Sunday, June 9, 2019

La Familia

There was a maternal family event in May, and it was just as soul-crushingly alienating as I feared. It was supposed to be a joyous event for the child I spent her first year living with, who spent every weekend with me when her mother couldn't handle 2 kids so divergent in ages, whom I sat with and spoke to her admission counselor to get her into the higher education program she ended up graduating from, who I talked the same program into taking back on a special schedule after a serious illness. This child who is not my daughter or my niece but something of both.

And it was a family event - except I'm not family anymore - that's blindingly apparent they treat me.

From being told about the event with bare weeks to spare (and having to move business travel plans because of it) when family was told at the holidays months before - to being completely left out of the day-before activities - to being left out of the post-event activities. Which would've hurt less, except - my family sat around the family reception table, where they asked us to sit, talking about the night before (to which I hadn't been invited) and plans for the next day (to which I also wasn't invited). It was all emotionally isolating. I tried to be positive and not start trouble - but I'm sure I failed at the first part.

Side note: And then there was the actual event when my mother's odious guest was astonishingly rude - throughout the whole reception. (It's lovely to be grilled on your marital status and called fat.)

This experience was not different than NOT being invited to other family events since La Gram Russe passed - notably, Thanksgiving 2018, Christmas 2018 and New Years or a certain girl's open house in the past 6 months. I'd been asked to 1 family event in the prior 15 months - Easter 2019 by a sweet cousin. But I had plans as the invitation planning was late. (Family - wonder why I'm not there? Perhaps ask if I was invited.) In the 12 month prior to that, I had to beg to be included in Thanksgiving 2017 that was being hosted in my mother's home. She has chosen time and again her sisters over me - perhaps because I told her until she addressed how they treat me in a meaningful way, I would not attend. Perhaps because telling everyone I'm busy alienates me from them further while preserving her place. Likely. She does worry overmuch about how people think of her.

I'm sure any maternal family reading this would say "It was K's day and NOT about you!" - yes, it absolutely was. And so I kept my peace. 

Here's the thing, I came for K but I'm D-O-N-E being treated like an after-thought and then being punished and reprimanded for feeling hurt by that lack of consideration you extend to each other. I honestly don't think it's a concerted effort - more the death by a thousand careless cuts. The reason being - none of you care. Each cut highlights a lack of connection. It started with one aunt, who seemed to need to continually demean me to elevate her own family, but there are others. The flighty aunt who sent my birthday card with my cousins' - which meant for more than 8 years I received my card 5 months late like the afterthought it was - and in person belittled anything I felt sacred. The mean comments on my appearance by another aunt (the bar drunk) from the time I hit my teens on, as well as her dogged insistence that I am wrong about everything up to and including the color of the sky! And then there is the aunt who claims to be Switzerland and does not ever defend me and or stop them. Her excuse is always -  "That's just the way they are" - no, that's the way we, as a family, have allowed them to become*. The finishing touch is my mother's silent acceptance of her family's treatment of me. The same way she accepted her husband's mistreatment of me. Always her reputation among others before me. 

My mother's acceptance of what her family said to me and how they treated me- always a ready excuse and a reason I needed to understand/accept their poor behavior, just this one time - normalized it until I didn't expect any better treatment for myself from anyone. For years my mother's silence towards their behavior equaled acceptance and allowed the treatment to become normalized by me and within the family...and then escalate. She never noticed; she certainly never intervened. We have reached a plateau where friends I bring to family events - with zero prompting or preparation from me - comment on how badly they treat me. At this point, there are too many cuts. There's no way back because none of you see what you do. In your minds, it's somehow always me.

Family - ha! La Gram Russe never taught you what family is. She taught us to survive. So here it is, the definition of "Family" is caring and support. You have not done either for me for more than 40 years. You follow each other on social media - but not me. You buy each others' business products - but not mine. (Mother - you figured out online dating and how to stalking your sister's ex on Facebook - but can't figure out how to order the book I wrote? I sent you a free copy. I can see it's been 3 years and you still haven't downloaded it - my sales page updates me with contacts. That book and my others are also on this blog, so don't tell me you lost the email. Great job on the support, mom!) When you see me, if you ask me anything about my life at all, you ask closed-ended questions based on incorrect assumptions. I know I'm the one who communicates for a living, but basic adulting skills would teach you how to interact with people better than that! Y'all must be a joy at parties. It's good that we're a pretty people, you need the help! But my Southern gram taught me pretty is as pretty does - and I see in your actions what you are.  

As a family, your interest piques when you see me or when you need something from me. I'm the call you make when you need a plan or to get someone out of a sticky situation or clean up a legal mess. And have been for more than 20 years. That's my action - saving your various selves from everything from childcare to FBI issue and through to legal help. La Gram Russe called me the family sheriff. Did you know that? She saw my role and how you treated me.

There's a Hawaiian forgiveness act I've been reading about. It seems graceful. I think I'm a bit spiteful in the application of it, but this is what I've got for Ho'oponopono:
- I'm sorry  - I was never enough for you to see me as a person in my own right and value that person
- Please forgive me - for needing you to be to me what you were to each other
- Thank you - for teaching me what family should never be
- I love you  - enough to set you free from the apparent burden of being my family 

* Something I recently read that resonated with how my maternal family has grown to treat me - "Every now and then, a group of people assumes the traits and behaviors of sociopaths. Maybe one person in the group completely and permanently lost their doughnuts several decades prior, and slowly, each member of the group learns that playing along with this singular menace is the only way to survive. Eventually, the members of the group are so utterly confused and gaslit by each other that they enforce the will of the group and nod along with bizarre opinions until they can’t even remember what it means to think logically or have free will or behave like other regular human beings on the face of the planet." - Read it all by clicking here.

Family, next situation or mess - find a new number to call. The sheriff has left her post.

Other posts on my attempts to deal with the family situation:
- Gifts and Expectations
Message in a Bottle (aka the impossible aunt)

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