Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Honesty sucks when you're on the receiving end

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for honesty most of the time. Especially in our important relationships. I'm also a big fan of white lies. I think they grease the wheels of civilization. For example, what good would it do to be honest with your co-worker who asks you what you think of her ugly hat which she obviously loves? None. Zip. Nada. "It's an interesting hat! Wow!" Best thing you can say. Now, if it was your sister and she was asking what you think of the hideous wedding gown she's about to spend $5,000 on, you'd better be honest. And hopefully your relationship is strong enough to survive if she disagrees with you and buys it anyway.

Can someone explain to me how I manage to digress in my very first paragraph?

Anyway, my point is that I'm feeling like a hypocrite right now. I want my close friends and family to be honest with me if I'm doing something that bothers them. Holding things in and allowing them to fester = bad. Getting things out in the open = good. So now that someone close to me has actually told me that I bug the hell out of him, is it wrong for me to wish he had kept his mouth shut? I mean, can't he just do some passive aggressive counter-moves like normal people? Apparently not. He has to be all adult about it and tell me that he gets anxious at family dinners/brunches/lunches/snacks with me because I'm "manic" and "talk too much" and it's like I'm "on crystal meth." Hmmm. He's "overwhelmed" by my "personality."

To his credit he said that he wanted to tell me this because he wants us to have a good relationship. He said that I can feel free to tell him all the annoying things about his personality whenever I want to. He kind of said all the right things and I think he was coming from a good place. I think. But I have to tell you. It hurt like hell to hear all that and it still hurts over two hours later. (The crystal meth reference really got to me and to my nine year old's credit, she said "It's not very nice to tell someone that they act like they're on drugs. If he was trying to be nice about it, he should have said it nicer." Damn she's a smart kid.)

Normally, something like this would knock me off of my feet and I'd be a wreck for days. I don't have time for that crap right now. So I'm trying to process it and figure out what to do with it. Here are some facts about me: I talk a lot. I talk fast. I have kind of a big personality (or so I've been told.) I'm not a shrinking violet for sure. When I'm excited about something, I suppose I could appear a bit manic. And this isn't the first time someone has told me I was overwhelming. Or the second . . . But it is the first time that someone in my family has said that. And that's what has me twisted in knots.

I've been estranged from most of my family for the past 12 years. Now that my divorce is nearly final, I found the strength to "go back home." And it's been great for me and my girls. I know my family is happy to have us around. But 12 years is a long time to be gone and my place in the family isn't the same as it was. Maybe I thought I was like a lost puzzle piece that was found under the couch. You take the puzzle out and I fit back in right where I was supposed to fit. Not to state the obvious but a puzzle is a static thing and a family isn't. Families are dynamic and everyone's role within the system changes over time. It's not that there isn't a place for me. I think that no one is quite sure what that place is exactly. Least of all me. So there are growing pains I didn't expect to experience at 45.

On the one hand, it's good that he expressed his feelings. On the other hand, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with them. If I'm being rude and talking over everyone, I need to cut it out. But I'm also never going to be the kind of person who sits on her hands and doesn't participate in the conversation. He's not asking for that extreme but where in the middle is the right place? Of course I'm replaying all the recent family meals in my head and trying to figure out if I've been rude by some objective measure or if he's just throwing some shoes my way. (Which is Havi-speak for when someone is mean to you but it's really just because he has his own issues that are about him and aren't about you really at all).

The question is: How much do I need/want to change in order to make him happy?

My first reaction was to feel like I should avoid going to big family gatherings. Again. Which doesn't seem like the right answer. My second reaction was that I just got out of a relationship with a control freak and who the hell is this joker to try to control me now? My third reaction was that I should be more enlightened about it and at least think about his criticisms as unemotionally as I can because he's my family member and I love him. My fourth reaction was to cry. Because really, I don't need this right now. And ouch.

I don't really know how to figure this out so I guess I'll let it percolate some more. I'll have to decide how much I want to change in order to help him feel comfortable around me. Hopefully, he'll get used to me again and maybe I won't seem so overwhelming after awhile. Maybe once I've been back in the family for more than a month I'll calm down a little and it won't be an issue anymore. Or maybe I'll continue to overwhelm him - even when I try to tone it down - and he'll just have to leave the room every once in awhile when I'm around. And I'll have to be ok with the fact that not everyone loves to be around me all the time.

I think the important lesson that I appear to have learned (or at least started to learn) is that just because someone doesn't like what you're doing or how you're doing it doesn't mean you automatically have to change what you're doing to make them happy.

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