I had a lovely Easter dinner today. There was ham and a roasted chicken, asparagus, spaghetti squash, mini shepherd’s pies, roasted potatoes, rolls, and a cake in the shape of a lamb. One of the guys cut into the lamb cake like he was actually slaughtering a lamb, which was pretty funny. There was plenty to eat and drink, and everyone was laughing and having an amazing time.
There’s just one hitch: this wasn’t my family.
A couple of days ago, my brother called to invite me to Easter dinner with his family. Because it was already Friday, I was starting to make plans to have dinner at the house I’m staying in for the time being, and spend the afternoon with my friend, her mom, her mom’s current husband, and a couple of my friend’s siblings. But since I was invited to my brother’s house, it was a familial obligation to go.
I spent Easter morning in different rooms of the house, sweeping and tidying things up as needed so my friend’s family wouldn’t have too many issues with the state of things. When I figured things were down to cooking and such, I looked around and pondered what I needed to bring with me to my brother’s place. I really only needed my car keys and sunglasses, as I wasn’t asked to bring any food or anything else with me. Well, my cell phone will always be needed, just in case, and I did have that with me. I walked out of my friend’s house and headed to my brother’s place.
When I walked in, I was greeted normally, with a hello and a “Happy Easter.” My brother’s significant other asked me how things were, so I started talking to her about the status of my food stamps as they had been discontinued. I mentioned what was said on the paperwork that arrived, and I told her what my current situation happened to be.
At the mention of having a job, I was asked where I was working. I didn’t want to say a thing. Instead of thinking that maybe I didn’t want to talk about it because I was embarrassed or something, my brother and his s.o. pressed on, saying it was weird that I didn’t want to talk about it. That, in turn, made me uncomfortable.
I wanted to talk about my job separately, because I wanted to build up some excitement, I didn’t just want to say, “I work here and I’m doing this.” I mean, I risked the loss of two opportunities by waiting for an upcoming interview that was cancelled the day before it was scheduled. That’s a suspenseful story you tell around the campfire, right? I wanted to talk about my life in such a way that would make it a little less boring than just hearing the details, because it felt like a roller coaster for me to deal with it and I wanted people to feel like they were there with me for the ride.
But no. Instead, I was told that I started an issue, and perhaps I did, I won’t doubt it. And I was told that I owed my brother an apology. He didn’t care if I stayed or left, and as time went on, leaving felt like a better idea. By the time I was back to his doorway, my apology was that I was sorry for being a horrible person, for saying and doing the wrong things. I said I felt like I didn’t grow up at all since Mom passed. I thought about saying worse things, suggesting I’d go crash my car or somehow kill myself. At this point, I don’t know if I only thought I’d tell him it was the last he’d hear from me, or if I really said it, suggesting that I was severing ties with him. All I know is that I cried on the way back to my car.
I drove back in silence. Plugging in my phone to play music seemed like it would take too much time. I just needed to get away from there.
Once I returned to the closest thing I have to being my home, I wanted to be vague and dramatic like a teenager’s Facebook posts, but I knew my friend would understand. She has met my brother before. I told her what happened in that span of five to ten minutes that I was at my brother’s place. She asked why I bothered.
She is now forbidding me from seeing my own brother. Well, he’s technically adopted, so it’s not really blood, we just have legal bonds. And our parents aren’t around anymore, so it’s up to the extended family to decide who the bigger asshole is between him and I.
Mom would have used guilt on me. She would tell me that I needed to be nice to him, that he’s the only brother I have, and he’s all I have in this world.
But, I do have friends. And those friends taught me a few things, like how other people invalidate your feelings.
My friends don’t need to have an active role in my life, though. I sometimes just need someone to post the right image or article on social media, and if it resonates with what I’m dealing with, I’ll share it for others who might need it.
But otherwise, it’s a matter of introspection. Do I feel like I did something wrong? Yes. Do I feel like I had been wronged? Yes.
Do I really stand behind the words I used in my apology? No.
I don’t feel as if I’m a horrible person. I don’t believe that. I might trust the wrong people, or I might do things because I feel I’ll be rewarded when I won’t be, but that doesn’t make me a bad person. I know I don’t say or do the right things, but sometimes it’s a matter of perspective, and maybe I’m doing or saying what’s right for me instead.
If I don’t talk to my brother again, it won’t be a loss. That sounds like a cold thing to say. But I don’t get excited to talk to him on the phone. Going to his place feels like I have to drag myself there. I don’t want to associate myself with him, because no part of it gives me joy. Even to talk about him to people who haven’t met him, I feel like I have to give them some kind of warning for what they might deal with, when I should be excited to talk about him and his interests.
I had even told my Japanese friend that if he ever meets my brother, all he has to do is give me a signal and we will leave his place. Japanese people are way more polite. I had once asked my Japanese friend about what he did for work, and he gave me a vague answer that listed the kinds of jobs he could do for work, but I didn’t press on and let it go. If he was with me at my brother’s place, he would have asked to leave at the moment when it started to sound like a good idea to me.
Well, regardless of everything, I got away from a situation where I felt attacked, for lack of a better word. And I helped my friend finish with getting ready for dinner, then helped her and her family to consume and enjoy all the food she’s been preparing for the past few days.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, as a person who has had friends come and go for every possible reason, the people who care about you… nay, the people who give a damn about you… those are your real family members. It doesn’t matter if they’re related or not. If they acknowledge your Facebook posts, or they send you some kind of message, or they remember your birthday, that’s your family. Your family will change over time, but that’s okay. Your family can be like a bonsai tree, small and in need of being pruned from time to time. What matters is having a group of people that supports you, who also won’t be enablers and will kick your rear end onto the path that you need to be on.
But for your own health, don’t force yourself to love people who make you feel less than you are. Don’t even stand for such treatment. If you can walk away, do so. Life is too short to waste time on people who don’t want you to feel special or become more amazing.
Unless, of course, it’s your parents making you feel bad. Give them the benefit of a doubt, talk to other people to get another opinion on the situation. If you can do something that blows their minds instead of disappointing those people who raised you, do that.If your parents are actually abusive in some way, then you need to get away from them. Otherwise, love your parents.
Call your mom.