I love my family, but I hate familial obligations. Especially when I feel forced into them. When I do things for my relatives, they should natural and easy because there's a genuine desire there, and not like I want to rip my hair out in frustration every time I am expected to do something I don't want to do or be somewhere I don't want to be.
But putting down boundaries with family is tricky. You're seen as selfish for saying "no," despite all the times you've said "yes" or "okay, fine, whatever." Even when you have a legitimate reason to decline an invitation (My finals are coming up and I have to study!) or to say no to a favor or request (I'm not feeling well, and I don't have the energy to do this today.), and even when you are sincerely sorry you can't be more helpful, there's no way to say no without a healthy serving of guilt on the side, with resentment as your only dessert option.
I get excluded a lot from family functions, and I often wonder if that's my fault. Have I said "no" so many times that I'm simply forgotten when events are planned? If that were true, then why invite me to some events but not to others? Am I just not wanted around? Or do people jump to conclusions and assume I'll say no if I am invited and don't bother going through the trouble of communicating with me? It's probably a combination of all of it.
More importantly, do I even care that I wasn't invited, or do I just think I should be offended from all the times I've offended others by declining invites? If I'm being honest, I don't really care if I'm not invited to things. Sometimes, invitations don't feel optional; you're expected to be there if you're invited. Not getting invited takes the stress out of having to say no. I'm not trying to be a jerk here; I'm pretty introverted and interacting with people in social settings is not my idea of fun.
So when I don't get invited to events, my guard goes up because I just know I'm going to have to hear about why wasn't there later. "How can you get berated for not attending an event you weren't invited to?" you might be asking yourself. It's a question I've been trying to answer for years. That senseless berating is what really irks me. And anyway, why would I want to be somewhere I'm not wanted?
A few years ago, a cousin of mine got married and I wasn't invited to the wedding. I don't particularly love weddings and the timing of it didn't really work for me, so I was hardly devastated that I wasn't able to attend. My sister wasn't invited either, but she contacted the cousin and convinced her to let her attend. She told me I should do the same, but I refused. I know what goes into planning weddings, and they—quite literally— didn't have a place for me at the table. The only thing that hurt about that was that I actually liked this cousin; I thought she was fun, confident, and ballsy. I respected her, and I always felt like we got along. So, yeah, I was a tad surprised that I wasn't considered as a possible guest. Maybe her possible guest list was too long and I was just an unlucky soul who ended up on the cutting room floor? I gave her the benefit of the doubt, and decided it just came down to having to make choices like that. Weddings are expensive, after all.
(Side bar: I attended three weddings in the years prior, and none of them were relatives of mine. The lesson I learned is that people will make room for you if they value you enough to include you.)
It's become pretty clear to me over the years that my family isn't always the best support system. I don't blame them, however. I'm sure they have their reasons. After all, we all have childhood traumas that affect our behavior as adults and I know for a fact that everyone in my family is in dire need of therapy. I'm a lot more patient and nonchalant these days.
Beyond that, they have their own lives, and they are as selfish as they accuse me of being. Ironic, isn't it?