People always say, be yourself and the right people will like you. What they don’t say, however, is that if you’re truly yourself, some of the people who loved you before won’t anymore.
I’ve had this happen on a smaller scale with friends, but in most of those cases, it was not a big deal. But when it happened with my mother-in-law, it really hurt. It still does and it’s been well over a year.
She blocked and unfriended me without warning on Facebook. We always had wildly different views on politics but it never seemed to significantly get in the way of our relationship. But her unfriending and blocking me was almost definitely over politics.
The reason this matters so much to me is twofold. Most importantly, I always felt like she was much more involved in my life (in a good way) than my own mom was. I feel a real sense of loss. For whatever differences we may have had, I could usually count on her to be encouraging and to show an interest in what my kids were doing. Now, that’s just gone and I have no mother figure for me in that role at all anymore.
I used to feel like she loved me even despite our differences. Now I feel like she chose her right to describe all Democrats as agents of the devil over her relationship with me. And since I am a Democrat, I couldn’t just look the other way when she described all Democrats as being evil. To me, that was very personal and hurtful.
The other reason it bothered me so much is that I had only recently started to share my real thoughts on issues again–to try to regain and express my real self. Seeing how she reacted and that she was willing to throw away a valuable family relationship over politics had the effect of shutting me up. I’ve rarely been as vocal about my views again.
I know: it’s just Facebook. It used to be fun 10 years ago but now is pretty much a polarizing cesspool. But it was also the primary way my mother-in-law and I kept in touch. Now that’s just gone and it feels like the whole site is all about politics. When I showed my real views, she decided it was no longer worth talking to me, even though I used to post similar stuff years ago. My views weren’t a surprise.
My husband thinks I should just call her. But that’s not going to happen for several reasons. For one, when I called to tell her he had cancer, she was not initially happy to hear from me. The conversation was weird and uncomfortable. When I saw her in person earlier this summer, it still felt weird and uncomfortable. Also, let’s face it: I don’t like talking on the phone even if it’s not weird.
On probably a more petty note, I’m also still really hurt. I feel like she hurt me greatly and I’m not going to make the first move to try to repair a relationship that I feel like she damaged. This wasn’t a matter where we had a fight and it was mutual. I feel quite justified in believing she wronged me and therefore I have no reason to apologize.
I know that she still cares about me overall. She still sent me Christmas and birthday gifts. She sent me one of J’s grandma’s old rings after she passed away this summer. I don’t think she’s an evil person. But nonetheless, she really hurt me and I don’t think she cares that she did. I don’t expect to ever get an apology or even an explanation for why she so suddenly cut me off without warning.
This all goes back to the original issue: how safe do I really feel about expressing my true opinions in any kind of widely public forum? The truth is, not much anymore. She wanted a public forum where she could trash whole groups of people, which I tried very hard to avoid doing even if I didn’t always agree with them.
People are less black and white in their thinking than the mainstream media wants us to think. I think it’s still possible for people who disagree to find common ground. I understand that, but I don’t think she did.
And meanwhile, it just seems ironic and even cruel that I was still holding back from sharing my most passionate views and I still lost the regular relationship with her anyway.