I ran into my aunts this weekend at a holiday craft bazaar.
In a normal family, that would be literally, no big deal. In a normal family, I would have walked up and said hi, made some conversation, and maybe even spent some time with them at the event.
In a normal family, I would not have to debate whether I pretend I didn't see them, or to hide, or to walk up and punch them in the face.
In a normal family, running into your aunts at a craft bazaar is in no way a blog-worthy event.
I think it has already been established that my family is not a normal one.
Yesterday, I looked up from a craft table where I was admiring some bracelets, to see my aunts walking my way, my grandma in between them. And since I saw them before they saw me, I had several choices. Since my gut reaction to seeing someone I hate (and who hates me in return) is to duck and cover, I chose to walk the other direction and pretend I had not seen them. I didn't want to see them, or talk to them. or even walk past them pretending to not even recognize them.
For the record, it has been long enough since we've spoken, that not recognizing them could be a plausible argument.
In any case, I chose to hide and pretend I hadn't seen them. But then a few minutes later, I was trapped in a hallway where I was going and they were coming, and there was only one door. Shit! I was going to have to walk past them. Eye contact might even be made! FUCK!
At this point, I had another several options: blow off my grandma and stoop to their level, walking right by as if I didn't know them, or stop and say hi, which was the right thing to do being that my grandma was there too. So, with my heart racing and no desire to do so, I walked right up to the three of them, gave my grandma a hug, and said hello - just to her. I introduced her to my friend and asked her what she was doing up here in Vancouver, and after what seemed like an eternity (time slows down when two insane bitches are staring at you awkwardly not saying hello), told her I would see her soon and walked away.
Running into my aunts was inevitable at some point. In a ten year span is it really possible to not see someone who is genetically related to you, no matter how hard you try? But it was a good reminder of the moments when taking the high road actually becomes much more gratifying than running away and stopping to someone else's level. I could have hid from them, and I certainly could have just completely ignored them. I wanted to. But I also did not want to stoop to their level when it involved my grandma (even though they've spent their share of time discussing all the ways I mistreat her); my grandma did not deserve to be ignored just because she was in shitty company.
I have spent far too many years being hurt, sad, and angry by the way this family has unraveled. Seeing them was really a very good reality check that I have no reason to be hurt, sad, or angry anymore: these two women may as well have been complete strangers. I don't know them. They don't know me. I don't know where they live or what they do in their free time or on holidays. I don't know anything about them. They don't know me. They don't know what tragedies I have faced in the past six years, or the strength I have acquired after each one. They don't know that I am successful and happy, or that I am proud of myself for living the life I do. We don't know each other. And we don't need to.
I will always approach my grandma to say hi if I see her in public, regardless of how awkward other people make it. So go ahead and read this (I know you do), print it out and read it to each other over dinner, and try to find a way of twisting it into how I'm the bad guy. The reality is, you're the bad guys. You have successfully taken my grandma, my family, my support, away from me and have made me redefine all of that. I have spent several years attempting to find connection and to heal, and have only recently been able to let go of my intense feelings of anger, hurt, and honestly, hate.
You did that to me.
It is important to live your life in the company of people who care about you; people who support you and lift you up. For me, this has meant redefining what family means, rethinking what family is, and even reevaluating who belongs to mine. And it's been an uphill battle. It's been a series of stressful family events, a string of missed holidays, and a lot of hurt feelings. Because people in my family have hurt me, I've turned around and hurt other people by not showing up to holidays or by saying hurtful things. It's been a hard cycle, but in the end, I think it was inevitable. And running into these two strangers yesterday - two strangers who are blood related to me, who used to love me, who used to support me and lift me up - was the reminder I needed that I am living my life right.
I might even show up for a holiday next year.