I’m sure at least some of you out there will be able to relate to this post.

You have that one person in your family who just pushes all your buttons.  That person for whom your history together is so fraught with…oh, who knows what.  Tension.  Anger.  Fear, maybe.  Frustration.  Disappointment.  It doesn’t seem to matter how many years or miles pass between you but those issues remain unresolved, like they’ve embedded themselves into your very cell structures and no amount of scrubbing or cleansing or purging can entirely remove them.  

Every little thing this person does can set you on edge, make you grind your teeth in aggravation or frustration.  You spend time with them because they’re family, because you do, in fact, love them, in spite of the pins and needles feeling you sometimes get in your brain as you struggle to keep the comments bubbling up to yourself.  It’s pretty obvious, to you at least, that you are not yourself when this person is around.  You’re sure it must be obvious to them, even though they may pretend not to notice.  Its even worse when that person seems to love you anyway, in spite of yourself.  

What is it?  What is it that you just can’t let go?  It’s so hard to put a finger on.  It’s nothing blatantly obvious.  Oh sure, you can go on about this or that event from your childhood, this or that failure or fault.  But move on already!  Right?  Why can’t you just move on?  No one else seems to see or share your frustrations with this person…you hear about how wonderful they are from everyone.  And really, if you look at it, they are a pretty remarkable person, considering where things were.  And most people who know them today don’t know about where things were, how they used to be.  But it’s sometimes those very things that others love about them, those very things that make them other people’s favorite person, that drive you the most crazy.

Spending time with this person brings out some sort of horrible monster-person inside you. It’s exhausting trying to keep that person in check and you can’t do it entirely.  You’re short and snappy with people you love.  You’re overly critical.  So you go off by yourself a lot and keep visits short if possible.  For your own mental health and the mental health of those around you.  

You know it should be different.  And sometimes, you get a crystalline vision of what “normal” looks and feels like with this person.  You’re able to just be and laugh and you think “wouldn’t it be nice if it could be like this all the time.”  And then it goes away and you’re back to being miserable and frustrated.  

The worst part is that while feeling miserable and frustrated you also feel guilty and feel like the world’s worst person.  How can I be like this, you think?  I’m a rational, intelligent person.  Why do I let these stupid things control me?  So every moment is doubly agonizing because not only are you frustrated with this family member, you are supremely frustrated with yourself.  It’s like a dog chewing its own leg off.

Every visit brings up these same questions and you’ve just resigned yourself to the fact that this person is not going to change who they are, and you probably aren’t either.  You just hope that maybe next time you can be a little bit better, a little more tolerant, and beat yourself up a little less.  

Just do your best
It’s the only way to keep that last bit of sanity
Maybe I don’t have to be good but I can try to be
At least a little better than I’ve been so far

(The Avett Brothers, “When I Drink”)

*this entire piece is intentionally vague.

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