Dear Carolyn: How do I handle not being invited to the extended family Thanksgiving dinner? An estranged sibling is having the dinner and has excluded the other three siblings – on purpose. The only other family member who knows is my mother, a favorite target of the estranged sibling’s bullying. The extended family does not know there is a rift (a rift due to an ongoing pattern of this bullying).
Do I just suck it up and cook my own dinner, or get together with the other two siblings and not mention it to anyone outside the family nucleus?
A: Or invite people you enjoy who you know don’t have plans, or invite your other siblings and don’t care who knows what, or pack a bag and treat yourself to an overnight someplace you’ve always wanted to see/see again, or spend the day shopping online for a needy family, or warm up your favorite pie and queue up a video marathon that provokes thought, inspires you or just makes you laugh out loud.
When someone spits on your script, that is hurtful and upsetting, I get it. But it’s also license to drop the spitty script in the fire and write a new one. If you can use this do-over to be more generous with others than your sibling has been with you, then think of that as the stuffing in the bird.
Clashing online personas
Dear Carolyn: I am a civil servant. My sister, who has had “guvmint assistance” at times in her adult life, has gotten some attention Twitter-wise for being a funny, right-wing anarchist.
So the government shuts down. I am working on an IOU and she is posting “funny” things on Facebook, like, “National Parks Closed. Because the government has to help you take a walk in the woods.”
Here I could not restrain myself, knowing that if the government of Teddy-(stinkin’)-Roosevelt hadn’t taken action, the Grand Canyon would today be surrounded by condos, and so responded with that fact. I didn’t cuss or directly insult anyone’s intelligence.
I love my sister dearly, but I don’t think our online personas mesh very well. Any advice on how I should be discussing this stuff with her so that we don’t get to a point we can’t speak to each other?
A: I’m going with (d) Not at all. As in, no discussions between civil-servant and anarchist siblings of “this stuff” – politics, social media, the merits of and obligations conferred by accepting “guvmint assistance,” or any other grit in your oysters. Why? Because you love your sister dearly, and if that’s your priority, then act on it by choosing to set aside your desire to be heard.
It’s also OK to make a priority of being heard, of course, as long as you’re willing to pay the emotional price.
Obviously families have had to navigate political differences for as long as there have been families and politics, and so yours isn’t a novel choice.
However, if you do opt for love and limits, then I strongly advise you to stop following her on any social media, and invest more time with her in-person. Your online personas clash not just because your views do, but because your espousal of them online is stripped of all the filters people use in person when they’re making an effort to get along. So, interact with your sister only in filter-friendly environments.
If this feels like a kind of denial, that’s because it is. We’re also all more attractive under soft, layered light than under harsh fluorescents – and what purists light their parties under an office-overhead glare?