Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Familial Alienation

What is it about being around family that strips away all that you have set out to accomplish in your life. No matter how the world sees you, your family always sees you as the bratty six year old or the dorky teenager with braces. I find myself amazed by how reduced I feel in the presence of family. Don't get me wrong, I love them and I cherish spending the holidays with them, but I am always amazed by how out of touch with myself I feel. A flood of old hurts, disappointments, fears wash over me and and old wounds reopen. When I walk outside and find some solace, I remember who I am now: the accomplished young woman, newly engaged and respected by my colleagues and students. But, the minute I walk back through the door and see everyone taking their usual places, I am immediately on the defensive. I interpret every sigh, every slight look askance as a judgment on my shortcomings. The people who know me the best, who gave me all that I have turned into my success have unbelievable power over me? Why is that?

I look at my brother, his ease with people, his gregariousness and I feel like a socially incompetent teenager in braces again. I tried to talk to my cousin, who I haven't seen in years and I am awkward. I am happy to hear his voice, pleased to hear about his children, and yet I can't find myself able to say anything interesting or even funny. I just panic. My brother takes the phone and yucks it up for another 5 minutes before hanging up. I turn to my mother and confess how inadequate I feel and she reminds me: your brother is a salesman. That makes me feel better for a moment, until I realize that was a weird way to feel better. What is wrong with me?

Maybe spending too much time in the blogosphere has atrophied my social acumen? Or is it my often insular existence in the Ivory Tower (don't think that I don't know this will be used against me by some troll in the distant future!) I just don't quite feel at home, at home. My guess is that many of you can relate to this alienation.

What's your Christmas with family been like?