There is a group of people with whom I have a dreadful time simply being. There is a group of people with whom I gather from time to time who cause me to choose to be vigilant and guarded. History has taught me that sharing my honest political and moral views, my most deeply held beliefs and spiritual musings, will result in heated arguments, uncomfortable discussions and, ultimately, judgement.
These are individuals whom I love and care for and truly wish I could find peace with. They possess the power to make me feel less. Less intelligent. Less 'cool'. Less important. When I am in their company I feel instantly transported back to the halls of my small-town high school and begin watching my every step for fear that I might make a mistake that will be noticed by someone waiting to pounce.
I am fairly certain that my guarded personality in some way contributes to the difficult dynamic in these situations, but I have been stung by hurtful comments in the past and the thought of letting go and simply disregarding their opinions of me as unimportant seems impossible. Inevitably at the end of each of these gatherings I am left examining my reactions. Why is it that I feel judged by them? Their habit as a group is to judge most other people. Why is it that I resist standing up to them? I know I won't change their minds and I can't hope to disrupt a dynamic that has been going on for decades. By stating my opinion I am painting myself with a bulls-eye and starting a chain reaction of arguments that will serve nobody's purposes. Even though it makes me uncomfortable, is it okay for me to spend these infrequent get-togethers shielding my true self from them in an effort to keep the waters around us calm?
I worry about the message my daughters will get from this. I worry that these people will never value me without truly knowing me for who I am. On the other hand, I value being able to spend a few days in a relatively calm state without fear of impending confrontation or being mocked. I know what my husband's advice would be: who cares what they think? My gut tells me it is important to stand up for who I am, but my head says it isn't worth the fighting and constant effort of justifying myself to others. The reality is, these people will be in my life in one way or another for a very long time. I chose to marry one of 'them'. Ironically, it was his love and devotion for them that was one of the reasons I found him so attractive. Also ironically, it is the fact that he is so different from them when he's not with them that gives me the most hope.