The Hardest Battle

“To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.” – e.e. cummings

This is the battle that I have been fighting for more years than I can even begin to count. For a long time it seemed to be a battle that I could never win. Who I was never seemed to be enough. I knew that I couldn’t change who I was to make others happy or comfortable, yet the pressure to be somebody else created a great schism within myself. While I can confidently say that I am now strong enough to know who I am, there are still moments when it seems like my feet are on less than solid ground.

Those shaky moments typically occur when I am required to be sociable with certain individuals, usually those people who have placed the greatest pressure on me to be someone I am not or those who have hurt me the deepest. Today presented one of those social requirements. I actually had a bit of a bad dream about this last week, even though I knew today’s experience would be more awkward than painful. We’ve been living in a Cold War-like state for several years now. This is our status quo, and I suppose I am comfortable to remain in such a state.

I think I have moved beyond the anger and hurt, but I admit that it isn’t always easy to let go of the feeling of rejection I experienced as my character was viciously assassinated by a family member. I don’t really understand the ferocity of that attack or the unyielding assertion that I was the one who needed to change in order to maintain some semblance of a relationship. What is ironic is that I have changed, although not in the manner that was demanded of me, but rather in a way that illuminated the best parts of me and followed my natural bent. I am a better version of myself, but I can never be someone I am not.

It has been nearly eight years since I have seen or talked to this family member. That’s when she spewed her poison all over me and my family. The years since then have been cold and rocky. I have forgiven her. I have extended that forgiveness…and had it essentially thrown back in my face. Last Easter we were to have brunch, our two families together for the first time in years, but she backed out at the last minute. Today we were to have brunch together again, and again she backed out at the last minute, sending the rest of her family to come alone. Although we all expected her not to come, her absence didn’t really make the meal any less awkward and uncomfortable. The relationship between families is strained and forced, especially for me as I carry the knowledge that both adults in that family share the same opinion of me, always have and always will. I have a very hard time being around toxic people or people who are schmoozy and false. It’s exhausting.

Brunch was as expected. She decided to finish painting her office rather than come enjoy brunch with the rest of us. I have unfinished painting projects in my house…maybe I’ll have to remember that for the next time. On second thought, hiding myself away is something that the old me would have done in the face of such an uncomfortable situation. The new me might not find the situation any more comfortable, but I am strong enough to hold my head high and walk right on in. Just as I am.

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