is my role to be a wise hermit or just a hermit crab, only time will tell(Coenobita clypeatus) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yesterday’s poem was in response to my thought process as I pre-worry about social events (casual family events, not black tie or huge crowds or anything crazy like that) and try to make the best choices. I am new to this notion of even having a choice, and I struggle with the process, struggle with pros and cons, and lasting effects.
The one I am pre-worrying about is my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday party. It will be fairly small, just her kids and grandkids. About 12 people total. I know everyone really well. And although she has done so much for me over the years, helping to watch kids and help with household chores, she causes me great stress. Hubby’s whole family is a high energy – and way too often it is a high negative energy – bunch. They are strongly opinionated and express those opinions loudly.
They all have good hearts, and I care about each one, but all of their energies in one room gets to be a bit too much for me every time. every word is something complaining or arguing, and they yell, have quick tempers, and fuss and nit-pick. I know it will be just a few hours but it will take me a day to recover. So I never know if causing them concern over me not being there, or all of the questions and having to re-explain why I am not without being hurtful, is worth it or not. Plus, I do care about her and do want to see her enjoy her birthday. So I will probably go, and join in for well wishes, and then isolate myself with a book and pretend I can’t hear the conversations around me. Or if I am up to it, I may try to join the kids and play games, avoiding the adults. But then I don’t want to seem like a party pooper or like I don’t care about them. If they needed something, and it was something I could do, I would be there in an instant. And maybe that is part of the trouble, is I have a difficult time discerning real troubles from their long list of complaints. Are they asking for help? Just venting? Or is this their party persona speaking?
I am most afraid they will ask my opinion and I will actually give it. I don’t have much energy for a filter these days, and I’m honestly wondering if those social filters should even exist. I have worked so hard to be real with myself and Hubby and it seems hypocritical, and honestly quite triggering, to put on my happy happy pretend smile.
So I will spend the next few days worrying about the worst case scenario, and realize it won’t be THAT bad, try to focus on the good in each of these people. In reality life is hard for everyone and we all choose a path that seems to make sense at the time of choosing. Just because I am on this path, it doesn’t make it right for everyone. Some people don’t want to change, and I guess it isn’t my job to try to make them think about their choices.
Maybe I am like the wise old hermit up in the cave, that only helps those that come to him, because offering help to those that don’t want it is a frustrating and fruitless venture. Now I actually feel more like a hermit crab than anyone with wisdom to offer, but that’s a different point entirely.
If you’d like to learn more about the people who will be at this party, keep reading below for a short bio of each one.
His mom is a true matriarch, and has ruled on her throne for many years. She is strong and amazingly talented and creative. She has one of those voices that you can hear above everyone else. When meeting her at busy trade shows, one only has to listen to know where she is, because she is that loud, and always talking. Always. I have never seen that woman just sit and think. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen her just sit. She may actually have ADHD, at least compared to laid back me, she is like the Tasmanian devil swirling about me as I try to absorb what she is saying and find she has already moved onto something else. She is so busy, working on hundreds of things at once, remodeling her house, making products for her small business, gardening and landscaping (her yard is beautiful, acres of carefully planned flowers, trees, and veggies), and cleaning. Her knee replacement surgery hardly slowed her down at all.
Her oldest daughter, hubby’s sister, is very much like her, hard working, always busy, speed talking, and obsessed with material things, but lacking any confidence or decision making skills. She still calls her mom several times a day for advice, and calls me or her siblings if she can’t reach her mother. They spend so much time shopping and hunting for deals for the next time they go shopping. They buy things (imo) that they don’t need just because it was on sale. They never let coupons go to waste. I told them one time they would save more money by not buying anything in the first place, that 100% off was better than 50% off, and well, they did not like that. So usually I just listen and say how wonderful all their new things are. And then this gets tricky, because we do business with this sister and she often owes us money, but can’t pay, and has a million reasons why, but her new ipad/iphone/clothes/car/curtains/plane tickets/movies are never included in those reasons. It is hard to listen to all the nice things she has, when I have delayed paying my electric bill again this month. I know this is my choice not to use credit cards and only spend money I actually have and so I try not to judge others harshly for how they spend money. But when she owes me money, it is very difficult to listen with a smile.
Then there’s her daughter, my oldest niece on that side of the family, the most spoiled teenager ever created. Her parents divorced when she was 4, so for the last 10 years they have each bought her anything and everything to make up for splitting up the family. She is an only child, and gets everything: expensive clothes and haircuts, expensive private lessons for sports and music, expensive vacations (she is bored of Disneyworld, can’t we go somewhere else?). My daughter gets many of her hand-me-down outfits, and I am grateful for that. We also got her old ipod when she got a new one. And her bikes, because she had 3 at one point. This girl rarely smiles and still screams and stomps to ger what she wants, and it always works. The 2 of them live in a 5 bedroom house so full of stuff you would think a huge family lived there. I try not to be jealous when I think of my family crammed into our tiny house. Or deflect the sting when my kids ask why she has an imac/iphone/ds/trampoline/American girl dolls and every accessory/etc. I know my kids don’t need all of that, but it is hard for my kids to understand why this girl gets everything in the world.
Father-in-law accepts his place as low on the totem pole. He seems happy and I often wonder how it can be so. MIL criticizes and publicly ridicules him, calling him an idiot and lazy in front of the grandkids. If anything goes wrong, you can bet it was Grandpa’s fault. MIL is never wrong, never late, never forgets, and never rests. But Grandpa seems to know Grandma needs him to have this role, and so he fills it without complaint. Usually. Every once in a while he will fight back, and then things get ugly. Name calling and yelling and slamming doors. But get Grandpa alone and he is gentle, has great stories, and great love for all of us. He seems to know and love that he lives with a wildebeest.
Hubby’s brother and wife are similar to us financially, having more kids than space, more bills than income. But they are caught up in the PTA and church world and continually trying to be more than they are. They drive their kids to a school in an upscale neighborhood and try to keep with the Joneses. Hubby’s brother is his identical twin, but they are worlds apart. My kids call him Uncle daddy which is so cute. He is a good guy, but it appears has followed in his dad’s footsteps and is ruled by his wife. A few years ago when my marriage was crumbling, I reached out to this SIL for support. She loved hearing about all the problems and shared similar issues with the brother. But we went to counseling, tried a healing separation, talked, worked and fought to get back to each other – and we did. I now have a partner, an equal. Well, she no longer wanted to listen to me, and I’m not sure why, other than misery loves company so it hurts to see us happy? I have tried over the years to be a friend to her, ask her to lunch or a movie, and the answer is no unless I want to go complain about husbands. She suffers from anxiety and panic, takes something occasionally. She is smarter and more talented than she’ll ever believe, her own dysfunctional childhood robbed her of that. So she does not try to better herself and accepted a job cleaning toilets even though she has a college degree. They made it through infertility, adopted 2 amazing kids, but I think she feels like something is missing, like it was her fault. But we can’tr discuss these things. She is a strong perfectionist, and I’m afraid I know the pain of trying to be perfect. I think she talks big and feels small. Her sister is the reason that the other SIL got divorced. A true family affair, despicable, and puts so much tension in the air, because she went to her sister’s wedding and supported her, not knowing what else to do. So I cringe any time she speaks about her or her parents, that knew about the affair and kept it secret. Her kids are the same ages as my kids, and the cousins always have a great time playing together. We don’t live that far from each other, but rarely get together.