Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Withholding

Connections are tricky.  Families are complicated.  Personalities get in the way of conventional relationships.  Expectations are raised and dashed and often it's the youngest of those involved who are hurt the most.  There's almost nothing that can be done.... or so it seems.

There are people in our lives with whom we are bound to interact. Siblings.....Parents...Aunts and Uncles and Cousins and Grandparents.... society expects us to know where they are and what they are doing.  Holiday celebrations are designed to bring us closer together, to show our faces to one another, to relive and rehash and reconvene.... often with disastrous consequences.

An aunt reaches out, shares her children and her experience and her love... such as it is.  She creates an attachment, she sets expectations for the future, she becomes part of the extended family.  The littlest one is thrilled.  His family is small and this is a fantastic expansion.

And then, as she always does, as she's done since she was a little kid, as she will, no doubt, continue to do as she enters her dotage, the aunt creates a scene.  She's right.  She's always right.  She knows best.  She always has and she always will.  Her opinions are golden, her plans perfect, her advice solid. 

No matter if you come at the issue from a slightly different perspective.  No matter if you think the issue is none of her (DAMN) business.  No matter if you weren't looking for counsel on that particular matter. 

Agree, or lose the relationship.  She's very clear about that.  You're on her bus or standing on the sidewalk watching it drive away. 

That's easier to deal with when you are a grown up, even if it tears at your heartstrings and puts you in a sad space.  But when you are ten, when you've just begun to explore family outside the four walls of your house, that loss is devastating. 

There are cousins attached, cousins you'll no longer see, even though they were quite interesting to you.  Circumventing the grown-ups is tricky when you are ten. 

I can try to replace what is lost, but the larger issue remains.

Those of us on the outside, connected but not involved in this particular piece of her drama ... although we've all had our own personal share of her drama ..... try to reassure.  "It's her loss."  "You are just the next in a long line of those she's alienated."  "It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with her."  Coming from experience - long, painful, awkward experience - we know our words are true but ultimately useless.

The loss is there.  She cannot be retrieved unless she's willing.  She's not..... not without an apology and an agreement that she was right and you were entirely in the wrong. 

What she gets out of the tumult remains a mystery.  Being at the center of the drama is certainly a piece of it; it's something to talk about, to rage against.  With drama comes attention, comfort, solace, conversation.  If life goes smoothly, the phone won't ring.  If there's An Event, people will come running.

I'm sure she thinks she was doing a service and was poorly repaid.  That's the problem with those who are so convinced of the rightness of their position.  There's no conversation.  There's no discussion.  She can't hear it because she's firmly dug into her position, and she's not budging. 

I've watched this play out for decades.  It's an awful quandary.  I try to remove negativity from my personal space, but this little slice is permanently attached.  Family is family and the ties bind tightly.    She cannot be avoided, but she can be marginalized.  That leaves the angst, and the possibility that her personality will overflow the boundaries accepted in normal society and her venom will spread. 

I've had relatives I couldn't invite anywhere, relatives I couldn't take out in public, because there was no filter between brain and mouth.  It's harder when the trauma is fresh, when you've invited the toxicity into your house and then have to wait for her to decide to go home.  She's left behind vitriol and unhappiness and a sense of loss mixed with confusion.

It's the confusion that's the worst of it. 

She's awful.  Why would I want her around? 

She's my cousin.  I miss her.

It's a predicament, that's for sure.

3 comments:

  1. Perhaps it's my age, but I don't let people into my life who are toxic-- family or otherwise. I don't get mad at them, I just release the connection. I don't have to be proven right or them wrong but sometimes I just have to let a friend go. And that has happened the most often to me with those who were formerly very close friends. I will apologize if I can find anything at all to hang the apology on which means no lies. Pride means nothing to me and I've apologized to keep the family from having a feud. BUT that doesn't mean that person will ever again be close to my life or that I will trust them.

    At this point in my life, I don't have such toxic relationships within the family. I also don't offer advice without being asked, do try to be helpful, and have zero expectations. I am happier that way. I don't want to run their lives. I didn't want anybody running mine. I have heard of families that had these tumultuous breaks. I just figure an apology costs nothing to me (if I can find the words that aren't lies), but that doesn't mean it'll be the same as it was. It won't. But that's how life goes. Not much really stays the same.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Me, too, Rain. It's when a little one wonders where his cousins have gone that treats at the heartstrings.
    A/B

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