My mother and I have always had a tumultuous relationship. Even when I am not particularly “triggered” by her presence, spending time with her feels forced and distressing, and we have very little in common. She tends to be oblivious to cues, but even so I have a hard time believing she doesn’t pick up on the awkwardness. She redirects any and all “negative talk” and smiles forcefully, to the point where it just looks like a grimace. Keeping my boundaries has been easier since we live in different states. But now she has declared that she plans to visit me (for several days) for my upcoming birthday. I don’t think she knows anyone else in my city, so this would mean almost a week of one-on-one interaction. She plans to book a hotel, at least. But I feel certain this visit would be incredibly emotionally draining. I don’t feel quite ready to start “unpacking the baggage” with her yet. I also have reservations about potential COVID-19 spread, as she’ll be coming from a state with little to no restrictions in place (she has been posting about restaurant outings and such). But I know she loves me, and I care for her enough that I don’t want to hurt her feelings, so in many ways I feel obligated to play host. I can’t think of an honest way out that wouldn’t deeply upset her. Do I need to armor up and grit my teeth on my birthday week, or can I get out of this?