I think I have said it before on this blog, but I was just reminded again last night: I DO NOT understand the obsession with family that oh-so-many people have.
Who cares if we share blood?
Who cares if the people who gave birth to us had the same person who gave birth to them at some level up?
Quite frankly, who cares if we’re related?
We may be related, but
I may have never met you.
We may have nothing in common.
We may disagree on fundamental points in life.
We may have personalities that clash.
I may not feel comfortable with you.
I may just plain ol’ not like you.
And why is the fact that we are related expected to outweigh all of that?
Maybe being related is a little plus in terms of whether we’ll be close or not. But it certainly doesn’t overcome all else. It isn’t the end-all-be-all in defining the relationship. Or it shouldn’t be!
I understand that family can be a great resource for many people. That they grew up around family, and they all share a common background and heritage.
But for me, that’s not the case.
I can count on one hand the number of times I met ANYONE from my dad’s side of the family. Now he wants me to take a vacation to go down and meet his parents. Because they’re his parents. And they’re family, so I should. They are strangers to me. Why do I care?
I used to see my mom’s sisters and parents about once a year. Now I rarely see them. We really fundamentally disagree on a lot. Like religion. And morality. Things important to me. And our personalities just don’t match. I feel no obligation to see them often. Once in a long while can be nice. We saw some of that extended family from that side around New Years for the first time since we moved here (we’d been here for a year and a half at that point). That was nice. Maybe next year we can do it again.
My husband’s mom family is just…different. The few I’ve met are very conservative (religiously). At least, who I can think of. I haven’t met many, and one family I have are very nice. A bit boisterous for me to want to spend large amounts of time with them, but again, nice for occasional meetings.
In general, my husband’s dad’s family is creepy. Creepy. They freak me out a bit. Not all of them. He has one aunt and uncle who live up here who are really nice. But other than that, I either don’t know them, or find them unsettling (or don’t remember meeting them).
(Please keep in mind those are all generalizations. Not everyone is like that. And I don’t remember meeting the majority of either family.)
Last night I was “invited” to go to dinner and dessert with said aunt and uncle…and their aunt and uncle, who I’ve never met. Or, OK, I guess I “met” them at my wedding, but lets be real, there were 200 people at my wedding, I don’t remember the endless (creepy) relatives and other strangers I met. Plus I kind of had a lot going on that day. Expecting me to remember you from that is a bit self-centered to my mind. Anyway. These people weren’t creepy. But we did not mesh. Right at the start of the evening they overheard that my dad was from Iran, and I said I was sad that I didn’t know anything about the language and culture because my dad is a real far-right-Republican-you-come-to-this-country-you-speak-the-language-and-live-the-culture-and-pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps etc. etc. so he never taught us any of it..even when we would ask. And her response? “Good for him!” Um..what? This is a part of my heritage. A part I know nothing about. And some I’d love to know more about. But at this point in my life, I am not learning Farsai. I just don’t have the time or resources. I could put in the effort to learn more about the culture and such, but the fairly effortless time in my life to pick it up and make it a part of me is gone, and that does make me sad. I was just taken aback by her statement. How is that a good thing? And then they talked with us and it just wasn’t comfortable. Part of it is that I am not comfortable with old people. It’s kind of funny…I make friends with people my mom’s age really well. And I love my mom. A lot. But older people? I do not. I do not like being around them. I am not good with them. On the one hand, it’s kind of sad, on the other hand some people aren’t good with kids. Some aren’t good with animals. Etc. Everyone has groups they do better with than others. I love kids and animals. I don’t do well with the elderly. I recognize that, and it’s just a part of me.
Thank god I had to stay late at work last night. We had a training session. So I didn’t get to their house until late.
Then again, I get there, and everyone starts majorly pressuring me to eat dessert, especially since they made it just for me without chocolate. (I don’t like chocolate. I do not mind when dessert is chocolate. I am used to it. I don’t need more dessert.) It was a blackberry cobbler. Very sweet of them..except I don’t like blackberries, either. I didn’t see a way out of it (giant anxiety had hit by this point and the pressure was overwhelming me), and they served me a big ol’ piece (despite me asking for a tiny one). I ended up making the hubby eat some, but luckily from my young days as an extremely picky eater I have the skill of choking down anything without gagging or making faces :-P
So I’m there with elderly strangers I’d never met (to my memory), and some nice in-laws who I haven’t seen in two years, and my hubby who’d been gone, all instantly pressuring me to do things I did not want to do.
Insert extreme social anxiety.
I started using avoidance behaviors as soon as I walked in the door…not sitting down..taking it slow. (Yes, avoidance behaviors is a dog training term. Dogs do things like turning away or sniffing the ground to show they’re not a threat and try to stay calm in stressful situations. The term works for people, too) I didn’t think about it at the time, but looking back that’s what I was doing. The old people were pressuring me to go sit down with them. Uncle-in-law was getting me dessert. Dog was saying hi (thank god they had a dog!). I stopped and pet the dog. I smiled at the old people, and stepped into the kitchen to talk to UIL a bit. Waited for Aunt-in-law to come back from checking on the kids. Said hi to her. By this point I was a little calmer than I was at the initial greeting and pressure (to accept dessert and sit down instantly) and I could go sit.
Then I clamped down on all emotion and sat quietly smiling. While the old people kept talking in manners I wasn’t comfortable with about things I disagreed with, making broad assumptions about how they knew everything. You know what I mean? Where there’s no way you can say anything, because you’re wrong, because they already know everything.
Holy shit was that night uncomfortable. My stress level was through the roof.
And I came home and couldn’t. Come. Down.
Did I also mention my hubby was gone all weekend, and this was the first time I saw him coming back? I have a hard time adjusting to him coming and going anyway..and then he comes back in such an extremely stressful situation for me.
I left the house and went straight to my car. I cranked up my Glee Madonna CD and tried to feel the positive power from it. I tried to relax enough to unclamp my vocal chords and sing along. That usually makes me feel better.
I got home. I went inside and said hi to my ecstatic puppy. He jumped all over me and kissed me non-stop and we played fetch.
I went to the Wii Fit and did yoga. Starting with deep breathing. Have I mentioned I love my Wii Fit? That helped center me.
Then my hubby played for awhile…and my stress level climbed back up. I had nothing to do while watching him. He wasn’t good at some of what he was trying (keep in mind it was practically brand new to him) and I was stressed for him (productive). I wasn’t doing anything to re-center anymore, and without the guidance the stress just crept back.
He went to bed. I stayed up and watched lame TV. I was so tired. But I could not un-wire enough to go to bed. Have you ever been exhausted, but so tense you can’t even imagine sleeping? Feeling every single muscle, because they’re all pulled as tight as can be? Feeling your heart racing? Your mind whirring? Yourself panting? That was me.
Finally at about 12:30 AM I went to bed. Because it was ridiculously late. And I couldn’t stay up anymore. Mentally, I knew that. So I went to bed.
And laid there. Wide awake. Feeling my entire body being overly tense from stress. And my mind running over and over through things I didn’t want to be thinking about. Trying to pull me into depression, too.
I tried deep breathing.
I tried cuddling my puppy (who was very good and right there for me).
I tried everything I could think of.
2:30 AM, still wide awake.
I have sleeping pills for this reason…somewhere. I need to ask my hubby where. ‘Cause I have no idea. And I would have loved to take one and just gone to sleep.
Anyway, finally fell asleep, sometime early this morning. And slept until about 8 AM. At which point I drifted in and out of sleep for several more hours.
Just a reminder, I need about 10 hours of sleep a night. I try to get 8-10 just so I’m not constantly exhausted. I should get 10-12 to be really awake. Yes, medical doctors have told me this. Yes, it is ridiculous.
So I woke up exhausted. And still stressed from last night. I can still feel the tension in my whole body. I can feel depression trying to pull me down. On the one hand I want to go walk and enjoy the sun. On the other hand, I’m scared to leave my house. I’m barely holding it together. The thought of possibly running into someone and having to exchange social pleasantries is slightly overwhelming.
This is crazy.
From one and a half hours hanging out with “family.”
This is something I would never have done with just random people. I knew it would not go well. (But I really didn’t think it would be anywhere near this bad.) Hell, I rarely hang out with friends. It’s draining for me, even when I like the people. But because it was “family,” there’s some obligation to spend time together. Because…I have no idea why. I don’t get it. Honestly.
Family is often people who you have a common heritage or background with. You may then have much in common, as you’ve helped to form each other. Great.
I love my mom. I do. I would love to have her living up the street from me, where I could visit her often. Not only did she raise me, we have very similar personalities, and she balances me out well.
I get along well with my brother. I’d love to have him in town. He and his new wife are a lot of fun to hang out with. A lot. I enjoy him. And probably more than I would if he were a stranger, because we did grow up together. But still, I enjoy him. If I didn’t, I’d have not desire to spend time with him.
My dad and I are very different. I enjoy spending time with him occasionally. A few times a year. Largely because he enjoys it so much. He’s one who, if we weren’t related, we wouldn’t hang out together. We’re different people. But he did support and raise me, and we do have some common activities we enjoy getting together and doing, so we do.
See, these are people I know. That I lived with. So even if our personalities don’t match up exactly, we at least have something we share. Our relationship is based on that. And I don’t expect them to be the people I’m closest to. That we’re related is a bump in our relationship, but there has to be something else there to make it a relationship. Blood isn’t enough. But there is enough there to have a relationship.
But extended family? Who cares?!? They’re strangers! Why am I expected to feel some kind of tie to them, just because we’re related? Why am I expected to feel close to them? Or, why would I be expected to have my immediate family be my besties? As I know at least one person does expect. Because that one person has said it to me. Repeatedly. And you see such things epitomized in movies all the time, about how crazy family is, but you’re still always there for each other. Or other such crap.
I don’t get it.
And I hate it.
I hate the expectation. The obligation.
And that it means nights like last night.
That I am still recovering from.
Gee, I know: Why don’t I just decide to be happy now? (/sarcasm)