Kelly In Catty

This blog is Kell's attempt to keep in touch with friends far away who complain that I don't e-mail nearly enough.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Relatively Speaking

I've been thinking a lot about human expectation lately. My friend, Alison, has a difficult time relating to her father. Her father was once a close friend of mine; we've since drifted - yet he remains a frequent subject of conversation between Alison and me.

Last week, after a particularly bizarre encounter (in short - the dad charged his daughter for making her dinner. We're flummoxed.) I asked Alison, "If your father's cards are on the table, face up - and we all know what to expect from him... If his behavior has been consistent to a fault - and even predictable - How is it that his behavior continues to shock and disappoint us?

She laughed, but I took action. I wrote a quick e-mail detailing the situation and sent it to another friend. Bill is a professional counselor. He wrote the following reply:

Hey Kelly,

We tend to have expectancies that over-ride or influence our experiences. Really, when we observe someone's behavior for a substantial length of time their will be little change.

Sometimes it good to let your understanding wander out side of the normative "Christian experience" and call a situation exactly as we experience. Remove the human hope. Remove any and all expectancies.

Then we are not really shocked. Nor are we likely to ever engage our hope, or have anything to do with situations that never are good for us.

It's a cognitive map pertaining to the psychology of stuff like this.

Hope that shows something beyond what you already know.

Off this subject... How's life?

God's Grace... Bill

It's just as I feared: Humans are too in love with life (or at least our own version of it - right or wrong) to abandon hope - even when it's for our own good.

In response to his question, "How's life?" I can only offer the following report about my very own sister-in-law, who this time, has gone too darn far.

I have to tell you that I liken my sister-in-law to Jerry Seinfeld - without the sense of humor. She's never really meshed into my family. We have very different approaches to life - and have never really been able to freely communicate with each other.

As it turns out, she's been angry at me for over a year... And it was because of something I hadn't even realized I'd done. To make a long story short, our family attended a reunion in 2004. Certain family members asked if my band could come and entertain. They agreed - so we set up on the deck and played. My nephew (sis-in-law's son) had won an award. He tried to tell me about it while I was playing music. He got discouraged and deflated.

Honestly - if I'd KNOWN I'd hurt him, I'd have rectified the situation immediately... but I hadn't realized it.

My sister-in-law, in an effort to confront the situation, told my sister what had happened. My sister, not wanting to be put in the middle of something that wasn't any of her business, didn't mention this to me....

Last week, in responding to an RSVP for the same nephew's birthday party, I got a rather nasty message from my sister-in-law that I didn't understand. "You can come to the party on one condition: You don't bring your band. (nephew) was upset to hear you were coming because he doesn't want a band at his party."


I firmly believe, that when flummoxed, one should call a neutral source and seek counsel. I called my sister. When I told her the story, she explained the rationale behind the comment. Where I understood, I was really angry that my sis-in-law felt fine telling my sister - but somehow couldn't confront the only person who could possibly make ammends. What's with that?

At this point, I pondered the utility of my communications degree. It seems I've spent tens of thousands of dollars learning how to talk to people. I've come to realize it's not worth a DIME unless other people know what I know.

I went to the party. Neither my sister-in-law nor my brother spoke a word to me (should I have been surprised? Not according to Bill... Yet I was...) I called her later that night. She admitted she was hoping my sister would have told me about the situation. Great, right? She put me on the phone with my nephew. I apologized. I asked to be put back on the phone with his mom, who was clearly trying to get off the phone as quickly as possible. I asked, "So you've been mad at me for two years and didn't tell me?" "No, it's only been one year." (Oh. That makes me feel better...) I told her it was unlikely in the future that I would fabricate apologies on the grounds that I may have offended... so it would be better if she came to me.
She accused me of ignoring her kids. I reminded her that I had no idea I'd done anything wrong. The conversation didn't go very well - but neither of us got into a shouting match about it. I guess that's promising.

A day later, my sister called to see if I was okay. I told her what happened. Again, my expectations exceeded what I know about my sis-in-law. I shouldn't be shocked - but I am... She asked if I was still angry. Yes, I guess so, but I think the better word is stupefied... that someone would bother to expend so much energy being angry and hoping someone else would confront me. I'm stupefied that an adult would allow a rift between family members (although she gladly accepted the gifts I've purchased for her children in the interim). I'm stupefied because Bill is right. I have higher hopes for my sister-in-law than she can possibly deliver.

Blessed are the flexible - for they shall not be bent out of shape.


  • At 2:42 PM, Blogger allyssa675elmer said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 5:34 PM, Blogger kimmmmm said…

    Here is one thing that I've learned about family. You have to give them a bit more leeway when it comes to riding the train to Crazy-town because, well, they are your family, and you are obligated up to a point to love them. But there is a limit, which must be communicated to them. Granted, the limit is a bit greater, but it's there.


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