We all have skeletons in our closets. Mine happen to take the shape of crumbling relationships, family members on the “no talk to” list. (Kind of like the “no fly” list, but with phones and e-mail.) This is something that used to really embarrass me. But I’ve come to realize (a) I’m not the only one with people like this in my life, (b) you can’t choose your family, and (c) I haven’t done anything wrong, so there’s no need to feel guilt or shame.
This is what my relationship used to be like with my father. When he and my mom got divorced, he assured me, “This has nothing to do with our relationship. Nothing will change.” But our relationship was impacted and it did change. We had a few years of freeze out between us. I think it was what we needed though. It was what I needed. Space to breathe and come to terms with all that had happened.
A few years ago, we had a heart to heart conversation. Some really important things happened: We both apologized. I acknowledged the ways I had been hurt. We both decided we wanted to move forward.
The best part of all this is that we have moved on. I will never be a daddy’s girl, all our special shared memories are from when I was little, I rarely see him (being that he lives in Florida and I live in Germany. There is that whole “ocean” thing.) but I feel a relief knowing that our relationship is in a better place. We e-mail each other weekly, sometimes more. And I know that he supports me even if he doesn’t always agree with me. When it comes to important relationships, I think that support, validation, and reassurance are worth a lot.
Wouldn’t you know it, in the years that I’ve repaired my relationship with my father, I have had another family relationship fall by the wayside and turn into a freeze out, “no talk list,” yucky-yucky relationship.
On Christmas Eve, I was reading e-mails from my family members and friends far and wide, when what to my wondering facebook message box did appear, but a message from this person that I didn’t want to hear.
It was in the guise of an apology, and yet “sorry” was nowhere to be seen. It was long. And it had no place to be sent on the eve of a holiday. I think it was this person’s way of clearing his conscience. He could “apologize” and say all the reasons he is right and he could wish me ill and he could feel like he did the noble thing by reaching out, even though no sane person would see it that way.
My immediate response was to reply. And it would have been a nasty reply. (I might seem meek, but, baby, when the gloves come off, well, I’m still kind of meek, but I use bad words.) I avoided the initial response.
My second inclination was to out him. Blast him on Facebook or Twitter or shout it from a mountain top all the brouhaha he was spewing. But that’s just not my brand of crazy, nor is it very nice. Again, I resisted.
I really wanted to call my mom. She’s a pro at handling things like this. But I couldn’t. So I did the next best thing: I asked myself, “What Advice Would Mom Give?” also known as WAWMG. (Admittedly not as catchy as WWJD.) I had a pretty good idea of some things my mom might suggestion, one being the idea of writing a letter in response to this person but not sending it. So I did.
I wrote and wrote and wrote. I was tapping out a symphony of insults and indignation on the keyboard. When I was done, I hit save, and I felt better. (You can go one step further and rip up or burn the letter, but I wasn’t feeling that dramatic at the time.)
When I told Stephen about it later, we were tucked into bed and giggled like little kids. “Oh, hehehe, the things this family member said! Oh, haha, the things I ‘responded’ with. Giggle giggle.” I realized that I felt so much better. The anger I felt before had evaporated. I was glad that I got everything out on paper, but even more glad that I didn’t engage in a conversation with this person. Just like I needed space to work things out with my dad, I think that we need space to work things out with this guy, too. But that’s ok. We’ve got time.
What’s some excellent advice your mom has given you over the years? The other biggie was when my mom told me “talk to strangers” when dropping me off at college for my freshman year. How do you handle confrontation? I’m totally passive, some times passive aggressive, rarely aggressive, but I try to be assertive.*