The Sport of Paradoxing

If the Olympics wanted to add a new sport, they would find many qualified players around the world for Paradoxing.  It’s my family’s favourite sport that has been handed down for generations.

Paradoxing: A solo sport where one player’s objective is to deal out as many paradoxes within one attempt for a specified time.  The opponent is then asked to respond identifying the paradoxes of the other while dealing out a new set of his/her own paradoxes.  Ultimately, the only objective is to derail the opponent while gaining nothing for oneself.

My aunt (youngest sister of my mother) would, no doubt, qualify for Team India.  I reached my limit with her two weeks ago when it was my birthday.  She sent me a birthday e-mail:

Aunt: happy birthday..a belated wish with tons of sunshine and love aunt and uncle

Me: Thank you for the birthday wishes; it is not belated as my birthday is today. 🙂  I hope all is well.

Aunt: hope you had a great time…

There is nothing seemingly abnormal about this interaction except this was the icing on the cake for me because our interactions over the past year and half have left me feeling awful.  This aunt met me when I was seven years old and she lives in India and about a year and half ago connected with me on Facebook.  I was weary, at first, but I didn’t want to assume that she had similar personality traits as my mother and the legacy translated to her (we have gotten out, why can’t she?).  My mother is the oldest of seven and this aunt is the youngest.

During our Facebook chats and e-mails, she has never asked one single thing about me.  I would ask her questions and I learned a lot about her – for example, she likes to trek and this is one activity we have in common, so when she shared her experiences in Nepal I shared my enthusiam for the activity.  I started to stop sharing as there was no real exchange and waited to see if she would ask anything about me and what I liked to do.

It never happened and I thought it would get better when we met face to face in a café in Amsterdam (this past March) as she was traveling to Europe for a conference on dentistry (as her husband owns a dentistry practice).  During our meeting, she again never asked and I decided to try and share and see if I could get the ball rolling.  It got worse, whenever I would begin a story she would interrupt and one up me by saying she does this but better or faster or longer.  I got sick of it.  After this meeting, I didn’t engage in chats on Facebook and when she tried I answered back with the bare minimum.

What set me off, was the fact she wished me a Happy Birthday and never asked me how it was or what I did for it?  This is a normal question and I don’t expect it but with her other behaviours and patterns I got a reminder of what really was happening.  That evening, I got really angry and went to bed angry.  I woke up with the same anger.  Two days after my birthday I decided to say something:

Dear Aunt,

What has been the purpose of our conversations?


I realised I had written this with anger and she hadn’t responded so I followed up exactly one week later with this:

Dear Aunt,

Based on the lack of response, I would like to better understand our past dialogues and our meeting in March. It was nice to get to know you and hear your stories. Yet, I am hurt and disappointed by our past interactions over the year because there has not been a true dialogue or exchange by the lack of your interest in who I am and my stories. I would like to have healthier relationships with friends and family and want to better understand what has been the purpose of you keeping in contact with me?

Kind regards, 


Her response:

..i am neat and straight..yes i wanted to maintain a are my neice..honestly i like you. i still remeber the days in chicago when you were so little..and the lovely moments we shared with you during our stay..way back in 1983…and there was no way i could connect with you earlier…lucky to have found you on FB…. and i am keeping in contact..i dont think we have had meaningless dialogues. i dont want to invade your privacy..i respect it. ur gen is so diff from us, and especially kidz brought up abroad. its not that i am not interested in who you are and your need to open up and talk..when we ask questions you may consider it inquistiveness. i was not able to reply earlier as i had a severe TMJ problem.

warm wishes aunt

My response:


The first time we met I was 7 years old and don’t remember it well. Thirty years later we have connected on Facebook as strangers where we started to build a relationship. My question is: Why do you want to build a relationship with me, what is your purpose/goal/point in doing so?

Our dialogues are not meaningless, again, I felt hurt and disappointed when there was a consistent pattern in your actions of not wanting to get to know who I am or hear my stories.

As I am now an adult, I will tell you if you are invading my privacy or if I consider you to be inquisitive. Please ask me what I am thinking, please don’t assume.

When you write “ur gen is so diff from us, and especially kidz brought up abroad.”, what differences do you mean?

When we met in March and we had face-to-face conversation, I shared some of my stories, what stories did you learn from the exchange?


Her response back:

i connected on FB to getting to know you…..i cant figure out when u say there is a consistent pattern in my actions of not wanting to get to know you or hear ur stories….i get to see u on chat ocassionally..erlier i used to play scrabble at noon..u would be on lunch break..and sharp 3pm i would leave for work. if i remember right many a time we have xchanged a line or two during ur lunch break. i am the type who can connect with anyone..infact most of my buddies ..are in the 30…35..age group.. when i say ur gen is diff….we were brought up in a close knit family.. we never built relationships..they came naturally.. and we never had a purpose or a goal in building a realationship….it was just simple trust btw one another. i dont imply that we are one BIG happy family..every one has their differences..we just take it in our stride. if someone does not want to talk..its fine.i just leave it at that..i dont carry tales.. yes when ur parents were here ..yes i did tell you. Your mother came after so many years. and i had not really been in touch with her…still we connected she needed some help.. and i did it for her. when we met we spoke about ur job situation etc,company A, etc etc…my memory is going downhill..can remember things that happened in the sixties..but not the movie i saw yesterday.. No doubt u have a right to ask those questions..its nice that you are open. what makes you think that i dont want to hear ur stories?

My response:

Dear Aunt,

I, like you, wanted to get to know you and is why I connected with you on Facebook – in the hopes of building an authentic relationship. It has been a pleasure to learn of your son’s involvement in the family business and his marriage last year. It was wonderful to hear of your trekking adventures and your enthusiasm for Scrabble and your love of dogs.

I believe that there is a purpose to having relationships because why do we have partners, marriages and friends. They serve a purpose in life – it gives meaning to life. Without this, we cannot survive. The purpose of all my relationships is to have connection. By this, I mean there is a mutual exchange of our stories from which each person feels seen, heard and valued. This type of connection is not something I can have with anyone; it is not commonplace and is something that is special when it happens.

I do not feel this way after the past year and half from our chats and our meeting this past March. You ask, ‘what makes you think that I don’t want to hear ur stories?’

In your last e-mail, the only thing that you mention about me is my job situation. I am hurt that the one and only thing you know about me is my job situation and the name of the company. This is an example of not knowing anything about me, who I am. After trying to share my stories with you in March and you interrupting me when I spoke, I felt unheard. The lack of questions during our chats is another example of this.

When I build new connections, I’m not looking for someone to know every detail of my stories, I’m hoping that someone hears them and understands its relevance in my life and for them to want that from me in return.

Kind regards, 


I think this will be my last e-mail depending on if she decides to respond and how she responds.  The number of paradoxes in her e-mails almost derailed me.  The point was she didn’t want to get to know me – from her pattern of her behaviours – she wasn’t interested in that at all – and why should I bother to come back for more.

xxoo TR

Here is an update on the e-mails with my aunt (21 nov 2013):

28 october 2013 my aunt wrote:

TR dear, even i want to know about you and your life..there are many questions i want to ask..iknow u like hiking etc… Judging a person by what she remembers and what she does not, is not right.. look first thing is i do have memory lapses..u will have to take that in ur stride..i dont remember interupting you..when we met..moreover we were meeting your DH for the first time….and there is definitely a marked diff btw the indian way of chatting..and people of other cultures..RIGHT? we just go blah blah…. and many people do not like that.Actually to tell u the truth i was bit nervous..and uncle still rags me.. It does take time to warm up to people.. and understand them.i spent time in berlin with uncle’s neices. I never really knew her..must have just met at a wedding or two..when she was here in india.i hardly remember the names of places she took us to.. or our convesations. she visited us and had a meal with us with her hubby and kidz..there was the connection. we do keep in touch on Fb..its just once in away. This has brought her mother closer to my hubby..they r 1st cousins. during one of our fb conversations u asked how ur dad looked and how he was doing..when i came to know he was unwell i informed you..because i felt u needed to know. when ever i asked your mom about you she gave very vague i never probed and always wondered y..and kept quite. only now we seem to be having some kind of a meaningful conversation.. TR our earlier conversations were just oneliners. it was out of the blue that i remebered ur birthday..i always thought it was on xxth oct..i dunno why. hoping to have more of these understand u better love aunt..i glad u call me aunt…becoz the others call me baby aunty..or worse still baby ajji..grandma.

30 october 2013 I responded:


In response to your statement ” Judging a person by what she remembers and what she does not, is not right”

I repeat for the third time: I was hurt and disappointed by your consistent patterns in the following behaviours that demonstrate you are not interested in hearing my stories or in who I am:

#1. The past one and half year we have had chats on Facebook where you did not ask questions about me consistently.

#2. During the March visit in Amsterdam, you interrupted me three times when I tried to share with you my stories.

#3. This recent e-mail exchange is an added example of you not trying to hear what I am saying.

These behaviours have nothing to do with what you can and cannot remember.

When we met in March, you and I spoke. We are talking about communication between you and me. This has nothing to do with uncle and my DH. Please leave the both of them out of this.

In response to your statement: “hoping to have more of these understand u better”. You have a choice to take the feedback I have provided and do something with it. I do not want to talk about this subject anymore. It is enough.


No response since.


16 thoughts on “The Sport of Paradoxing

  1. Interesting exchange. I loved your clear explanation in the last email. I think a lot of family members think that a relationship just happens because you are related. Your outline helped me look at my own relationships. I’m terrible at asking questions, but I’m working hard to improve. I also work hard to listen as well as tell. Something I just thought of is that I wasn’t good at listening at first because I was so desperate to be heard. So when I found someone willing to listen I wasn’t great at returning the favor. As I’ve become healthier, the desperation has eased. Not excusing your aunt. Instead, I’m taking note of your approach, your healthy expectations.


    • Hi Judy,
      I totally get what you mean, when we have childhoods where we were not heard. That need can become amplified. And I too have been working on my listening skills and identifying the obstacle is half the battle.

      My hopes in addressing her behaviours is that she becomes aware of it and she takes something away looking at our relationship. I don’t plan on dismissing someone in my life because they have these behaviours, we all have them.

      xx TR


  2. Hi TR,
    When I read this post, I thought: “Wow, TR is boldly going where no man has gone before” 😉 This is such a brave thing to do for someone who has grown up in a family where speaking up is not allowed. I really do admire you for being able to do this. I hope I’ll be able to attempt similar “feats” soon.
    Your aunt’s response is both fascinating and disappointing. She goes a long way round the houses to, in the end, not actually respond to your questions in any clear and honest manner. The clarity of your communication stands so much in contrast with her “circling” messages. I noticed she uses A LOT of ellipsis. This is something that rings a red flag with me. The first time I read about it was in one of Jessie’s early posts and since then I’ve noticed that a lot of Ns I’ve met use it abundantly.
    Great, great post. xxoo


    • Hi Kara,
      Haha, thank you. It was my first attempt at it – practice and stretching that muscle :). I can see what I would have done differently already and I keep telling myself what you told me, I’ll make a lot of mistakes along the way. My aunt and I are at the early stages and for me, that was easier to tell her before we went done a path and an endless cycle. So much harder when there is more invested.

      Indeed, her communication wasn’t clear (I had to print it out and read it several times before responding) and I feel it is filled with excuses; she hasn’t indicated that she is willing to consider the feedback about the two behaviours.

      I am interested in reading more about ellipsis, I’ll check it out over at Jessie’s. She did use a lot of them.
      xxoo TR


      • Yes, I felt that your aunt’s email was full of excuses but she doesn’t make any concerted effort to at least try to understand where you are coming from. And she doesn’t change the behaviour even after you reiterate what makes a good relationship. I was thinking that her excuse about it being a “generation” thing is very lame, because even if that was the case, your explanation of why you’d like the relationship to be different, is so clear that she couldn’t have failed to understand it. All she’d had to reply was: “Ah, I see what you mean, I’ll try my best to build a better relationship with you” or something along those lines. It’s not that hard, is it? It’s not like you were asking for an impossible thing.
        Thinking about what we’ve been commenting on my FOO too, I wonder whether what they want is a sort of superficial, “ticks the box” sort of relationship that does not imply any sort of EFFORT on their part.
        Kara xxoo
        I’d like to hear what you’d have liked to do different. And yes, let’s remind ourselves that is ok to make mistakes. We don’t have to get everything right at the first attempt. We’re aiming for Progress, not perfection 😉


  3. TR, this is a really great example of how to set healthy boundaries and confront in a caring and non-confrontational way. I found it very helpful to read. I admire you courage in confronting you aunt and in the kind, yet direct, approach you used in discussing the matter with her.
    I tend to have lots of relationships like this. As I have worked on not carrying conversations and not carrying the whole weight of relationships, it’s been stunning to me to see how few people engage in a reciprocal relationship with me.
    That being said, I, like Judy, know that sometimes I’ve pushed a limit of oversharing because I’ve been so desperate to finally be heard. I’m usually the “listener” in a relationship but when I do find someone I can trust enough, someone who is validating of and caring towards me, and I finally let my guard down, I know I can be overwhelming in my sharing. It’s like flood gates open up and I struggle to not keep sharing everything and anything. I think I’ve pushed the (few) people who’ve been willing to listen to me away because I’ve been so overwhelming in those moments. I’m working on it. But it’s hard. It’s seems either all or none, sometimes.
    I’m sorry your aunt couldn’t be more of a friend to you. I know it’s hard because we want to connect with some family, but it definitely doesn’t just “happen” because we are related. I’m not sure why people think of it like that. I know when I married DH, MIL acted like we just had some sort of “automatic” relationship and just lumped me in with her kids (which included all of her boundary crossing and controlling ways. I just joined the “ranks”.) She didn’t take any time to invest in our relationship (although she spent lots of time telling me stories about DH, his brothers, their family, she never asked about me. Still doesn’t. She also seemed to be “selling” me on her family. It was creepy.)
    Keep us posted on how it turns out.


    • Hi Jessie,
      Thank you. I reached a limit a lot earlier than expected and I hope it improves how we continue to build our relationship. I would like to be connected to family and sometimes this can’t happen as you say. Thank you for your kind words, I do very much want relationships with family members since mine with my mother is no longer existent. And even family relationships are not ‘automatic’ (love that expression). And by doing this I am hoping to change the course for myself and for her.

      I can really relate to what you and Judy said. I have messed up relationships with over share. Finding someone to listen is rare in our environments that when it happens we have a lot to say. Looking at my past friendships I can see I had friendships with healthy people and my stories were too heavy and too many to the point the friendship was done. It is hard to find an in-between between sharing and over share. I find it very difficult today too. The responsibility to fine tune that, imo, isn’t always on our shoulders either. How can one find balance without a gauge? One friend of mine gave me feedback about a certain hurtful behaviour I was doing about 9 years ago and I stopped it. We are still good friends now even after moving abroad 8 years ago. I hadn’t really thought about this conversation until going through this recovery, her addressing my behaviours may have possibly saved the relationship (as living abroad for this long of time has dwindled some of the others).

      With regard to your MiL, that is interesting that she was ‘selling’ her family to you, only talking about DH and her family. The not asking anything about you creates distance and is a paradox (excuse the pun) to thinking she has an ‘automatic’ relationship with you and your boundaries can be crossed.

      My aunt did e-mail me back yesterday and she referred more to the memory loss and her own nervousness. She then starts a tale about my mother which has no relevance. I am going to tell her that this is last of this discussion and she can choose to take the feedback and I will see from there how our conversations continue. Fingers crossed.
      xxoo TR


      • Hi, I saw Kara’s note about the ellipses above. My post is titled “Dot, dot, dot” or something to that effect and it’s in my first couple of months of posts. To sum up for you though, my mother used to write like that. It used to drive me CRAZY. In the past year or two, I think it’s come to signify, for me, our relationship. When I see someone using lots of ellipses (of course, we all use them from time to time. I’m talking excessive use) it seems they are writing in a “stream of consciousness” sort of way. Like whatever pops into their head, they just vomit out onto the keyboard. There is no thought, no real reflection, no attempts to really communicate. Just letting their thoughts materialize on the screen. And with my mother, that’s how she is with me. I’m just like a place to dump her stream of consciousness thoughts. She’s “holding the mike” (as Kara would say), maintaining control and attention on herself by using the dots (it doesn’t allow for you to really interrupt or speak back because it almost makes you feel like you are interrupting a thought. At least I did.) There is no room in these kinds of communications for anyone else and they are all one sided. And seriously, it’s so narcissistic to think that anyone wants to listen to every thought that pops into your head! Do someone a favor and “sum up” ;).
        Also, your statements of your stories being “heavy” really resonated with me. That’s always how I felt. Like I was a giant “downer”. And no one, except my blogging friends, has ever really understood how crazy it is and how it permeates your whole life. I thank goodness for all the wonderful supportive people I’ve met here that are willing to listen to my stories.
        Your point of the paradox of my MIL is so interesting. I hadn’t really thought of it that way. How she is simultaneously holding me at a distance while trying to smoother me. When I was young and naïve and desperate for a family, I was so glad to be “included” into their family. They seemed fun and vibrant and interesting. And I was almost glad she didn’t ask me much about my family. I was pretty embarrassed by my family at the time (it’s bad now, but at that time, my NSiS was exploding in negative behaviors and it was really, really bad).
        As I look back on it now, though, it almost feels like MIL was indoctrinating me somewhat. Like a cult: they hand you the family “uniform” (this is what we look like), give you the religious dogma (this is what our family believes), and a “rule book” (this is how it’s done in our family). It was so weird, as she almost believed I was a blank slate, a new “recruit”, and I was expected to ignore my own childhood and assimilate into this “new family”. She was not interested in me bringing anything new into the family, but maintaining the “status quo” of what she had created. I was just supposed to fit in….to them.
        I’m not sure if that really has anything to do with your post, but your comment above triggered the memories in me and then I got to thinking about how strange it all was ;).
        I think it’s good that you decided to quit going round and round with your aunt. At a certain point, one has to say “I’ve explained all I can” and she’ll either get it or she won’t. I can understand that being frustrating (I have a similar situation with my NSiS) but really, it’s a waste of time to continue explaining something to someone who can’t or won’t understand.


  4. Dear TR, first, I wish/hope your Aunt could see what a gift you are giving her with your directness, your honesty. You’re opening yourself up to her, in the clearest possible terms. I’m impressed with the way you make your emotional expectations about someone who presumably wants a relationship with you clear. That you’re not interested in just “pinging” like status updates. She sounds like a muddled-thinker; sloppy thinking characterizes these kinds of responses. One of my sisters does the same thing. Scatters all over and loses sight of what you’re asking. She may be incapable of comprehending what you’re trying to do; if she is, you’ll probably have to pull back from future interactions to protect yourself from feeling angry or hurt by her. I think it’s not a generational thing at all. If she’s not showing interest in you, you can feel that; no amount of “explaining” removes that feeling. WE KNOW when they are and we know when they aren’t. Again, I’m so impressed with how strong you sound and how well you know yourself as you respond to her. xo CS


    • Hi CS,
      Thank you. Her writing is very scattered, her e-mails are very had to read (weird, because she was an English literature major and taught English) and I am beginning to wonder with what you say: she may be incapable of comprehending what I’m trying to do. I do think that she may have a hard time with someone being direct as Indians are indirect in their communication. She also may never have been challenged in the way she communicates.

      I don’t think it is a generational thing either especially when she contradicts herself in the follow up: i am the type who can connect with anyone..infact most of my buddies ..are in the 30…35..age group.. She re-groups with the family differences, that is not generational differences. All the seven siblings are not close.

      In the end, she isn’t trying to understand the fact that I was hurt by her behaviours which has nothing to do with generations, families, culture. It’s a human thing. The behaviour hurt me.
      Hugs, TR


  5. All this reminds me of a godmother [of a religion I left and have nothing to do with now] contacting me, 40 years after the fact, and starting to write letters. She is my narcissistic mother’s cousin. I wrote back and wanted to be nice. To my horror, she had the same personality like my mother, extremely shallow.

    I was disabled very young, and had become an art teacher and had an art education degree, with some growing horror, I realized every letter she would brag about all of her children’s achievements. They are about 10 years older then me. They all have good jobs and travel the world and have money. One had become an art education professor and ran the department. She focused on her the most. Was this to hurt me? Well it did. She took no real interests in my beliefs, values, etc. She even mentioned once she had drove by my town on the highway to visit a place an hour north of me. She never tried to see me. All the letters read like Christmas/holiday letters where someone brags about their life. I told her I am poor and sick. She would write me about her endless international jaunts, how a retired home ec teacher in a teeny tiny town afforded all that was beyond me, but it was all about elevating herself. Your relative writes like that aunt except far more poorly. When challenged these types always make excuses. Are you No Contact? I just found your blog and need to read more of it, she may be a FISHER OF INFORMATION. Even for someone who may not have English as her first language, the writing is very poor, it is shallow and LACKS DEPTH.


    • Hi Five Hundred Pound Peep,

      You bring up very good points. I don’t know if my aunt is fishing for info for my mother, it is a possibility. What is weird is that how is she getting the info without actually asking anything about me?

      Your NM’s cousin sounds like she is ‘shaming’ you in a way that is so subtle that it seems like she is sharing. When sharing is shaming, that is a horrible type of cruelty. She seems to be doing ‘good’ which is disguised as awful. I think that is accurate she was trying to elevate herself.

      I was No Contact with my NM but reconnected a year and half ago – I was in a place where I felt that I could do this in a way that was still healthy for me. My father has an illness and that is the only reason I am in contact with them.

      My aunt was an english lit major and I think she went to a British boarding school as did my mother in India. The language isn’t a barrier in my FOO.

      Thank you for sharing this post and I will check out more on your blog!

      xxoo TR


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  7. Hi TR,
    Her last reply is interesting. She just carries on making more excuses. With people like her, I feel like we’re always going round in circles, but never really getting anywhere. Communication shouldn’t have to be that complex, and it find it amazing that after you have clearly stated the reasons why you weren’t happy about the interactions, all she can do is come up with a fresh round of excuses. It seems to me that all she’s interested in, is in to come up as “blameless”, as if she’d been accused of something, when in reality all you did was ask about the purpose of your interactions. Instead of asking THAT question, she just makes excuses about her style of communicating. It makes me wonder why she’s so reluctant to answer such a simple straight question.


    Kara xxoo


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