I had a brief twang of regret this morning as I checked Facebook. I’m on “vacation” so I figured I could check FB quickly while I made my coffee, but before I wrote. I know better, this is always a bad idea because anything that was swirling around in my mind is gone now. I saw a cousin of mine (actually my cousin’s daughter) has changed her name, again. I can’t even pronounce this one. But that wasn’t the issue, she’s a free spirit like her parents, so I don’t expect her to be much different than them. What I noticed was that my brother and sister are on her connections, and I am not anymore. She has “unfriended” me.
I’m not surprised, I live in Texas and anyone with half a lean to the left thinks that Texas is the birthplace of the antichrist. I wish all left-leaning people felt the same and left the state, but that’s a different story altogether. They’re making a big push to get Beto in the Senate this November, so maybe the anti-Texas sentiments will change if we get a white boy pretending to be Hispanic voted in this year, rather than an honest to goodness first-generation Cuban, who holds the seat now. So many people have moved here, Texas won’t be Texas much longer, fear not.
Try as I might to not care about what goes on in my circle of influence, or rather my circle of acquaintance, I do care. I’ve only met this young woman once, but her not wanting to be part of my life anymore does bother me. I’ve never exposed explicitly my political beliefs on Facebook, but I’m sure I’ve liked more than one post that would confirm my place on the spectrum.
I’m sure there are many examples of my likes and dislikes rubbing people I would like to be closer to the wrong way. But, she’s family. I was raised with the idea that family is above political bullshit. But she wasn’t raised the same way as I was. I dare say she was “free-range parented,” if that’s a thing.
FOMO is my biggest weakness
It’s the damn fear of missing out, which I’m hearing called FOMO (we have to make everything into acronyms now), and I have it in spades. How much am I missing out on? And who is doing what? Why do I care? It makes no discernible difference in my life. Just like who the president is, who my state’s senators are, etc. these things don’t actually matter to our daily lives. None of those people affect my daily ability to earn a living. An argument can be weakly made that they do, but it’s bullshit. Companies will continue to exist regardless of the political environment in this country. There will be jobs. Unless you work for a political campaign, your job is just not affected. Or if you work for the government in some way, but if you do, you should know that you’re living on borrowed time anyway. And in my book (I’ll catch hell for this) you’re only slightly above those who live on welfare, especially if you work for the IRS. Sorry, just my upper-middle-class biases showing through. Hard not to these days when everyone wants a piece of your ass attached to a check.
My fear of missing out is a chronic issue in my life. It’s what kept me out at night past the street lights coming on, ensuring I would be grounded the rest of the week. It’s what has kept me out until last-call and beyond, it’s what keeps me from focusing on the things I really want to do in life – focus on my writing.
I try not to care, but I do
Do I care that a cousin doesn’t like me? Yes, I really do. I don’t have a large family. I have two siblings, an older brother, and an older sister. My brother has one child, who now has two children. My nephew is the oldest one in the clan, and he and his wife lost their first child to SIDS in 2011. It was the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever seen. The fact that they are still together and went on to get married, buy a house and have two more lovely children speaks volumes to my brother and his ability to be a father. The mom isn’t in the picture, she decided she didn’t want to be a mom and we will not speak of her. My nephew having to witness the other side of the tracks close up may be more important to his success than anything my brother ever did.
My sister has two sons, one of which was an infant when I moved to Texas 18 years ago. As a matter of fact, my wife donated blood to my nephew because he was severely premature, and my wife is a universal donor. She’s got the good stuff in her veins. My sister has a second child as well, who I have only met a few times over the years. That’s the immediate family beyond my two stepsons. My wife had two children from a previous marriage who were 7 and 4 when I met her. One is out of the house and doesn’t speak to us anymore for completely unknown reasons, the other still lives at home, finishing up his college work. And while you’re not supposed to have a favorite child, he is clearly my favorite.
My mom is still alive, my dad passed away last summer. I have two uncles on my dad’s side, one of which is the grandfather of my estranged second cousin, the other has no children. I’m not all that close with either of them. I am 8 and 6 years younger than my brother and sister, so they were both out of the house by the time I was 11, my brother off to college, my sister graduated early from high school and went to college at 17. We moved a few times, I spent a lot of time as an outsider and alone. I can’t say it’s my preferred existence, but it’s one I’m pretty comfortable with.
Something changed when my father died
After my dad passed away in the summer of 2017, I did a lot of thinking. That was a year ago, and I’m to a point now where I do enjoy being around family. I can trust family because they have to be around me. They don’t have to like me, but they have to be around me, right? That’s reassuring. They aren’t around me because of what I can do for them, or give to them, etc. they are around me because we are related and somehow that means something more than my neighbor down the street who I can rely on sometimes to help me in a jam.
So here I sit, still wondering why I’m ranting about my family and what this has to do with me being unfriended by a cousin on Facebook. And why I care. I don’t want to care, I want to focus on this, and become better.
I’m at a stage now where I need to do more than just write daily. I have that down, now I need to focus the gun on a specific target and get some forward movement towards something. A story. Something. Anything.
In the end, leaving social media, the news, TV, etc. have done nothing for or against me, it’s just given me the free time to pursue that which I want to pursue. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to have a day, once in a while, on a day off, where I just need to relax and take the day as a breather. But I refuse to allow that. I’ve taken enough breathers the first 49 years of my life, those are all used up. From here on out, I need every single day because I’m playing catch up. I have to catch up to who I should have been by now.
I don’t try to offend, it just comes so easy
To my cousin I say this, “I’m sorry I did something to offend you.” She’s a lovely free-spirited red-haired Irish girl, the kind who could show up in a novel someday. I feel bad today, but I’ll get over it. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter to me. It doesn’t affect who I am, or what I’ll accomplish in life, it just makes me sad for a little while that a member of my family doesn’t know me well enough to see through the familial biases we all grow up with and into. Just as she is who she is because of how she was raised, is why I’m the way I am. That doesn’t preclude me from talking to people who differ from my opinions. Quite the opposite, actually. I find that in talking to those who differ from ourselves we either learn more about our own viewpoints or more about our biases, but either can be healthy.
But that’s not what people do these days. We’re binary. If you don’t agree with someone, you are wrong, end of story. I hate it. I love discussing differing opinions with people, and I think it’s the only way you can be sure of your beliefs, to have them challenged. Again, that just isn’t popular these days, and it’s too damn bad.
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Photo by Camille Orgel on Unsplash