Trapped in a holiday hell

Joey Garcia

My grandparents are always fighting. They start teasing each other, it turns into criticizing and then they’re screaming at each other. Our extended family has been escorted out of places by security guards a lot. Once the cops were called. My older brother stopped going on vacation with us and my parents won’t tell my grandparents that it’s because of them. My parents give my brother a free ride because he has bad anxiety problems and his therapist said he should avoid my grandparents. But what about me and my sister? We hate these vacations, too, but my parents say we’re lucky to have grandparents who pay for family getaways. Do my sister and I have to develop anxiety for my parents to get that it’s not worth it to go on vacation with my grandparents?

I can’t tell if that question contains an embedded threat, or if you believe anxiety disorders guarantee your freedom from adult drama. Either way, I agree it’s no fun being trapped on holiday with angry grandparents. Since your parents are failing to consider your emotional, mental and spiritual health, take charge. Write your parents a letter explaining that a free vacation—anywhere—is never worth the stress of your grandparents’ fights. Tell them you would rather stay home. Ask your brother to speak to his therapist on your behalf. Ask your parents if you can start seeing your brother’s therapist. If they say no, talk to your school counselor about the situation. Persevere. Keep talking to adults about this problem until sanity prevails.

My girlfriend gets stoned with her teenage daughter. Her daughter says she has the cool mom but it just feels wrong to me. I have no problem with my girlfriend smoking pot but I don’t think it’s something she should do with her 17-year-old daughter. The girl’s father is a homeless crank addict and she’s had a rocky relationship with her mother until a year ago when they started getting stoned together. My degree is in social work so I know the damage pot smoking can do to the teen brain. I’ve talked to my girlfriend about the importance of being a parent, not a friend to her daughter. We always fight over this. I don’t want to give up on this relationship but I can’t live in a situation I know is wrong. You should also know that my girlfriend has never been in a committed relationship with another woman before me and I think that has something to do with this. Please help.

If you can’t live in a situation you know is wrong, then staying in that situation feels like dying. There’s no logic in living like you’re dying. So why not enjoy your time on this planet? Begin by embracing freedom. Yes, you may love your girlfriend. You may even believe that love means you should try to move heaven and earth to make a relationship work. But that’s not realistic when your core values and those of your girlfriend are so obviously out of sync.

Your degree in social work has taught you some of the tools that help people in crisis. But unlike a client, your girlfriend doesn’t think she needs help. She thinks you are the one with the problem. That’s not going to change. Will you change? An adolescent with a family history of addiction is being coerced into behavior that threatens her health and possibly her future. What is the right course of action? You can report the situation to the girl’s school therapist, to Child Protective Services and to your girlfriend’s physician. But understand that doing the right thing will mean the end of your relationship, at least until your girlfriend wakes up.

Meditation of the week
“As long as you're subject to birth and death, you'll never attain enlightenment,” said Bodhidharma, a Mahayana Buddhist monk. Do you use the end of a calendar to celebrate the death of a year and the beginning of a calendar to initiate your birth? Why not choose enlightenment instead?

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