I dread the phone ringing. Like most people, I check caller ID before answering, cringing at some of the numbers I see. But it’s not credit card companies or collection agencies I’m hiding from. It’s my brother, J, the younger of my two older brothers. I have not spoken to him on the phone in about six months. He called to check on me after the surgery and I haven’t answered since then. I’ve seen him at my folks house when he is up to visit (he is the only one that doesn’t live locally, he’s about three hours away), and we speak a few words about unimportant things, but I haven’t really spoken to him since June. When he calls and I don’t answer, he then calls my parents or my sister to ask why I don’t call him back. Of course they call me to find out. But they know. They know and he doesn’t.
Talking to him is exhausting. It is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. I am not a “glass half full” type of person, but I have good days. I can see good in things from time to time. But he is the ultimate pessimist. Nothing good ever happens, and he can find the bad in every situation. It’s just too much to deal with. I’ve been having a very rough year emotionally, just trying to find my place, trying to accept my life as it is, trying to find a way to be comfortable in my skin, in my home, in all the roles I play in life. I don’t want to talk to him when I’m in a good mood, because I know that my mood won’t last. I know that I will allow him to bring me down to his level because misery loves company. And if I’m having a bad day, well, then I really don’t want to talk to him. There are days that it takes bottles of glue and boxes of nails to keep me in one piece, to keep me from absolutely losing my shit, and I know if I talk to him, I’ll start to fall apart, piece by piece, until I’m the jigsaw puzzle no one wants to try to put together because there are too many pieces. And it seems every time I fall apart and then put back together I lose a piece. I’m afraid if I fall apart too many times, that one day I won’t be able to put all the pieces back together.
When I talk to him, I try to sway the conversation to the good side, to point out the positive things in any situation. But he shoots them all down, one by one. But, more often than not, he doesn’t have anything to say. So I have to carry the entire conversation. There is no give and take. I have to give, give, give. And, right now? I don’t have that much to give. I know he calls just to hear a familiar voice. He is single and lonely. He feels separated from the family because he lives so far away. Feeling like that is fine, but trying to bring down everyone around you is not. My family knows what I mean, they comment on his attitude a lot, but it doesn’t affect them like it does me. So I end up feeling guilty about not talking to him. Maybe I’m being selfish, but maybe I’m being smart. I know my limits and I know what sets me off on the downward spiral.
I hate that I have this relationship with him, but I don’t know how to change it if he can’t change his attitude. I feel even more guilty for what I’m about to say: I think I could go the rest of my life without speaking to him and be ok with it. It’s hard to say that because my family, for the most part, is very close. I speak to my parents almost every day; my sister and I speak for hours at a time about nothing and everything, she’s truly my best friend. I often find myself calling her boyfriend a few times a month for help or just to get his opinion; I speak to my brother, D, and my SIL often and I am close with all my nephews. I think J knows this, and is trying to get an equal share of time, which I understand. But he doesn’t see how negative he is. He doesn’t see that it affects other people, and I don’t think he ever will. It’s just how he is.
I really wish our relationship weren’t like this, but it is. And I’m beginning to think there is nothing I can do to fix it.