother and me. Christmas eve dinner with all the good china and glasses and napkins. I loved this tradition just as much as Xmas, perhaps even more because it was something I got to do with mum and there wasn’t a lot we did that was just us. Plus, I love traditions, I love creating them and maintaining them.

Everything changes, I realise that. But this tradition was significant to me.

It changed back in 2002. My brother had been dating a girl who was to become his wife the following year.

It was the Christmas before they were getting married. It was Christmas eve. I was excited to prepare our Christmas eve dinner, including an extra seat at the table for our new addition.

The preparation didn’t quite go as usual though. My soon to be sister in law came down to the house early as she wanted help from Mum to create a dish. There wasn’t room in the kitchen for 3 so I stepped aside.

I stood by and watched for a while and eventually retreated to the lounge as I felt like an intruder. When the dish was finished I went in to continue preparing with Mum but she had finished what she needed to do so she and my future SIL took to the lounge with a glass of wine and left me on my own in the kitchen to finish my dishes on my own, with tears in my eyes. I was sad to lose my tradition with my mum but was it something bigger.

Mum saw a DIL who needed training and guidance in looking after her son. My mum had a purpose in that relationship.

I was single and recently returned from living my 20’s in the UK.

Dynamics were changing and I couldn’t quite see where it was I fell in this. I didn’t feel like I did.

I didn’t stay in NZ, I moved to Melbourne.

What was my role?

As time passed my brother and SIL had 2 children, so I became the aunt. I embraced this.

But I saw the kudos in the family for my brother and SIL for being parents. My accomplishments were not embraced with the same enthusiasm. It’s hard to compare to the love of grandchildren.

So great was the sanctity of marriage and children and supporting this, that my parents bought a bigger farm, with the intent that my brother could bring his family onto it, to all work together.

There was no support for me or my future. But it becomes difficult to say these things out loud because I am incredibly sensitive to being perceived as mean spirited and I was heavily ingrained to be a “good girl”.  So, I watched from afar, as my parents gave hours and sweat to building a business and supporting my brother and his family.

This is about me and my feelings, its my blog, so I’m not going to talk about the dynamics that ensued for them on that farm.

Christmas for me was returning home to a farm which was family living within 300 metres of each other and I had no escape.

The women were in the kitchen talking kids and baking and men were on the deck having beers and talking sport. I drifted between the two not really belonging to either but putting a brave front on.

I had travelled across the Tasman to get there for this “special occasion” and we were out in the country.

I really had no escape and felt left out and isolated.

What was my damn role?

The only pure love I had was from my darling niece and nephew who knew nothing of judgement or isolation.

So I’d enjoy big hugs, open declarations of love and take them on adventures to the back of the farm where I got to create my own tradition of taking them to the “secret forest” where we had a secret password we all had to whisper to pass into the forest of trees. I loved escaping as a child to the back of the farm and it filled my heart doing this with my niece and nephew.

Despite this, it started to become so difficult for me to place myself at Christmas that I stopped going home for Xmas.

I stayed home in Melbourne the first year and shared it with friends, the next in Melbourne at the beach with a partner of the time, then on a cruise in the pacific, then South Australia, then Antarctica (I couldn’t get much further away could I).

That trip to Antarctica was part of a much bigger trip, time off from work and some soul searching I’ve touched on before. I came back from this trip deciding to pursue IVF to become a mother on my own.

My role would be a mother.

Except that wasn’t how it worked, I had an operation to prepare me and went through counsel and briefings and questions and forms and then, well then, I decided it wasn’t for me.

My role wasn’t to be a mother.

My role was aunt. But I wasn’t just an aunt, I felt so much more than an aunt. I was aunt to my niece and nephew but what about my parents and my brother, to my extended family and to my friends.

What was my role?

Then a counsellor gave me this verse.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

It broke me open.

I am me, I am strong, I am woman, I am passionate, I am caring, I am a daughter, granddaughter, sister, a partner a niece and a friend. I am curious of cultures and sociology, how people function. I love to write and research. I am at peace in the great outdoors, passionate on topics that interest me and quick to stand up and look out for those who are marginalised.

I won’t be able to change what happens at xmas, but I can bring all of me to those events and focus on my success rather than my vulnerabilities.

Because more than anything I want to enjoy the laughter and the jostle of xmas day with my family, as the sun goes down with a full belly and a 2nd piece of xmas cake and a top up of champagne because that’s the kind of xmas I want.

I don’t need a role, I just need to be me, accept the things I cannot change and let my voice be heard when I need it to be.

Let’s see how this goes, if I ever get back over the Tasman again.