29 Years

LongRoadI’m sitting in my living room, watching The West Wing and slowly unwinding from a weekend that was bubbling over with family. I’m a bit tired and stressed. I love my family. I really do, but they are people. I have a hard time with people. So, this weekend, to celebrate that 29 years ago today my mother did something pretty awesome, my family flooded into my house.

I am not good with crowds of people in what I think of as my personal space.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

I’m not good with crowds of people. The gathering of my family this past weekend wasn’t nearly as large as such gatherings could be. (Seriously, check for Brothertons in your phonebook, there are probably thousands of them near you, we breed like rabbits.) I still felt as though there was a crushing force driving down on me from every angle. It was a force I didn’t feel like I could escape. I did my best to soldier on.

This was family. I love them, and they were here because they love me.

It makes me feel guilty. It hurts me that the fear of people is so engrained in me that I am pushed to the very edges of a nervous breakdown by the people that have been in my life as long as I have had one. I am aware of how blessed I am to have a family that is as supportive and loving as they are. I know that my family is a gift for which I should be eternally thankful.

Yet I still sat in my office, hiding from the noise, and bodies, and eyes, and words.

I felt trapped in my own house, and I let myself resent them for being here to love me.

Birthdays have a certain level of anxiety for me that I don’t think I can ever quite get away from. I dread them almost as much as young children long for them. For years, my birthday felt like the day that the world forgot who I was. I felt like I was no one, and that no one cared that I was no one. I was on my own for those years, and I pushed people away as often as they left me for their own reasons. Still, I developed a bitter, toxic attitude towards my own birthday that probably poisons me in ways that I will never truly understand.

Now, my birthday is celebrated with love by people that actually care for me deeply, and I dread them still, maybe even more than before. Now that I find myself so terribly afraid of the world, now that every social interaction just increases the feeling of isolation, dread, and lonliness that has replaced my heart, now that I dread seeing people because I know they will see that I am broken and insane, and now, I wish everyone would just forget who I am on my birthday.

I love my family. I love seeing them. I love when they come here and we all argue and speak candidly about the stupidest things. I love the noise and din of my nieces and nephew.

I just hope that they don’t see that I am broken.

I hope that they don’t see that I’m not recovering.

I hope that they don’t know how terribly afraid of them I am.

My youngest niece is 3. I feel a little guilty because in her 3 years of life, you can probably count the number of times she’s seen me on both hands. When my parents moved back to Missouri from Montana a year ago, she had no way of being able to recognize me, or my parents, or really anyone in our family. She was shy, and hid behind my sister or her father, avoiding everyone and being too afraid to really play with her sister or her cousins. She was even afraid of my old, sleepy golden retriever, Abbey.

This weekend when she popped up in the house, she pet my dog, gave her a hug, and then spent half an hour avidly trying to impress me with her rather extensive collection of Minnie Mouse dolls and the knowledge that goes with them.

I was impressed.

My niece had done something in her tiny age that I haven’t been able to do in a life nearly three times as long.

She had overcome her fear.

So, yeah, I was proud of her. I was impressed by her.

And, yes, I’m going to keep trying to one day be as strong as my niece, Littlest Monkey, because she is just too damned cute to disappoint.