ye olde birthday FOG
I'm stewing in yuckiness. A family member is having a big birthday, one of the ones divisible by 10, which, in a base-10 society, means it's somehow more important than one divisible by 5 or by 4 or by 8. (Tangent: shouldn't prime-number birthdays be more important? Seriously, let's start a trend.)
So, because this person is related to me, and because her new age is large and divisible by 10, there's going to be birthday hoopla. Of course, there has been hoopla about this person's birthdays in the past, including one year when she was non-divisible by 10 and I was pressured to attend her birthday celebration instead of a memorial service for a friend who had died unexpectedly. Under all the "funerals are for the living" and "that person is dead, this one is alive" and "family is important" and "she might not be alive much longer" guilt tripping, I caved, I made a trip that I didn't enjoy to be with people whom I don't like to celebrate the birth of a person to whom I don't feel close, and didn't attend services for this dear friend whom I hadn't seen in years. I didn't get to hug her mom or her sister. I didn't get to mourn with friends. I allowed myself to be controlled by fear of the future, family obligation, and guilt.
To be clear: that was my choice. I didn't have to make it. It was the wrong choice and I still regret it, years later. I know I made the choice because I was, without being aware of it, playing into and along with the family dynamic of Fear, Obligation, and Guilt (FOG).
Today, after several years of becoming aware of and struggling against the family FOG, I'm staring at the invitation to the latest celebration of her agedness. The invitation that comes from a relative who is not my friend, who has exerted pressure on me in the past to "bury the hatchet" with my mother, instead of saying "hey, I'm related to your mom, and I totally understand what a bitch she is, I'm sorry she treats you like shit." The invitation heralding the honoring of a person who, honestly, isn't very important to me and doesn't play an active, meaningful role in my life. The invitation to a party several states away, that will require travel time and hotel accommodations on my dime. The time spent in the car would outweigh the time spent at the party by approximately 4:1. I'm not sure I would want to drive an hour for this party, much less half a day, especially considering that the party itself will not be fun for me and probably won't be much fun for my kids, either.
For an invitation, it sure doesn't feel inviting. It feels more like a summons.
On a petty note: the person sending the invitation, who is related to me, who is FAMILY, which is supposedly so important, did not acknowledge my birthday and hasn't in years. Just sayin'.
The obvious answer is not to go, and I know we won't go, yet I still haven't given my response. It feels rude to turn it down. Everybody else who has been summoned is going, like the good little conditioned, devoted-to-family children they are. Of course, they may actually enjoy themselves, because the extended family involved has invested time in making these people feel wanted. Me, notsomuch. And of course that just plays into my sense of shame - if I were a better person, these people would like me, right? Ugh. But rather than saying "nope, not coming" to these people, I angst over my response. I can't just click no (yes, I can, but I feel badly about doing it). I have to have a reason (no, I don't, but it feels socially inappropriate to say no without a "proper" excuse). I have to be polite and pretty when I decline the invitation. I have to "send my regrets" even though I don't actually have regrets.
Why is it so hard for me to just say NO to people I don't like, without feeling like I owe these people some sort of conciliatory message? Is it a sign of being a good person to want to be polite to people who aren't polite to you, or is it a character flaw?
And why, when I recognize the FOG and have chosen not to participate in it, does it still control me on some level?