Selfish Sister

My husband gave me the shocking news yesterday: His sister will be back in the states for a visit in January 2015. I immediately began having flashbacks of previous visits. None were pleasant.

The problem? *Jamie cannot seem to think about anyone but herself. As soon as the plane lands, you know that the “queen” has arrived.

Our phones immediately begin to ring. She wants to know what the plans are for that evening. Plans? We do not have time for plans. We are busy with this little thing called life.

My husband works at a job that deals with route work. Essentially, his departure time depends upon what time all of the routes return. Sometimes he is home at 7:00 p.m., other times it may be 8:30 p.m. or later. It varies from day to day.

I am also blessed with a full time job. This means that I work from 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. What she fails to realize is that my “job” does not stop when I leave the office. Since Matt does not return home until late in the evening, it is my responsibility to let our fur babies outside to potty. I also carve in time to exercise so that I can maintain my health. Then, I have a house to take care of. Usually, there is no down time until it is time to go to bed.

But, trying to explain all of this to her is useless. Jamie cannot seem to comprehend just how busy our lives are because hers is so much different. Her day typically ends around 3:30 p.m. (Korea time). That is when she heads back to her apartment where she promptly parks herself on the couch and watches TV (or surfs the web) until bed time. Her responsibilities are very minimal.

Nonetheless, she practically demands that we put our lives on hold while she is here. If we turn down too many invitations, she literally tells her mother. Then we begin getting angry calls from the MIL stating that we do not care about “our sister.” This is when our weekends get taken away from us, which is really about the only time together that Matt and I have.

Did I mention that when we do finally get together we have to do only what SHE wants to do? And Jamie has a major addiction: shopping! She can easily blow through about $80 a day. When she sees that Matt and I are not following suit, we appear to be ruining her fun.

This brings me back to that little thing called life. Like everyone else, we have bills. There’s the mortgage, utilities, Internet, credit cards, etc. Not to mention the yearly check-ups for the fur babies. And do not get me started on groceries! Have you seen the price of toilet paper lately?

Jamie has a very interesting job situation. She teaches English as a second language at a Korean school. As part of the program, she is given a furnished apartment. Her rent and utilities are paid for. Plus, she uses the public bus system to get around. Translation? She has no car that can spontaneously break down and need emergency repairs. This is why Jamie appears to have money to burn.

We have tried on numerous occasions to explain that she should be saving her money. One day she will want to return home for good. When she does, where will she live? How will she support herself and her two cats? No, living with us is NOT an option.

Aside from her constant spending, I noticed another disturbing trend. Jamie only contacts me when she is “stressed.” We used to chat on Skype once every month. She would ask how we were doing, want to see the fur babies and engage us in meaningful conversation.

When I hear the consecutive “dings!” from my Facebook messenger app, I know it’s her. Her opening remarks? “OMG! I am so stressed!” At first, I would put a lot of thought into my responses and try to help her as best I could. As these types of conversations became more frequent, I noticed that she never asked how we were. I began to scale back and simply reply with one word answers. Jamie would then ask if I was okay because I was not sending her Dr. Phil like advice.

One such session really put me over the edge. Matt and I were faced with an unexpected expenditure, my Grandma was dying, one of our dogs sprained its’ leg and drama was occurring at both of our jobs. The fact that Jamie just launched into another tirade about all of the things that were bothering her really upset me.

I decided to give her a dose of her own medicine. I replied that I knew all about stress and listed all of the items above. This was met with an “I’m sorry,” and then more about…herself. What else?
Matt and Jamie were both homeschooled. While I have nothing against this practice, I do think that it has made Jamie ill-equipped to deal with life’s many ups and downs. She has led a pretty sheltered life. I told Matt that she is truly blessed to just now be experiencing stress at age 31.

For me, there was high school, boyfriends, jobs, friend fights, homework, tests, interviews, car and health issues, etc. I am certainly no stranger to the “s” word. But, in experiencing these things, I have learned how to cope and move on. Jamie, on the other hand, literally melts down at the slightest hint of discord.

There will always be a part of me that loves her. Still, I do not have the time (or the sanity) to devote to coaching her through life. I want her to find success and happiness, but, she will need to get out of her own way to do so.

In a world that is becoming ever more narcissistic, we need to be able to see beyond the mirror. Focusing on others says a lot about who we are.

*name has been changed

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