I just broke a negative behaviour pattern!
I was supposed to go to a lunch with my sister and cousin and their families to meet a long lost cousin oop North in about a months time, and whilst I confirmed immediately because I am at heart, a people pleaser (at least as far as my family is concerned), somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking uneasily ‘A 150 mile journey? For lunch?!!’
OK so there is the ‘long lost’ element. I haven’t seen this woman since I was about six years old, and she is family (by blood anyway) but, fuck me, how interesting/entertaining can she be?! Plus out of all the family, I’m the one making the longest trip (my sister is travelling a mere forty miles) and the only one not earning at the moment.
Plus I could always meet her another time when I’m in the neighbourhood or if she’s in London?
Were this a weekend away, it would be a different proposition but £60 in petrol or train fares plus at least another £50-60 for lunch, taxis, tube/bus fares etc. is quite a lot for two hours in a Berni Inn style ‘restaurant’ for horse steak, limp salad and Mr Whippy style ice cream with someone I may or may not like/get along with?
Also I’ve just been invited to an amazing party the night before which I do not plan to miss, and the thought of sitting on a train or in traffic for six hours in a warm car with a rum hangover doesn’t exactly float my boat.
What I would normally do is feel guilty for being so selfish, or resentful that I was feeling pressured to go, kid myself I would go anyway, obsess about it incessantly for weeks, change my mind in my head umpteen times, and then at the very last minute I’d make up a very creative excuse and pull out, letting down and pissing off all concerned.
This was all in my subconscious of course. Until now.
What I did today however, was to (a) recognise this behaviour (b) acknowledge what I was really feeling, (c) try to look at the situation without emotion (d) decide whether it was a realistic proposition and more to the point, whether I really wanted to go or not, (e) make a decision and (f) inform everyone about the decision well in advance of the event.
Now, on the negative side, I don’t really know how this will fly with my family. They may think I’m selfish, lazy, mean, don’t make any effort etc. but quite frankly they were nowhere to be seen when I needed them at Easter, and I managed to manage my expectations there and not resent them celebrating without me (oh yeah, Sista?!), so I think this level of tolerance should cut both ways.
The next behaviour pattern that would kick in would be for me to get really paranoid, justify my reasons to my loved ones again and again, because I desperately want to be understood and accepted by them. This is because I’ve always been the outsider per se, and now I’m officially the mad aunt in the attic, I feel even more vulnerable and exposed.
I have given my reasons for not attending in my email as I think that is only polite, but even now I’m worried that my sister is cross with me (just received a rather succinct text by way of reply) but I have to hold my nerve, not expose my wounded, uncertain child, and not plead and wheedle with her for understanding and support.
I am not that despised, ostracised, bullied, ugly little kid anymore.
I do not need them to like my decision. Only to accept it with good grace. And if they can’t do that, there is nothing I can do about that other than to leave them stew in their own juices.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my family with all my heart and for all I know they could be perfectly OK with my bailing on this lunch.
But I didn’t have a great childhood and going back to that boat analogy, it was always as if they were all on a big luxury liner and I was either dragged behind in a battle scarred, punctured old dinghy or left behind on shore, so I never really knew (or know) my place with them. Also, being subject to derision and mockery for decades leaves it’s scars, and I have always had to fight to be taken seriously, and will have to fight extra hard now to win their respect and show that I am fit and able to sail with or alongside them as an equal.
I. Will. Not. Apologise. Or. Justify. My. Decision. Further.
God that feels good!