I know that family reads this blog, so the following may not be the most appropriate entry, but since this is my place to be honest I'm letting it fly.
There is no reason or excuse to use another person to make yourself feel better or more comfortable. There is no reason to hurt another person just so you have something to add to a conversation.
This is my line in the sand.
A little backstory: I used to be a heinous bitch until 18 or so. After my nana died, and later after my mother died, I had trouble expressing most of my emotions. The only emotion I had that was easy to express was anger. I did anger real well. I would pick fights with my father. I would pick fights with my brother. I realize looking back at those times, it wasn't because I was actually angry, but it was the only way I could express my sadness or grief outside of myself. I could be sad or grieving alone, but my brother or father wouldn't interact with that emotion, but they would interact with my anger. I could feel something and feel those emotions either being validated or challenged.
When I got to college and started reading about Buddhism, I made a conscious choice to (try to) not be angry. I realized that I was the only one being hurt by my anger. I couldn't give it to other people to deal with. It would fester in me (as most negative emotions do) until it was unmanagable. I learned techniques to manage my anger. One of those techniques was to acknowledge it right when it happens. 50% of it was realizing that the world wasn't the way I'd run the show. The other half was calling people on how they treated me.
Suffice it to say, I'm not such a heinous bitch anymore. However, I find that sometimes my brother and father still act like I am. With my father he doesn't realize that I can talk about a problem calmly and rationally. My brother just has a very hands-off relationship with me. The result is not just anger (that the world/my family isn't the way I want it to be) but a whole lot of fear that I'll be alone in the world.
This Thanksgiving my father was picking fights with me because he was socially awkward. First he took a giant dump on one of my favorite holiday memories (did it need to be said? did it need to be said in that context? did it need to be said to my brother's fiance's mother, who my father had just met for the first time?). Second, he picked a fight over something trivial -- trying to tell me that I was wrong for suggesting an opera singer sang something in Turkish (I studied opera, and actually attended the performance). Then at the end of the night he woke up at 10 and said "We're going home" and got all pissy as I was trying to say goodbyes and pack up all of the food/china that I brought.
I spent most of the night trying to defend myself or trying to prove that I'm not some disrespectful, petulant child to my brother's future in-laws. I was more than a bit annoyed that my brother didn't help defend me (I know I don't need defending, but my father will often listen to my brother and not to me).
So on Friday/Saturday I went into a little bit of a tailspin. I ate everything in sight. In the moments I wasn't full of pie, I tried to at least figure out what was going on. Why had this all hurt me so much? What I came up with was that I was hurt that my brother says he wants to be a family guy but doesn't take the time to tend to his own family, and that my father says that my brother and I are the most important people to him and yet he can treat us so badly.
My dad and I spent time together on Friday and we tried to clear the air about what happened on Thursday. I told him that he can say everything he wants to say, but that he should pay more attention to being skillful in how he says it. I also pointed out to him that when he's feeling uncomfortable, it's not okay to use me as a punchline or a crutch. I don't like it when he uses me to draw attention away from himself (later that night he made a joke to a waitress about me and I pointed it out to him... obviously this will take a while for him to grasp).
As for my brother, I don't know what to do or say. I can't force him to want to have a relationship with me or a relationship with my brother. I can stop trying so hard, or stop getting so upset when he doesn't respond to my emails, calls, or txt msgs. I am happy for him that he has found someone that he loves and wants to build a family with. I'm just sad that he can't show the same enthusiasm for his own family -- that in his mind we're still the same people from many years ago.
So as many people on Twitter and Facebook reminded me (thank you all very much) there are people in my life who want to have healthy relationships with me. I'm going to try and focus on those relationships and nurture them. There is so much goodness in my life that sometimes it's hard for me to manage it all. Isn't that a wonderful problem to have?