'How lovely to see you!'
Extending that insincere welcome to a distant relative or the 'not quite a friend', to whom you've said, 'Do pop in when you're next in the area', but secretly wishing and hoping that they won't. In fact, knowing that you'd really not be bothered at all if you never see them again.
You know how it is - they turn up unannounced, stay too long, make seemingly unreasonable demands and whilst we try our utmost to accommodate them and make them feel welcome, we heave a huge sigh of relief when they've gone.
Great Aunt Alopecia has been threatening to pay me a visit for a while now. She's been knocking on my door since before Christmas but I've managed to avoid her up until now by hiding up and pretending to be out.
Her last visit two years ago turned my world up-side-down. I'd always thought of myself as a tough cookie who could cope with most things hurled at me, but I wasn't quite prepared for Auntie's surprise invasion, her vicious tongue and completely uncompromising manner.
She hung around for about nine months in the end, and I'd resigned myself to the possibility of her staying for good. But then I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) when she packed her bags and left - just like that. 'Do come again - anytime,' I heard myself saying, 'You're always welcome.' (In my head 'NOT!')
After she'd left two years ago, I spent some time reflecting on her stay. Not being one to hold back, and being renowned for calling a spade a spade, she'd picked holes in my life, criticised some past life-choices I'd made and positively laughed at my paltry attempts at self-care.
Charming! I felt indignant. I didn't need some stuffy old bat coming into my life and telling me things that I already knew!
And that's the point.
She wasn't telling me. She was FORCING me to take a good look at my life, and at all things that I did indeed already know. I'd had my head in the sand and was ignoring all the warnings and red flags. I wasn't doing anything different to make changes or improvements - and Auntie wasn't going to budge until I'd addressed all of those things in question.
And so Great Aunt Alopecia took it upon herself to make me stop in my tracks and take heed. So slowly, gradually I did indeed make changes and really, really paid attention to my self-care. And guess what - it paid off! At long last Auntie took her leave - hooray! But not without that final, warning glance over her shoulder which seemed to say 'I'll be watching you.'
So yep - I hold my hands up - guilty as charged. I started to let things slip and the changes and improvements have been slipping out of the window. And so, true to her word Auntie came back, wagging that finger at me.
But I find I've changed my tune as far as my relationship with her is concerned. Despite her rather commanding presence, I've realised that she means well and actually talks a lot of sense. She encourages me to be more mindful of my boundaries, to make time for my family and friends - and above all, to make time for myself.
I actually have a lot of respect for Great Aunt Alopecia. I wouldn't say that I particularly enjoy her visits, but I have an increased tolerance towards her and so will always make time for her and listen to what she has to say. Just hope she doesn't hang around so long this time.