I recently became a Great Aunt. I've been waiting for this day for so long because it seems like forever since we had a baby in the family—seventeen years, to be exact. I'm so excited that I know I'll soon refer to life as it existed before Elijah and life after Elijah was born. It will be that prominent of a life event. I insisted that I help plan her baby shower, and my in-law sister-in-law (yes, I said that right, it's a story for another day) offered to plan it with me. We gathered details about her registry, I found, and we booked the venue and invited family and friends. I ordered the cake and cupcakes and searched for the cutest baby animal decorations since that would also be the baby's room decor theme.
As the days and weeks start to pass, I notice something strange. I call, and I am still waiting for someone to answer. I send a text, and I get a one-word response. I ask her if there's something wrong, and she says no. I apologize anyway because I can tell something is wrong, and regardless of what it is, I know that I did not mean to hurt her feelings, make her mad, or upset her in any way.
Fast forward to the day of the shower, and everything was perfect. I bought several canvases, ironed on the outline of a baby animal on each one, brought paint and brushes, and set them up on easels for guests to create art that my niece could keep for the baby's room. I also made customized aprons with the details of the shower for guests to take as party favors.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that nearly everyone we invited would come, but forty people showed up to celebrate my niece and her soon-to-be baby. The feeling of all that love in one room was magical and unforgettable. The only problem was that I couldn't find my niece, who was 30 minutes late. Relief washed over me when she finally walked in because not only was she ok, but she looked stunning!
I lost my mom and sister, and my niece lost her mom and grandma. We didn't think this was what our lives would look like so early. We are too much alike and yet uniquely different. She is intelligent, bold, honest, and brave; my sister is proud of her. She had to grow up so much faster than anyone else in the family. I'm glad I mean so much to her that she feels safe enough to take things out on me when needed. It means I'm important to her, and that means the world to me.
For some reason, Pinterest and I have a habit of going down a word rabbit hole. I've been reading many quotes lately and want to talk about it. This quote is the one that spoke to me today.
You can't open up the story of my life and just go to page 738 and think you know me. - ft./the idealist
This made me think back to an experience that fundamentally changed me. I found myself in a situation where I had mistakenly let my guard down because I thought it was safe. Then I got sucker punched by my corner coach, and it rang my bell. (sorry for the MMA references, but it paints an appropriate picture).
It's easy to protect yourself from the assholes. You know they are assholes, and you expect them to be assholes. It's much more complicated when the people you thought weren't assholes turn out to be assholes. (how many times can you say assholes in one paragraph?).
I'm exaggerating a little. I don't believe that everyone is an asshole. We all get caught up sometimes in our world and think we know how to relate to other people's situations when we don't. My life is only mine. What I go through, the things I do, the choices I make, they are mine. I assure you that I did the best I could with what I had then, and it's OK if you don't like it. You don't have to like it.
What's not OK is if you insert yourself in the situation by offering your help but then make sure that I pay for it in the long run by jumping at the first opportunity to publicly embarrass me and remind me that I'm not part of your family. Shame on me for thinking you wanted to help when you offered. Lesson learned. From now on, I shouldn't take you at your word.
The whole situation was exhausting, and I hate turmoil so much that at some point, I would've eventually gotten over it and let it go. Still, the unapologetic apology came when you told me that you knew exactly what it was like to be me and that you managed to navigate your situation just fine. That was supposed to make me feel better, but it didn't. You don't know what kind of mom I am, what kind of dad my son has, what kind of relationship my son has with his step-parents. You don't know how hard the last couple of years have been and all the work I've done to maintain some normalcy in our daily lives. I wouldn't expect you to know all of that. I hope you would be open-minded enough not to say hurtful things when you haven't walked a mile in my shoes. Also, say what you mean and mean what you say. I'm too exhausted to keep up with when I can believe what you say and when I can't, so be straightforward. I assure you that I will be straightforward right back. I hope you have the day you deserve.