Sunday, October 30, 2011


Yesterday was The Cougar's birthday.  I spent it elsewhere, celebrating my own birthday (albeit a week early).  This is the first time in years that we have not celebrated together.  Not too long ago I decided that instead of doing a clean break and getting rid of the friendship (something that I couldn't figure out how to do because our families have been so intertwined for years that the prospect seemed even messier than a divorce), I would just stop initiating.  Anything.  Full stop.  I stopped hearing from her for two weeks.  And then our birthdays arrived.  I made plans for this Saturday, her birthday, and so that meant that she asked if we could go out to dinner on Sunday.  I will go, but I am not looking forward to it, and sometimes I wonder why I continue in this way.  Honey asked if I should just be direct about things and I explained why I was being kind and friendly but not initiating, waiting to see if she asked or could figure out the problem.  The reason is this: in many ways The Cougar is like a 14 or 15 year old.  Her emotional maturity is severely lacking, and while there were plenty of signs there I refused to see if for a long time.  Now that I see it, I'm trying to figure out how to address things in an age-appropriate way.  Young teenagers do not do well with direct confrontation; things really backfire if that's your game plan!  But if they come to you and ask for help or advice, that's when they're finally ready to listen.  I'm still waiting for that with The Cougar.  We may never get there.  I wonder how long the awkwardness will last.  I'm glad Honey and I did something else yesterday.

It was a beautiful day in our city and Honey and I were in downtown with some friends -- the first time in ages we've been downtown together.  On days like this, it's easy to remember why we live in (or near, as the case may be) this city.  When the rain clears and the sun comes out, few places are prettier.

Honey had to take a picture of the pretty plaza.
Of course I may be a bit biased.

Yesterday was an excellent way to celebrate my birthday.  We went to see the film Anonymous with our friends, a lovely couple whose family is like our extended family, and then we stopped by my favorite bar to have a drink during happy hour.  (Who am I kidding? The last time I went out was years ago and this is the only place I know -- but it's lovely and trendy and nationally known for its unique drinks and best of all it's relatively cheap during happy hour.)  Afterwards, we returned to our friends' house for dinner and wine and had a very enjoyable time visiting.  I received the two things that I wanted most for this birthday -- a treadmill (thanks, Honey! :-)) and a fun afternoon/evening with friends.

This morning, Honey received an e-mail from The Crazymaker, who thought that it would be lovely if we'd all go over to her house for dinner on my birthday.  It is very clear that The Crazymaker has no idea what I would like for my birthday, which is, primarily, to be left alone.  Chances are she'd make (or buy, since she can't cook) pork or beef, neither of which I eat (a fact I've been trying to get her to remember for a decade), and we'd sit awkwardly for an hour or two, all the while I'd be thinking "I could've just had a nap. That would be a lovely birthday gift."  Part of me wants to say "No! I'm doing what I want to do!" but the rational part of me realizes that I should not willfully hurt others.  That is why we'll go to The Crazymaker's (although maybe I can convince her that I'll bring pastries and we can just have coffee in the morning together -- a compromise), we'll go out to eat with Honey's family (an ever-so-painful experience complete with a snobby restaurant with overpriced food, stilted conversations, people who don't know what espresso is even though it's been explained every year for three years, and the knowledge that if I contemplated ordering a glass of wine I would forever be condemned to the pit of hell), and then I'll come home and do what I always do -- make dinner, sit down, and have a couple hours to unwind before the week starts all over again.

I have a difficult time learning what is a good balance between being selfish (but feeling sane) and being self-sacrificing (but feeling like I need to be committed).  This year it has been a slow process for me to find that balance and every time I think "Okay, now I've got this," a new situation arises and tests me.  I don't know how to handle everything perfectly.  For now, some compromise will have to be good enough.

UPDATE: I should clarify that I do love my family and Honey's family. They have good hearts.  I just love them all more at a distance, punctuated with brief interludes that remind me why distance is so beneficial. And there are a few members of either side of the family who I love and wish I could see them more often.  Okay. Hopefully that is a helpful explanation.

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