I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else in the world this weekend (than at my twin nieces' 3rd birthday party), but I come away wondering why it is so hard to be around my dear family members?
I have so much at stake with these two main family relationships, but recently I find so much anxiety in myself and overshadowing these key bonds, one with my mother and the other with my sister. Part of it is me I am sure, and some of it is relation-specific "stuff" from past and present. First about my mother:
It seems in my late 30's I'm just now asserting some independence from my mother's executive boardroom personality. She never was, incidentally, a high-power executive, but she has the good-in-a-tight-corner take-charge decisiveness and backbone that I imagine could have taken her there and that in our lives makes her an excellent leader and support in crisis. As I test some of these bonds, I anticipate friction -- I found myself declaring (and then asking) "you can't tell me to do that... can you?" when she suggested I keep certain information to myself -- and even get ridicule -- my mother says "but you're a grown woman, that's all in your head" or ancient history or long forgotten or whatever. I wish! In fact, expecting her to unlock her authority over me is probably as misplaced an expectation as when I expected the pathological-liar ex-boyfriend who was gas-lighting me to validate my perceptions (of him)!
That might explain tension with my mother, but what about my sister? As with my mother, I fear upsetting her, but unlike my mother, there is less guarantee of allegiance. Besides treading lightly, out of respect for her sensitivities (we all have them) and in part to make up for my child/teen/twenties of terrorizing the poor girl out of reckless self-centered disregard, I also am overcome by baby lust these days, hence this blog. She is halfway through a pregnancy (child #3), and even knowing that her road to family-hood has not always been smooth sailing or a bed of roses (pick your metaphor) does not help me from feeling envy and suffering throes of self-pity.
Here I am, 2 failed cycles into my choice motherhood endeavor, not getting any younger here, feeling like a fool talking about my maybe-some-day-hopefully pregnancy while here she is, with a real-life actual, imminent life! A petty slight is the "sense" I had that I would be the one to break the all-girl spell in our family (from my father, there have been 4 daughters; 8 granddaughters; and 1 great-granddaughter on the way!!), but that honor will now go to my dear sister -- as we just discovered in a very touching ceremony where the color of helium balloons (blue!) rising from a wrapped box indicated the expecting-gender to all witnesses present at the party.
The rather amazing counter-point to the unwanted tension in my family relationships is a growing social network here in my adopted city. I actually have friends, who I feel comfortable with -- who care to ask about me and whom I care about. I came away from the weekend trip wondering if it's normal to feel more comfortable with friends than family? Part of it must simply be that I don't spend as much time with my dear family members because I live 8 hours away. And maybe family is just complicated, somehow harder, in other ways stronger, than friendships.
One thing is for sure, I am still learning. I am learning how to live sober, to cry on the airplane home, to accept my mother's luke-warm opinions, to sit shaking with my sister treading in scary psychic territory together, to come away from a celebration feeling anti-climax, to manage in-law comparisons, to juggle my envy and my love for my nieces, to be disappointed and sad, to do all that, and to live through it -- to keep going and get in my car and drive myself home from the airport, put ointment on my wounds, and be so grateful that my cats are here, right where I left them, joining me in my post-bath bedtime.
Life is definitely worth living.