Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Cruelest Cuts

I was waiting for an upbeat mood. I've written a couple of downer posts recently, so I thought I'd hold back until I was feeling more positive before posting again. It ain't happening.

It's not that I'm upset all the time lately. It's just that there's a lot of factors conspiring to make me take things seriously. Stuff in my personal life, stuff in my work life, and the onset of colder, darker weather.

My aunt's birthday party is tonight. I won't be going. I lied and said that I'd be with Ken's family eating Thanksgiving dinner, but I'm skipping that event too. It just seemed like a better excuse than the truth; I'll be spending time with a friend who's just returned home after being overseas for many months.

My mum's side of my family is pretty screwed up. We, and I openly include myself in this thing are a neurotic bunch, which is reinforced and multiplied by a factor of one thousand when we're all confined in a room together for several hours.

As an adult, the role I had assigned to myself in the dynamic was that of peacekeeper. I didn't referee directly, of course. That was against the rules. But when the verbal knives came out, the slashing began, and the emotional blood began to flow, I'd jump in with interference. Quick! Distract them with a funny story, or any rambling anecdote. I was usually successful. So much so that my mother dreads going to any family gathering without me, her shield.

"So, you're really sending me out there by myself?" she asked last night, when I told her I wouldn't be coming to tonight's party. It's no accident that she speaks like she's going off to war.

In the past, I tried to pretend that I was an observer; that it cost me nothing to run interference. But that wasn't true. It's one thing to brush off the insensitive things people might say to or about me. I can choose to see them as ignorant, and not take it personally. But it's another thing entirely to watch the people that I love smashing each other.

When I see my mother on the verge of tears because another family member is being cruel to her, or even just insensitive, I can't not care. I do take it personally. There is a cost. And eventually it overwhelms me. I invariably end up staring fixedly into the vase of cut flowers at the centre of the table, trying to block it all out. At least the flowers are beautiful.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do in the future, but something has to change. I do not wish to carry on in my current role of rodeo clown. I'm not prepared to disown my family entirely. So, what am I going to do in the future, when the situation inevitably comes up again?

Sometimes I've pictured myself getting up and walking out of one of these gatherings, in protest, but that seems too melodramatic and extreme. The meanies in the room never quite push it that far.

I do still love and care about that part of my family. What am I going to do? I have no idea. I'm open to suggestions.

On a warmer note, I had my mother over for dinner last night. I cooked her a simple meal, keeping in mind all of her many food allergies. Ken made her proper, strong English tea after the meal. Then I tucked us in under blankets on the sofa, our feet up on ottomans, to watch the movie Once. My mum loved the movie, as I knew she would. I hope that I was able to fill up her love reserves so that she has enough resources to get through tonight.


Warped Mind of Ron said...

{{HUGS}} In stressful situations like these gatherings seem to be then the wisest choice is to remove yourself from that environment. Perhaps instead of attending these events you arrange to celebrate birthdays or whatever on a one on one basis instead of with the pack or limit your involvement to small controllable groups.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any suggestions, Sparky. Good luck. Families are a real ... thing, aren't they?

I'll say a prayer for you.

Kate said...

I can try so hard not to jump in and rescue people, but I can't NOT. I get ya, girlie. And hang in there.

DarcsFalcon said...

"I do not wish to carry on in my current role of rodeo clown. I'm not prepared to disown my family entirely."

You leave yourself few options hon. Those are your only choices - to either accept and deal with the situation as it is, or leave. It's a terrible dilemma, and one I can totally relate to. I've lived it, so you have my full sympathy.

For your own sanity though, you'll have to make a choice. Doing nothing is not going to change the situation, as I'm sure you're aware. You'll have to decide if what you're getting out of these relationships is worth the hassle. If it's not, there's nothing really to prevent you from walking away. Sometimes you just have to do that with toxic people, as hard as it is. If there is some benefit to you in these relationships, then you really can only just deal with it as it is, knowing nothing is going to change.

You'll be in my prayers. *hugs*

powdergirl said...

I don't know what to tell you Sparkly, my family just doesn't act like that.

Hope you can find a way to navigate this without costing yourself too much though, sounds rough.

NicoleB said...

I'm glad you could do something good for yourself and your Mom.
And I hope she won't have such a bad day today.
I totally understand that you won't want to hang out with them guys. I would probably end up strangling them ;)

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: I think that's the best thing I can do; spend less time with them as a large group. Ever since my grandparents' health started failing, the stress has made all the little bickerings so much worse. It's too much.

darcknyt: Thanks. I'm always grateful for prayer. Family is indeed a Thing. :-)

Kate: You speak the truth. If I'm present at one of those gatherings, I think I'll always want to run interference, for my own sake as much as everyone else's.

DarcsFalcon: I'm kind of relieved to hear that I didn't miss something obvious - that it really is a Catch 22 situation. For now I'm going to carry on, but I'm planning to spend less time with my family at these obligatory gatherings. I've been skipping every other invitation, and that's definitely helping.

powdergirl: I'll find my way. It's only temporary - my grandparents will only live for another few years, and then it's anyone's guess what the new dynamic will be. We're all mainly trying to keep up appearances for my grandparents, so after they're gone the call of duty will be less or nil.
I'm glad that your family doesn't behave like that. At least I have another half of my family that knows how to behave decently.

Nicole: You would most certainly end up strangling some of them, and I would be cheering you on. ;-)

wigsf said...

Family get togethers don't make any sense to me anymore. I try to avoid them as much as possible.

LL Cool Joe said...

I loved the last part about how you gave your Mum some quality time.

Unfortunately there are aspects of the family drama you described that I can relate to, but most of the feuds in our family, are caused by my mother.

I don't have an suggestions, but I do understand totally how it can bring you down. :(

Jenski said...

It amazes me how people who have known each other their whole lives can be so mean and nasty all the time. :-( Sad that even at holidays and big gatherings they can't be set aside. Do you have opportunities for smaller gatherings? Like one-on-one? :-)

And you set a great image of you and your Mom fed and hanging out on the couch! Sounds cozy.

Scarlet said...

I think it's sweet the way you treated your mom the night before and I'm sure she appreciated it immensely. I can see how it would bother you to see those you love being hurt by the insensitivity of other people. Who wants to be around all that negativity??

I hope you had fun catching up with your friend from overseas!

Sparkling Red said...

wigsf: Avoidance is one of my key strategies at the moment. I can more or less deal with each individual one-on-one, but the big get-togethers can get out of control.

LL Cool Joe: I am very lucky in that I can get along with my mum, most of the time. We have to work for that relationship, but at least she's willing and able to meet me halfway.

Jenski: I do spend one-on-one time with some of my relatives, like my youngest aunt. That always seems to work out well.

Scarlet: I did have a good time with my friend. She's busy planning a big wedding, so I'm enjoying hearing about her dress-shopping expeditions, etc. :-)