I have lived most of my life not completely trusting my family. I cannot estimate when this paranoia began, though I believe it has some link to my anxiety issues. Right now the person I trust least is my brother. I feel guilty as I think about how callous I sound, especially if he was reading this right now, but the truth is I don’t mind having almost no relationship with him. I know some people out there have brothers or sisters who they consider their best friends. I can’t see my brother as even a friend, to be honest. I’m not comfortable talking to him about many things, though I get that he cares for me. I have memories of past times when he’s tried to have a “real” talk with me about my unemployment and social anxiety, and I do not think he was right in all the opinions he shared with me. Some things in his life now I learned about indirectly from my parents and it wasn’t even stuff he and I spoke about. Such as him and his girlfriend Bree signing a lease to get an apartment together. I was mildly surprised at the news but knew it was bound to happen since he’s been searching for a place of his own even back when he was single and working. He’s already infrequently home most nights as it is, and this is really selfish on my part, but for my own comfort level, I prefer when he’s not around. He’s family, and I know despite the clashes he and my parents and/or he and I have over disagreements or choices, he means well for everyone involved, even at times when his advice is the last thing I feel like following. But that doesn’t mean we’re suited for all being under the same roof.
Personally, I don’t mind having no involvement in my brother’s life. I no longer go out of my way to avoid him, but I don’t exactly know how to initiate meaningful conversations with him if I see him. I know how quiet I am around him can, in turn, make him uncomfortable. I definitely also know I hold myself in conversation can cause other people in my presence to also be quiet, whether it’s because they find it hard to hold a conversation with me or I don’t seem very talkative or some other perception they have of me that I’m not aware of.
I’m not one of those people that feel the need to know every single thing about another person or constantly receive updates from people on a daily basis about what they did that they or what they experienced. If I only saw my brother like once a year or once every few months, I would be totally fine with that. I imagine I would be more willing to catch up with him then because I’m seeing him infrequently. Or maybe I wouldn’t and I would still be highly uncomfortable because a situation occurring less often gives me the opportunity to be avoidant by circumstance rather than by choice.
What I have trouble with is anxiety I feel over when he asks me what I did during the day or what I’ve been up to lately. Either way, whether I have been busy or not, I’m not comfortable telling him how I spend my time. Like most situations that trigger my social anxiety, my first and foremost thought is to be paranoid that the other person will judge me no matter what kind of answer I give. I often think this thought like it’s a discernible and irrefutable fact and that there’s absolutely no way that I won’t be laughed at or criticized for doing xyz in my spare time.
My mom and I had dinner with him at a Malaysian restaurant last night. This will be the first time either of us has seen him for about a week since he was vacationing in California with Bree. He was back in New York on Friday evening and then spent the weekend at Bree’s place. Dinner wasn’t bad, but I mostly listened and didn’t say anything at the parts of the conversation where my brother was answering our mom’s questions about what he did and where he went while in Cali. It’s not that I’m not curious about his experiences, but I often feel like a bystander during these type of conversations because I’m inept about the topic being discussed or I don’t feel confident about chiming in.
My brother sent a ton of photos to our WhatsApp family group chat over the course of his vacation, which I haven’t even scrolled through yet. There’s something about receiving a constant flow of messages in the family chat that gives me a small amount of panic. I resort to simply putting the chat on mute so I won’t receive notifications anytime a new one was received by my phone. I’ve seen my brother text things in the group chat where he’s directly asking me or one of our parents something, but it’s not a question for all of us to answer. I guess he’s comfortable with that but I am not, so I usually just text the person who I am talking to one-on-one. For the group chat, I hate the “read by” receipts. I have a habit of peeking at received messages if it’s on my notifications bar, but I won’t actually open the chat itself to allow the app to know I read it. More than a number of times, I’ve gotten texts I don’t want to respond to right away and would rather it look like I didn’t even read the message yet so the other person doesn’t ask why I haven’t replied. The only times I care about keeping the chat notifications on if I’m away from home and out in the city because there’s a good chance I’ll receive a time-sensitive text by one of my parents about whether I’ll be home for dinner later that’ll require me to reply to as soon as I get the text.
Sometimes I’m hesitant to know too much about my brother and the going-ons in his life because then I start feeling anxious about it even though whatever he is going through is not my issue to worry about. After our family dinner last night, we walked home together and he was telling my mom and I about the apartment he and Bree got. He thinks it’s too expensive but is willing to live with her for a year to see if they can share the same space, as a test for himself to decide if they are compatible as housemates. Now today, my mom received a text from him stating he won’t be home this evening and is going over to Bree’s because she wants to talk to him. The vagueness of his message has left my mom speculating to my dad that they are going to discuss the apartment and change plans or something. The next time I see him in-person, I probably won’t ask him about what happened. Of course, I wish the best for him and Bree, but I don’t want to be involved in any way. I do not know Bree well at all and don’t wish to. While I don’t dislike her, I do have some ill feelings regarding a past incident involving her. This is related to a past thing which I’ll save for another post on another day.