I have a certain member of my family we’ll call Ebenezer. Eb and I have known each other for a lot of years. We are both adults. My relationship with Eb is estranged, at best. Eb is a grouchy, miserable, person. He is emotionally draining because he is constantly attacking you. He is hurt. He is angry. He has been for a long time and he won’t let you forget it!
Once or twice a year, I make a token gesture of friendship toward him because he is family. Almost every time I do, he reminds me of my failings to the relationship because he is upset that our relationship is not better. Now mind you, in all of the years (decades) I have known Eb, he has visited me once, never (that I recall) initiated a phone call, or sent a note, or letter. But I continue to periodically reach out because he is family. If I go and visit (which I do not do often), I always call and invite him over or go and see him. I continue because I hope to one day find that he has changed, that he is different than remember. I do not do more because one person can only handle so much poison before it cankers their own soul.
I truly wish in my heart, things were different between Eb and I. I wish we could talk, really talk–without nasty comments ever flying and speak heart to heart. I wish we were close. I really love Eb. I am sad that he is lonely. Other people love Eb, but he is so angry and hurt that those feelings come out directed at whomever he is interacting with. It is almost as if he continues to hurt you, you won’t have the opportunity to hurt him (again), so he spews this poison on you and then he wonders why you don’t come around any more….? I know it seems ridiculous, but I kid you not, it happens over and over to the point that I can only manage my periodic token gestures toward friendship. I shield my children from Eb—they don’t need his poison. It is difficult enough for me to manage.
I was talking to my girlfriend about this the other day. I feel the need to continue to reach out to Eb, to offer love, support, and friendship, to give the opportunity to change. But I do not need to subject myself to abuse.
When Eb ‘zings’ me in a conversation, I am always stunned. I can never think of exactly what I want to say at the moment. But I always do later….as I am pondering the hurt I feel from his zing. It is kind of like the scene in “You’ve Got Mail”, with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I love what Tom says to Meg. Paraphrasing—when you finally say exactly what you want to at exactly the right moment, inevitably regret follows. Of all the things I wish I could have said to Eb, none of them were nice. None of them would help to build a relationship. So perhaps it is best that I did not, and do not, say them. Instead I just sit there and take it, get off the phone, bathe my soul in spiritually uplifting messages and try to process why I let Eb’s comments bother me so much, especially when I know they are not true.
I have learned that I cannot change Eb. I can only control my reaction and my exposure to Eb. I do not have to allow Eb’s comments to hurt me, which is easier said than done…..but I know it is possible. I can choose my feelings, my attitude and my behavior. I do not have to react with the natural man within. I can be above that. So I continue to reach out.