Monday Notes: Practice What You Preach

It’s easy to write opinions of life: no judgment, more compassion, allowing people to be themselves. However, it’s quite another to put those words into practice. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had ample opportunity to do just that. Kesi’s graduation brought family and friends into our space. The celebration offered me the chance to fine tune myself within specific relationships.

My Mother-In-Law

I’ve written before about how my mother-in-law rarely visits. Well, we invited her to come down for Kesi’s graduation, and to each of our surprise, she accepted the invitation.

I began to worry.

Will she judge any and everything as she has in the past? Will the house be pristine enough for her? I thought about all of the encounters we’d had where my sense of inadequacy overshadowed her presence. After a couple of weeks of fretting, something finally dawned on me. I have to allow her to be herself. If she judges the girls, our home, or me, then so what? I’m confident with who I am and it matters not what she or anyone else thinks.

The other shift I had to make was to recognize the year. It’s 2017. I needed to function with her the way we both are in this year, not 2008 when she called Kesi fat every day, and I held back from saying much. Not 2012 when she had to shorten her visit with us because she’d double-booked herself elsewhere. It’s 2017.

Once I made those two changes, I was a much calmer person ready to receive company.

We had a wonderful time. My in-laws and I picked Desi up from school early. We shopped for groceries. We laughed and talked about all sorts of things. It really was a pleasant time. My MIL helped me by cutting all the fruits and vegetables for the party. Ultimately, it was a pleasant visit. But I realized I still have a little growing to do.

“Don’t go in the house and clean everything up,” I ordered at eleven o’clock at night.

“Why not?” she asked.

I shook my head, “Cause that’s what you’re about to go do.”

“You trying to stop people from being themselves again?” Dwight asked.

He was right. In that moment, I was doing it again, not allowing her to be her. After it was brought to my attention, I let it go. She cleaned all of the dishes and the kitchen. I went to sleep. And both of those actions were perfectly fine.

img_4078Buddy

While I was functioning with my MIL in the present, my cousin’s husband, let’s call him Buddy, was interacting with me in the past.

Buddy has a history with crack-cocaine, drinking, and physical abuse. Because of this, Buddy hasn’t been welcomed in my home or around my family for over 20 years. He recently began rehab, so Dwight and I agreed that it was okay for him to re-enter our family’s functions.

Everything was going well. My cousins, Buddy, and I played Spades. He drank the Paul Masson Brandy that he’d brought. He devoured the case of Corona he’d lugged in. We laughed. We talked. They won the game.

The night wore on. A corner of brandy sat in the bottle. Three Coronas remained.

“You know I think God sent her to me,” he said pointing to his wife, “Without her, I wouldn’t have been able to make it.”

“I agree, Buddy. She’s the only one who could be with you.”

What did I say that for? Buddy went into a tirade.

“Kathy, you know you never did like me,” he started.

“That was the past. I thought we were cool now?”

“Naw. Naw. You never did like me,” he continued.

I don’t want to bore you with the rest of the story. Basically, I tried to convince him that it is 2017. He’s in rehab. We are getting along today, and that’s all that matters.

But that wasn’t all that mattered. He hobbled off to complain about my family and me to anyone else who would listen. About an hour later, he got into a verbal altercation with my aunt, his daughter, and his wife. His thirteen-year-old daughter’s eyes were beet red. Everyone’s lips were tight. Pursed.

His inebriation cut the thick silence, “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT I’VE HAD TO DEAL WITH FROM THIS FAMILY!” he yelled.

And so there it was.

It didn’t matter how nice I was to him or how great of a time I thought we’d had that day. Buddy lived in a past of hurt and functioned from that past that weekend. I don’t want to ignore the fact that alcohol also exacerbated the situation. I’m not sure why he felt the need to get uncontrollably drunk. And I don’t want to guess.

The next day, he stayed at the hotel and didn’t emerge until it was time for them to return home. Even when he did come by the house to say good-bye, Dwight had to coax him out of the Expedition. Even when he did come in the house, he averted eye contact. He was embarrassed. We all hugged him and thanked him for coming.

There it is, one happy ending and one work in progress. But that’s how life is, right? Everything isn’t always tied up nicely with a bow. Flawed and traumatic relationships take time to heal. That’s just the nature of the human condition.

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65 thoughts on “Monday Notes: Practice What You Preach

  1. Impressive that you’ve made so much progress with your MIL. I know of some women who relish living in the pain of rejection and hurt, and really don’t want the relationship to grow. But it sounds like the two of you reached an accord that worked for the time it needed to, and that’s tremendous. As for Buddy, man, I have relatives like that. I won’t even go there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It was a shame that Buddy could not just let your comment: “I agree, Buddy. She’s the only one who could be with you”, go, but reading it I can see how you meant it, and why he took it that way. Obviously he was still clearly harbouring grudges which took very little to trigger. Had he let that go, I don’t doubt that some other innocuous remark would have set him off. I think it’s difficult if you have issues to socialise because your invisible uninvited friends: low self-esteem, over-sensitivity, lack of self-control will egg you on and spoil the occasion.
    It’s not always easy to moderate comments and cater for every type of personality in a social situation, and sometimes a little ‘deafness’ or pretending that you didn’t hear what was said might be the solution to possible volatile situations. Social occasions can often bring out the best or the worst in some people – there’s no easy, one size fits all answer. Thank goodness, the ending was positive.:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed. If it wasn’t that comment, then it would’ve been some other comment because as you say, those “uninvited friends” always show up when you haven’t dealt with them. I don’t know if the ending was positive or not. I’ll let you know when I see him next lol

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, Ok Kathy, I think I mis-read your final paragraph about the happy ending which I translated to be a positive one. Re-reading, I see that Buddy’s aspect was a ‘work in progress’. Well, on that note ‘a work in progress’ is better than a dead loss …I hope the next time you meet Buddy will be in a better place mentally and there will be no need to watch what you say.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re right. Sometimes our expectations of others (and ourselves) can be too high. And we draw inferences from behavior that are not necessarily correct. That a husband occasionally forgets to take out the garbage, does not mean he does not love his wife. That a 15 y.o. daughter tries red lipstick — though we’ve strictly forbidden it — does not mean she is going to develop loose morals. We may have imposed an overly strict standard on her for reasons of our own. Maybe we just fear being called a “bad mother”.

    Addiction adds another layer of complexity. Many who become addicts do so because they’ve had painful relationships. Drugs temporarily reduce the addict’s loneliness, anxiety, and self-loathing — not to mention inhibitions. Think how many songs have been written about addiction. Lady Gaga’s “Dope” comes to mind, but there are hundreds.

    On top of psychological dependence there is, of course, physical dependence. Heroin — currently popular — is notoriously difficult to kick. It actually changes brain circuitry.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not defending drug use, especially around children. But it’s clear from what you’ve said that Buddy was not far enough along in his recovery to face the pressures of a family get-together. No 12-Step Program would allow him to use alcohol as a substitute for other drugs — in a party setting or not.

    Another great topic, Kathy! Thanks. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Anna! I don’t know any mother that doesn’t fear being called a “bad mother” lol so I’d have to agree. Personally, for a VERY long time, that’s what I feared others would think, especially the proverbially mother-in-law. Facing this “dilemma” and then letting it go really helped in this instance.

      As far as Buddy goes, yes. I believe you’re right. He wasn’t read to face the family get together, especially one where he hadn’t been welcomed in the past. Now that I think about it from that perspective, I do feel a little more compassion for him. He must’ve thought about it as much as I thought about my MIL coming, but his history of addiction added that extra layer of self-deprecation.

      Thanks for stopping by, reading, and adding this insight!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think family relations are often difficult to tie up in a perfect bow. Things get messy and we just have to move on and hope for brighter days. You make some great points. Things I have to work on myself. Need to let people be themselves, even if they aren’t what I want them to be because I’m probably not who they want me to be. Great post as always, KG. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I reading this and I see so much of my family in yours. My mother is what I call “judgmental.” Everything needs to be pristine or she’ll comment which I use to become annoyed. I learned not to care what she thinks. My home is clean. You cousin Buddy is a mixture of my relatives. I had a this person over for an event. I gave a hug because I truly no longer cared about that issue. It was over. That action threw them off, as they were stuck in the past worrying if they’d be welcome. Time to move on!
    Great post! Enjoyed every minute 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes girl! I wrote a post about being judgmental and I how I believe mostly mothers exhibit this behavior. I’m not sure why, but it just seems to be so. Like you, I’ve learned to tune most judgments out.

      You mean you have several “Buddies”??? I can’t. That would truly test my patience. Thanks for reading and commenting Charlene! It always feels a little better when others can relate 😉

      Like

  6. Kathy – I have to thank you again for sharing these pretty personal stories. Reading them reminded of my own desire to cultivate fresh relationships with my own family members. You have illustrated – beautifully – that tender space we have to enter in order to operate in the present instead of the hurts and missteps of the past.

    Thanks for sharing with us how to shift our perspective and behavior; as well as showing the contrast in outcomes in your family stories. “Everything isn’t always tied up nicely with a bow. Flawed and traumatic relationships take time to heal.” -that’s kwotable!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😉 Thanks Leslie! I appreciate your reading and commenting, really. I’ve had to tell people outside of this blog that the only reason I “tell my business” is to help others. I think we’re all pretty similar when you take away all the things we’ve made up as differences. At our core, we want to relate and want to be heard and understood. Glad you can read this with an understanding of how to cultivate “fresh” relationships with your people 🙂

      Like

  7. Great post, so thought-provoking. Thank you for sharing your experience. Family seems to be a never-ending dance on the thin line where you try to remain your true self while letting others be who they are.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Relationships within families brings communication and patience to a whole new level! 😀 There is a lot to learn on both sides and yes, it can take years. I’m happy it worked out with your mother-in-law – perhaps she needed to feel useful and do her ‘thing’ and when you gave her a chance for this it eased the tensions. I’m sorry about Buddy, that is hard for you all…yep, a work in progress as you say, particularly for him and his addiction. I commend you on this very open, frank and honest post, Kathy – it can’t have been easy. BTW Congratulations on Kesi’s graduation! 🎓

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. I’m a little torn between thinking that’s the reason we have “families” and thinking not.

      That’s exactly what it was (well part of it) with the MIL. I needed to accept her for who she is and also let all the other stuff go. Glad you realize Buddy’s situation is HIS work in progress 🙂

      You’re welcome for the honesty and thanks for reading it! AAAANNND most of all, thanks for congratulating my daughter lol that is the reason we were all together, and sometimes family issues can overshadow the fun part. Luckily, that didn’t happen this time.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Kathy, this is an awesome post. Really full of honesty and maturity. God I really appreciate your acceptance of both Buddy and your MIL. There is such a blessing in just letting people be who they are (including & especially you). To me, really you owned your strength and let go of what people think of you. So working on that myself. Thank you Kathy! Have a wonderful week and blessings, Debbie 🙂 ps – Light ahead for your continued path with your family.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I enjoyed reading your post; it had a deep meaning and a great reminder for us. Every day is a new day and we should treat it like that not only in a ‘physical’ way but also in the ’emotional’ way. I totally admire your approach here; great mindset and great way to handle it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much 🙂 I appreciate these words. This is exactly what I’m saying, and I also think Buddhist practice, which is treating each moment, even as a new one. It’s challenging when it comes to people because we have memories, but it can be done. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. You should be nominated for sainthood after that. You mention you were surprised that your mother in law acepted. Maybe in the mystical ways of the universe. (I know I can’t help going mystical) she had to be there to show you the dynamics of each relationship and how successful you handled the situation. Your right, it is hard to follow our own advice. As MJ said abut the man in the mirror, I’m trying to change my ways, still after all these years.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha! I’m sure there’s some karmic energy going on so I’ll pass on the sainthood lol

      I TOTALLY agree about the mystical ways part. That’s what I kept thinking the entire time. It was odd to me that the very “lesson” I’d learned with my MIL was coming back to me in a different form. I really was thinking oh my, hope I haven’t made anyone else feel like I do right now, but I’m sure I have. good ole MJ was absolutely right all those years ago 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I love that you are able to look inward at yourself subjectively, it’s a skill not a lot of people have. I think it’s wonderful that you were so open to have people in your home and life that have past history that isn’t so great. You are much bigger person than I. And I’m so happy you had a great time with your MIL

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I would have to agree. Although, I don’t know much about rehab, but I have heard people can relapse for a myriad of reasons. Maybe being around us was one of those reasons for him. Thanks about the MIL. Reflection is so necessary for healthy relationships.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well the fact he thought it was ok to drink. I’m no expert but I think society too often sees alcohol as acceptable and not as damaging as some other addictive substances…it’s all the same when it is an addiction.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Much respect to you for your determination…and obviously similar effort from your MIL. Letting go benefits us all but sometimes admitting your own behavior has been a part of a recurring issue is a bitter pill for some to swallow.

    I have a HUGE family and avoid reunions for this very reason. Someone…somewhere in some part of the hotel/park/church brings up a past issue/incident/slight and the eye rolls/snide remarks/tears are in full force.

    If it’s not just my mom, siblings, and their families, I’m on the “couldn’t make it” list. 😄

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Felicia, this is the truth! People rarely want to look at the role they play in their own relationships for the very reason you’ve mentioned. It’s hard lol and who wants to do the hard stuff? I can’t imagine having a whole lot of family with several different issues with which to contend…sheesh! I’d be on the “couldn’t make it list” too lol

      Liked by 2 people

  14. How true Kathy, reality is so much harder than writing or expressing opinions. It is human to stumble when put in
    a position of aggravation.
    Well done with making it work with your mother in law, so much better for you both.
    I do worry about your cousin who has to live with Buddy every day; does she need your comfort?
    Let the dream be that he will become a changed man.
    miriam

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the words about my MIL. I’m especially proud that it all worked out peacefully. As far as my cousin is concerned, I used to worry about her, but I’ve learned to let this go. She married him as a drug addicted person, and she’s chosen to live with this choice. I send her light and love every time we meet and have learned to even be at peace about her as well.

      Liked by 2 people

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