Friday, December 26, 2008

Burning the city down to show you the light

"The important thing is not to stop questioning." ~Albert Einstein

My in laws are very good to my children and my husband. They are so thoughtful and loving. Watching how down-to-earth and generous they are makes me want to be more like them. Family is very important to them and they'd do anything for those that they love.

For some reason, however, they do not seem to like me. I don't know if it's something I've done or some unconscious signal I send off to them that has caused this. I've searched my head and my heart but I can't come up with anything. If I'm in a room with them--they speak to me like I'm an acquaintance--not part of the family. I try not to let this get under my skin, but mostly it lives under my skin, where it always feels hot to the touch.

Here are some of the ways they have made it clear to me that I live on the periphery of their lives:

They never recognize my birthday with a card while everyone else gets cards and presents. I know it's silly to want a card from them, but I do. I send them cards for their birthdays and sign my husband's name as well as the children's. If I left it up to my husband, they wouldn't receive a thing. I could be hateful and retaliate by not sending them cards but I try hard not to be blatantly hateful to people who are so good to everyone but me.

The first year we lived in FL, they sent a box filled with Christmas presents down to us. Upon opening the box, there were at least 5 presents apiece for everyone and there was one gift for me. It was an ugly brown candle and my MIL put a note inside the box that said, "here's a little remembrance for you." WTF? I took that candle and put it in my sitting room and every night I would light that sucker and think to myself, "here's a little remembrance for you." As long as I live, I will never forget that candle or that little note she sent. Each night, I felt like the flickering flame was mocking me, but I was determined to burn it down into nothingness and I did.

Whenever they call here and I pick up the phone, they do not say hello to me, they simply ask for one of the favored members of the family (either my husband or the children). Afterwards, I tell my husband how insulting it is that they cannot even acknowledge me with a hello and he explains it away by saying, "they don't mean anything by it, they're just getting old." I can't wait until I am old enough to blame everything on old age because it seems like it's a great excuse for getting away with things you'd normally be held accountable for in the real world.

When we used to live near them, we'd visit them and as soon as we entered their house, they'd ask everyone what they wanted to drink or eat and they'd pretty much ignore me. I got served last.

Then this Christmas, my MIL sends envelopes with checks for everyone but me. I don't care about the money--what bothers me is that my MIL doesn't think about how I might feel seeing everyone getting something but me--seeing everyone's name on the outside of an envelope but mine. I mean, what goes through her head when she's doing stuff like this? It makes me feel invisible. It makes me feel not good enough. I could not hold myself back from saying something on Christmas Day about this--that I just don't get how they make it so glaringly obvious that they do not like me. My husband told me that I was over reacting, and that OF COURSE they love me. I guess I'm just a little slow picking up the love signals. All I wanted to hear from my husband was, "you know something, you're right, it's a rotten thing to do (or NOT do)," but it seems that not only do I have to put up with their constant slighting of me, but I must not be outraged or say anything about it or I'm labeled "super-sensitive" or it is implied that I am too clueless to know that being left out translates into me being loved. Right.

My parents send my husband presents and cards on his birthday and on Christmas. I wonder what they would think if they knew that my in laws repeatedly ignore me. I would hope they would think it is horrible but I'm not ever going to tell them because I don't want them feeling sorry for me. It's an indignity I'd rather bear alone. And since it's uncool for me to talk about this anywhere, I'll talk about it here where I know none of them will ever find me.

Because they are so kind and generous to everyone else, I feel it's my place to find happiness in seeing THEM be happy and I'm so endlessly grateful that they have each other. I find comfort in that. When I first met them (many years ago) I was so excited to think I'd be a part of their little world where love felt pure and limitless and safe--like a secret treasure you want to hold onto forever. It's like I'm stuck on the outside looking in, wondering what it is that stops them from loving me the way they love everyone else.

I am old enough and wise enough to know that you cannot make someone love you if they don't but that doesn't make it any easier to accept. I think the distance between us helps. I do not have it in my face so much anymore--just on occasion--and I can sneak away if it feels like too much so that I can gather my wits together and pretend I don't really care. In another life, I was probably an actress of some sort. I can pull off fake ok-ness like nobody's business.

Despite all this, I can truly say that I love them for all that they've been and done for the rest of my family. I'm happy they have each other to count on and to love. I know our lives are richer for having them in it.


ms. changes pants while driving said...

wow. that's very generous and mature of you. really, i'm not being sarcastic. it's weird that they don't include you. so totally wierd. inlaws are funny stuff. my boyfriends mom says things in passing to my boyfriend and his daughter. you know, as a joke. he said his mom was just joking. my response was, your mom doesn't just joke. even when she is just joking.

i wish i could be mature about it, but i don't respect her (for various reasons).

rinnah said...

I feel you because I experience exactly the same behavior with the folks on my dad's side of the family - e.g. everyone else is loved except me and my mom. It's like we're outsiders to the clan or whatnot. I used to cry for years (when I was little) over the "un-fairness" of it all, but now that I'm older, I just let it be. Save and except for the fact that I evidently don't consider them to be my relatives at all except in name.