Sunday, May 13, 2007



Every family seems to have that one relative that is difficult to approach or be with and seems to have very hard edges. Of course, that person is never you! She could be your sister: the one who never calls unless she wants something or wants to let you know that you have really made her mad. It could be your brother who seems to know all of the vulnerable spots and takes advantage of this knowledge to hit you when you’re down. Sometimes it is the busy body aunt who seems so sympathetic and really understands what you’re going through, but next week when you hear your story coming back around through the grapevine, you realize that she was just out to grind the gossip mill.
So, just what is a body to do when the bad egg is on you?

My husband tells me that if I want to boil an egg, I should let it warm up a bit before immersing it in the water. I have never had the patience to watch an egg warm up. I plunk that sucker into the pot, cover it with water and turn the flame up to just below ‘trigger the smoke detector’. Then my usual routine is to go get into something else and forget about the 3 minute rule. Maybe Mr. Perdue will one day invent an egg with an alarm built in. By the time that I return to the pot, a white stringy scum indicates that the shell has cracked allowing the white insides to leak out into the boiling water. The chemistry here invariably causes the pot to boil over creating a gooey mess on the spill tray under the burner. Suddenly my three minute egg has turned into a half hour scouring project. Eggs are like toasted cheese. Yes, I manage to burn those all the time too!
The mess created by the rapid boil takes more time to clean up than watching the egg warm. Maybe I could learn to warm up to that prickly relative too.

Do you check the egg carton before you leave the refrigerated case? Turning each egg to be sure that none are stuck to the carton because of a hair line fracture? Not me. Oh, I flip the lid alright to be sure no oozing mass is in there, but jiggling each egg seems to be a bit much. It’s not the time that it would take that gets to me, its more the looks from the other cart drivers.
Sometimes I care too much about what someone else might think. The prickly relative brings out the same dynamic. If I talk to her for too long at the reunion, someone will think that I like her or that I might be on her side in the next dispute. Truth is that I need to spend that time with her to learn what it is really like for her. Underneath all of the difficulty, she is fragile just like me. I could gently check out how she thinks or feels rather than slamming the lid shut with my assumptions.

Remember the Dr. Zeus book about green eggs? What a disgusting thought. Same feeling waves over me when that prickly person is on the phone or looking to visit. A green sickness comes over me and inside of 3 seconds, I have run a complete video of how this weekend will go. It’s the Titanic in fast forward. That rush to disaster makes it hard to come back to the present and prepare for the visit.
Have I ever been curious about this person’s history or hopes or needs or longings? If I can stop feeling sick and start being curious, this visit can help me see her as a complex person rather than a vile entre’.

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