Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Seasons of Sparkland

What season is it in Sparkland? Spring? Well, yes, but mainly it's Family Season. Between Passover (mid-April) and mid-June is a series of holidays, birthdays, mother's days and father's days that results in my mom's side of my family getting together almost every weekend.

By June, we're all thoroughly sick of one another, except for my grandparents, who couldn't be more satisfied if you gave them a sack of gold.

All of us who descended directly from this side of the family are a bit off kilter mentally, due to some whacky genes. It manifests in all of us in different ways. My mom is extremely cautious. My older aunt is prone to being angry. My younger aunt is... complicated. Very complicated.

We are not laid-back people. None of us is good at compromise, and victory in any conflict goes to the most aggressive. Older aunt usually gets her way, because she's overtly aggressive, as opposed to her sisters, who prefer passive aggression.

Older aunt has some definite expections when it comes to family events. You know how it is in big families - sometimes there's one party with multiple celebrations. For example, you might have one big birthday party for everyone who was born in May, and maybe throw in Mother's Day for maximum efficiency. It can get a little crazy with various cakes, ad-libbed birthday songs, and a flurry of gift exchanges happening simultaneously, but the chaos can be fun. Don't you think? Older aunt doesn't agree. Every family event must be celebrated separately with an Official Party. It becomes exhausting.

I'm not sure why older aunt is so set on us getting together so frequently. She doesn't visibly enjoy herself much. She's the first to criticize if anything is not to her liking. And if she's hosting the gathering, get ready to duck. Don't you know how tired she is after spending all day in the kitchen cooking for us ingrates? It's stressful, hosting a party! Obviously that gives her carte blanche to be snippy, angry, and possibly even yell at us if the spirit moves her.

Do you know of anyone else who invites a bunch of people over for a party and then yells at them? I'm curious.

I can stand being yelled at, unpleasant though it may be. I won't lose sleep over it. What hurts is seeing older aunt criticizing my younger aunt, or dominating my mom. My mom gets very upset, as does her youngest sister, by these confrontations. I've offered to step in and stand up for them, but they always tell me the same thing: we have to pretend to get along for the sake of my grandparents. They wouldn't want me to interfere. My hands are tied.

In happier news, Nilsa at Somi very generously bestowed this award upon me.

Thank you, Nilsa! Now can you see why I said the love couldn't have come at a better time?

I need to have a think about who to pass it along to. Bestowings upon others will follow.


Karen said...

My grandma is like your aunt. Grandmas are supposed to be warm and loving, but mine is bitter and MEAN. I dread family things at her house.

But your family season is almost over... :)

Keera Ann Fox said...

I'm currently working my way through Oprah's "A New Earth" podcasts with Eckhart Tolle, and he talks about the pain body, which often manifests as starting fights with loved ones, etc. It's old upsets that keep recreating new upsets so the ego can keep existing.

That said, getting into it with people who are acting out old patterns only cements the behavior. Try being totally non-resistant. All Gandhi-like. That'll stop the old pattern. I've tried it and it works. You know, it takes two to tango.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Enjoy these family get togethers no matter how dysfuntional. These are the special moments you will remember later in life.

Aurora said...

It sounds almost like your aunt enjoys being mean or critical to others. Some people enjoy that more than hanging out alone, sad to say.

Sparkling Red said...

Karen: People seem to go to one extreme or another as they age - they get super-sweet or totally cranky. I'm glad my cranky aunt has a daughter who can look after her when she's old so I won't have to!

Keera: I love Ghandi. He's a hero of mine. I like the non-resistance idea. I'll give it a try.

Ron: Yes, sadly, the way that I remind myself to enjoy our get-togethers is to think forward to a time when all the older family members are sick or dead. I guess I'll miss the fighting then! :-P But it's not all bad. We do have our laughs together, despite all the politics.

Aurora: I believe you're right - it gives her a power trip to dominate others. She won't be dominating me, I can promise you that much! I don't know how I'll work that in with Keera's non-resistance strategy, but I'm sure it can be done.

Nilsa S. said...

So, here's the thing a brief stint with a therapist taught me many years ago. YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO YOUR FAMILY. Period. If going to someone's house only to be yelled at doesn't suit you. Then, don't go. Sure it will ruffle some feathers. But, doesn't going only enable that person to continue misbehaving? I don't know. I realize that advice is only applicable in some situations. But I definitely think there are certain family situations where everyone would be better off if people stopped feeling obligated and instead did what makes sense. It might be a hard step to take in the near term, but could be better for everyone in the long run.

And you're welcome for the bloggy love. That is most definitely not out of obligation. :-)

Anonymous said...

Family, can't live with em', can't live without em'. But you can try!

Congrats on the bloggy love!

whatigotsofar said...

These people yell because they love. If they didn't love those people, they wouldn't waste their time yelling at them. Well, that's what my father says after he yells at me or my brother.

Anonymous said...

I remember old time family dinners. At the beginning of each meal my grandfather would say these words...


Ah... Those were the days...

Sparkling Red said...

Nilsa: That's a good perspective to keep in mind. Of course the whole family thing is an infinitely tangled web, but in the end I do have the choice to Just Say No to the madness. It may yet come to that!

GirlInterrupted: Truer words were never spoken. And thanks! :-)

Whatigotsofar: Hmmm... I'm wondering if that theory would stand up to strong scrutiny...

Unsigned: So, did it work? Did everyone shut up? Maybe I should try yelling that next time.

jameil1922 said...

my grandma used to be like that. always picking at everyone. then people stopped coming around and calling b/c they hated being attacked at every turn. she's nicer now. she still does some sniping but its more ignored now.