Independence Day

14100339_508486292684313_6929781733484702103_nToday is my own personal Independence Day.

It’s been four years since I sent that first letter of resignation to my FOO, and started out on a journey of trying to figure the whole mess out.

Four years since it finally got so bad that it was more painful to have a family than not have one.

Four years since I realized I did have that choice, and that there was a better chance for me to be happier if I made it.

Last night I dreamed I got an email from one of my nieces, telling me that one of my brothers was dead.  It was very realistic:  I could tell you exactly what it said, who sent it, who had died.  The dream woke me up, and I was a little startled, and a little sad.  Because if I find out at all, that’s how I’ll find out.  I know that.

And I know that’s how this will all end, because — barring an Act of God or some other form of miracle — I know this is how it will all stay.

And while it’s a shame, it’s still better for me than going back to the way things were.

I’ve made this decision, knowingly, consciously, rationally, because things were shittier for me without this decision.

That is my reality.  That is what is real for me.

My FOO will instantly say that I’m wrong — because they have no other option.  I cannot possibly be allowed to be right, even about myself and my own reality.  Is that the epitome of arrogance, or what?

But they need for me to be wrong, so they can continue to be right.

That’s why nothing is going to change.  Because what needs to be true for them is to deny me my reality.  They need to erase me and diminish me, and hurt me — or at least, allow me to be attacked and hurt, and refuse to do anything about it.

And what I need from them:  justice, fairness, and accountability, for the Susan Incident — along with equality, respect, and acceptance, for the long term, the things that are missing which allowed the Susan Incident to happen — they are still adamantly unwillingly to give me.

Given all that, it should have been an easy choice.  It wasn’t.  But my choice was really between two shitty things.  For me, there was no “good” option.  The choice to keep the peace, not make waves, not stand up for myself, just “forget” about the horrible way Susan and Joe acted towards me on the worst day of my life — that was also a shitty choice.  It was an easy choice for everyone else, so for years I tried it.

Then four years ago, my youngest brother just had to throw it all back in my face, and that’s when I finally had had enough.

I am sure no one has blamed him for picking that fight.  I am sure I get the blame for that too, right along with the fight I supposedly picked with Joe and Susan.  And they can, and will, go on believing what they need to believe in order to make it all my fault.

I’m definitely better off without that bullshit.  Easy choice, no.  Right choice, yes.

Our Little Sister

This is the title of a Chinese movie.  It’s not something I’ve ever been called by my FOO.

The movie is about three older siblings who, upon the death of their estranged father, find out that they have a much younger half-sister.

The older siblings have a shared history, lots of memories, which leave the half-sister out entirely.

She is the daughter of the woman who “ruined their family” – the woman their father left their mother for.

The older siblings are still angry and resentful towards the father — whereas the half-sister clearly loved her father.

An older woman in the film suggests that this is a good reason not to take her in, not to accept her, not to love her.

The half-sister understands the situation and internalizes this scapegoating:  “Someone is always hurt, just because I exist.”

But these sisters can see the truth:  “It had nothing to do with you!”  And they invite her to live with them, to become part of their family.

The movie could have been over in the first 15 minutes.  They could have gone to the funeral, met the half-sister, decided to be angry at her too, to blame her, and to push her away.

Instead they make the healthy, positive decision to love her, to include her, and not blame her for things she didn’t do.

And one of the older sisters says:  “Maybe father was a kind man… He left us such a lovely little sister.”

Such a different ending to the story.

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Just Joking!

Amazing the stuff that keeps coming up in this election that illuminates family things for me.  This is a series of tweets from Dallas lawyer Jason P. Steed, who was previously an English professor. He wrote his PhD dissertation on “the social function of humor” and here he is writing about Trump’s “jokes”:


1. I wrote my PhD dissertation on the social function of humor (in literature & film) and here’s the thing about “just joking.”

2. You’re never “just joking.” Nobody is ever “just joking.” Humor is a social act that performs a social function (always).

3. To say humor is social act is to say it is always in social context; we don’t joke alone. Humor is a way we relate/interact with others.

4. Which is to say, humor is a way we construct identity – who we are in relation to others. We use humor to form groups…

5. …and to find our individual place in or out of those groups. In short, joking/humor is one tool by which we assimilate or alienate.

6. IOW, we use humor to bring people into – or keep them out of – our social groups. This is what humor *does.* What it’s for.

7. Consequently, how we use humor is tied up with ethics – who do we embrace, who do we shun, and how/why?

8. And the assimilating/alienating function of humor works not only on people but also on *ideas.* This is important.

9. This is why, e.g., racist “jokes” are bad. Not just because they serve to alienate certain people, but also because…

10. …they serve to assimilate the idea of racism (the idea of alienating people based on their race). And so we come to Trump.

11. A racist joke sends a message to the in-group that racism is acceptable. (If you don’t find it acceptable, you’re in the out-group.)

12. The racist joke teller might say “just joking” – but this is a *defense* to the out-group. He doesn’t have to say this to the in-group.

13. This is why we’re never “just joking.” To the in-group, no defense of the joke is needed; the idea conveyed is accepted/acceptable.

14. So, when Trump jokes about assassination or armed revolt, he’s asking the in-group to assimilate/accept that idea. That’s what jokes do.

15. And when he says “just joking,” that’s a defense offered to the out-group who was never meant to assimilate the idea in the first place.

16. Indeed, circling back to the start, the joke *itself* is a way to define in-group and out-group, through assimilation & alienation.

17. If you’re willing to accept “just joking” as defense, you’re willing to enter in-group where idea conveyed by the joke is acceptable.

18. IOW, if “just joking” excuses racist jokes, then in-group has accepted idea of racism as part of being in-group.

19. Same goes for “jokes” about armed revolt or assassinating Hillary Clinton. They cannot be accepted as “just joking.”

20. Now, a big caveat: humor (like all language) is complicated and always a matter of interpretation. For example, we might have…

21. …racist humor that is, in fact, designed to alienate (rather than assimilate) the idea of racism. (Think satire or parody.)

22. But I think it’s pretty clear Trump was not engaging in some complex satirical form of humor. He was “just joking.” In the worst sense.

23. Bottom line: don’t accept “just joking” as excuse for what Trump said today. The in-group for that joke should be tiny. Like his hands.


The whole thing is fascinating, but around #6 is where I learned why I have never, ever been able to make my sister laugh.

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An Open Letter To Donald Trump From A Social Worker

Well, after yesterday’s post, this open letter hits home (heavily edited for length here).

I’ve hated the patriarchy for a long time, for what it did to my career.  More recently, I’ve come to hate it for what it’s done to my family.


Dear Mr. Trump:

…I’m a social worker.

when someone got angry, I got curious. “Why are they angry?” I’d think. Sure, maybe I was annoying, but where did that anger come from?

…I’m much more concerned about the kid who’s being “bad.” I’m wondering what the message is behind his taunting, her racial slurs, his homophobia, her violence, his haughtiness.

I’ve learned, and it hasn’t always been easy, to look for the message behind the behavior, no matter how horrendous that behavior is to others (or to me).

See, I told you social work is a weird profession.

So when I hear you mock Marco Rubio (“little Marco”), or when I hear you talk about women as if they’re reduced to their biological cycle, or when I hear you be dismissive of other people (“You’re fired!”) I admit, I’m curious.

I want to know why you feel the need to say things in such an inflammatory, divisive, dismissive way.

What is behind this need to do that to others?

And let me say, this isn’t just you that I’m curious about, Mr. Trump.
I know a lot of your supporters. I’m related to several of them.

I’m really, really curious as to what happened to you and to them.

I want to know why you feel the need to say things in such an inflammatory, divisive, dismissive way.

Especially dismissive. Why don’t you have a conversation where you respect the other person talking?

What are you covering up?

…I really don’t understand why, with all your money, with all your power, with all your status you, you, you of all people need to humiliate others. To, for lack of a better word, “bully” them.

I know that if I’m in a conversation or an argument with someone, and I’m feeling the desire to say something cutting or shaming, it’s because I’ve usually run out of logical argument strands.

…But I know that when I do it always means I “lost.”

…You can be you without having to prove to everyone how you-ish you are.


… except when your mother, your culture, your religion, and everything else around you is telling you that you can’t.

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A Moment of Clarity About Trump Supporters

“The fool tries to adjust the truth so he does not have to adjust to it…the fool adjusts the truth so he has to do nothing different. He is never wrong; someone else is.” — Dr. Henry Cloud, “Necessary Endings”

I’ve realized this is the core trait of those who support Donald Trump.

These are people who do not cope well with things not being as they want them. At the same time, when faced with a problem, they don’t want to change anything about their own behavior.

Wise people, according to Cloud, listen to feedback, take it in, adjust their behavior accordingly. But foolish people DON’T WANT TO CHANGE. They want reality to adjust to them, not the other way around.

To summarize, again from Cloud’s book: When a conflict or problem comes up, foolish people refuse to take responsibility or change their behavior or thinking.

They get defensive, they shift blame, they minimize, rationalize, give excuses, manipulate, attack.

They look for and ally with people who agree with them to “prove” they are right, and divide the world into the “good guys” who agree with them and the “bad guys” who don’t.

They hate Obama so much, with his message of “Hope and Change”. And they love how Palin mocked it with her “hopey-changey thing”.

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I recognize this behavior, because I come from a whole family of people like this.

There is a brother who thinks that if he yells loud enough and long enough, so that you give up and walk away, he’s WON THE ARGUMENT.

There is a SIL who will ask you a question, and when she doesn’t get the answer that she wants to hear, she adjusts reality to match what she thinks.  She either ignores what you said, or she keeps asking the question in different ways until you are so sick of her you will say anything just to shut her up, so you tell her what she obviously wants to hear.  And she goes away happy, genuinely believing that she’s given you a choice, and that, happily, you made the right one.  Eventually.

Of course we have the elephant in the room, the conflict over The Susan Incident.  And of course, these people are coping with it the only way they know how:  Joe and Susan just know they are right, and I am therefore wrong.  I’m the one who needs to change, not them.  Never them.

There is another brother who thinks if he ignores the fact that I say there’s a problem, there won’t be a problem.  And a sister who “refuses to get involved.”  And they band together in their personal little echo chamber, validating each other, never taking in any outside opinions or evidence.

None of these people accept that there is such a thing as compromise, or agreeing to disagree. You either agree with them, or you are wrong. And they will never back down, no matter how much proof you show them, because admitting guilt or responsibility is MUCH WORSE than looking stupid.

Sound familiar?

It’s exactly why Trump appeals to a certain demographic so much.

He’s never wrong.

He never backs down when he’s shown to be wrong. Instead, he doubles down.

He yells louder, he mocks and demeans, he shifts blame, gets defensive, minimizes, rationalizes… you get the picture.

AND HE LOOKS NORMAL TO THEM.

Finally, there is someone on the public stage who acts the way they act, and who shows that acting this way can be successful — when for most of their lives, the way they act has been hugely counterproductive (although it is never their own fault that this is so). They’ve never seen anyone who openly thinks and acts so much like them in such a successful position before.

They go to the rallies because of all the other people there who agree with them, which “proves” they are right. No, really. They seriously believe that this means they are RIGHT.

And it’s exciting! People around them agree with them! The guy up on stage is saying what they think! They shouldn’t have to change! THE WORLD ought to change for THEM!

FINALLY! A CANDIDATE WHO “GETS IT”!!

Political correctness is terrible, because in effect it tells them they are wrong. My brother ought to be able to use the “N” word right out in public if he wants to! He shouldn’t have to change! Telling him he can’t – well, that’s saying that he’s WRONG.

No, Trump says. You’re RIGHT. It’s the WORLD that’s wrong, it’s the fault of someone else that things are so bad, that you’ve been made to feel in the wrong for so long. And Trump explains that this is all the fault of those other guys, those weak, liberal losers who are so pathetic.

That all makes perfect sense to them.

And it’s hugely validating. Finally, someone really big, a huge success, is telling them that they don’t have to change; and that they can win too, if they go along with him.

Who — after a lifetime of the kind of life that results from these poor coping skills — could pass up that carrot?

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So what can a normal, healthy person do when faced with this?

[Well, in my personal case, I got the fuck away from these people.  I set the limits and the consequences — and I did it badly, because I didn’t quite know that’s what I was doing.  But it’s worked.  I lost a “family”, sure, but what I lost wasn’t much of a family to begin with.]

On the political level, we can’t stop Trump. Trump is what Cloud’s book refers to as an “evil person”. That person only responds to “lawyers, guns, and money.” They do what they do because they can. Until and unless Trump personally does something that legally prevents him from taking office, or something that would turn his legions of foolish followers against him — he will not be stopped.

So the question becomes, how do we eliminate the possibility that he will win?

According to Cloud, the only thing that will work on foolish people is “limits and consequences”.

“The strategy… is simple: Quit talking about the problem and…communicate that you are going to take steps to protect what is important to you, the mission, or other people.”

1) QUIT TALKING ABOUT TRUMP. Refuse to give him any credence at all. Media, I’m talking to YOU. The more these people see him, in all his golden grandeur, and the more they hear about him, the more they become convinced that he is right — which means they are right — and that many other people think and feel the same way, which again convinces them that they are right to vote for him.

2) LIMITS AND CONSEQUENCES. I don’t see that there is any way we can set limits on their behavior. We cannot forbid them to vote; we cannot show them any potential consequence of a Trump presidency that is bad enough to get them to change their minds about him, because that basically starts off by telling them that they are wrong. Any attempt to show them the error of their ways causes them to “double down”, just like their hero.

You can try taking away your attention. You can refuse to listen to their derisive slurs and bigoted arguments, and make it clear that’s why you are removing yourself from the conversation – but don’t say it’s because they are wrong. Calmly say instead that you don’t share those values, that instead you believe ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL, like the Constitution says. And just stop there.

Or you can try pointing out how a specific Trump policy will adversely affect them personally, if you can. Cloud points out “the only time they get it is when it begins to cost them.” You will probably have to speak in their bigoted language, though. “What are you going to do when Trump deports all the Mexicans and you can’t get your lawn mowed any more?”

3) Above all, you can VOTE FOR CLINTON, and tell others you are voting for Clinton. A third party vote is exactly what Trump is hoping a lot of people will do.

This is not the year to make a point.

This is the year to save our nation, ourselves and each other.

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No Contact Really Works

Wow.  It’s been about 4 months since my birthday in April, when I finally finished the act of going NC with my FOO.

A lot of positive things have happened in just these 4 months.  In June, there was the discovery of what a moral injury is.  In July, what traumatic bonding is.  Huge leaps in understanding what happened to me, and huge validation for what I’ve done and continue to do to heal.

I would not have believed it if you told me it would happen, but I haven’t cried one damned time about any of this since April.  Not just that I haven’t cried — I haven’t WANTED to cry.

Last week we went to a show that reminded me forcefully of two of my brothers.  I remembered the old connections, but I also had a new connection — a friend I made at the previous show — and I wasn’t upset or sad or nostalgic at all.  OK, maybe slightly nostalgic.  (And annoyed as shit that the tour t-shirt actually has my home town listed.  I’ve blacked it out with a Sharpie though.)

In fact, I’ve made several new connections lately.  Last weekend, we were doing the “stair hike” downtown and we met a lovely woman — roughly my sister’s age, and probably also income bracket — after we stopped to admire her landscaping.  We talked with her for almost an hour, exchanged emails, and she thinks I’m “adorable”.

Then on the way back to the car, we stopped for a couple of beers and met another pair of people and we talked with THEM for another hour.

This woman was younger, mixed-race maybe, and she used exactly the same word about me.  “Adorable”.  What an afternoon.  Maybe it’s not me that’s the problem, huh?  Maybe it’s other people and their baggage and their histories.

Maybe things are going to be pretty damned good from here on out.

I still think about the FOO, and what they’ve done — but not as often, and with much less anger, much more philosophically.  Oh well.  That happened.  I’ve got other, better things to do.

Like the fact that I seem to be writing a book now!

And the huge half-the-house remodeling project is going to get started — after well over a year of architects, drawings, planning — the first contractor is scheduled.  This time next year I will have my new studio, built for me by my Dad.  Or at least, by his money.  A fitting legacy.

Because I’m just about ready to let go of his car, too.  It has served me well for 16 years but it’s getting to be time for something new.  Also very fitting.

Another new connection from just this past weekend — a man who is an executive coach — remarked on my knitting as a metaphor.  We talked about the idea that a life is made up of individual days, moments, events and decisions, like a sweater is made up of individual stitches.  And I half-joked, “And sometimes you just have to rip it all out and start over.”

And then I realized that the metaphor goes even further:

You CAN rip it all out and start over.  It’s painful to do it, and you have to go back to before the part where the mistake is, even if the mistake was in the very beginning and is fundamental to the piece.  But you CAN do it.

And, when you do that, it doesn’t ruin the yarn.  You can still re-use the yarn, and re-knit it into something better.

That’s interesting because it is exactly what I’m doing with two of the first test sweaters for this book.  I had two old sweaters that I wasn’t happy with any more.  I tore them out, and am re-knitting with the yarn, using my new method.  And they are working out great.

One of the old sweaters was one I didn’t get rid of because it had a connection to my Dad.  I had been knitting that sweater on a visit home, and he talked about how much he liked to sit and watch me knit.  It reminded him of his own mother and her crocheting.  The sweater itself was oversized and dated, but I can re-use the yarn, and keep that connection, while at the same time making the old, dated piece into something new and useful.  Something that fits, in fact.

In writing the “Acknowledgements” section of the book, I ended up working my way backwards chronologically, starting from all the students I have had who told me, “You should write a book!”

And I realized that the first three acknowledgements, in order, have to be:  my sister, my mother, and my mother-in-law.

Kind of a pisser.

But also the truth.  So it’s standing.

And it’s OK.  I’ve ripped out the old mistakes, and I’m turning the old yarn into new shapes — knitting new and beautiful things that fit me.

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“Don’t Bug People”

“Don’t Bug People”

This came into my head today after a kind of weird day with a new-ish friend, in which I ended up feeling all wrong-footed and even though we apologized and talked it out, I still feel uncomfortable.

We text each other more-or-less daily, although if there is a pattern to who “starts” I don’t know what it is.  So today I was kind of on the bubble as to whether I should text her.

This came into my head:  “Don’t bug people.”  The underlying idea was that if I texted her, or maybe texted her the wrong thing, she might get annoyed.

I tossed this around for a while and then settled on texting her about something “safe”:  her mom had some medical testing done the day before, so I sent the message that I hoped everything was OK.  That seems to have been acceptable, because I got a text back saying thanks for the concern.

I’m not convinced everything is OK yet, but in my gut I’m not intending to push my luck and text her anything else, probably until I hear more from her.

I am pretty sure this self-effacing concept of self is rooted in a mother who was basically uninterested in being a mom, at least by the time she got to me.

Mom didn’t have time for me.  I was not important to her.

There is a theory that Mom had me in order to “fix” the marriage, which is offered as kind of an excuse or explanation — although for what exactly was not made clear, but I suspect it is for the obvious disinterest in me from Mom.

In reality of course it is a fucking stupid idea, not to say manipulative — having more kids so the man will be forced to stay and provide.  What a great plan.

I was supposed to buy her time, not take it up.  And of course if I didn’t “do my job” — if in fact the idea backfired, and saving me from her became Dad’s reason for The Divorce — well, of course someone who comes up with that as a plan will have no problem holding that failure against me when the stupid idea doesn’t work.

When I got glasses in kindergarten, she would wash them every morning and dry the lenses, but then hand them to me with the earpieces still wet.  I hated that.  It is probably part of the reason I still hate wearing glasses.  I remember I asked her to dry them off too, and she wouldn’t bother.  I had to put up with wet earpieces until I became old enough to dry them off myself.

That’s not normal maternal love.  That’s a person who doesn’t want to take care of you and make you happy.  Who can’t even take an extra five seconds to at least not make you unhappy.

Actually, at 5 I was probably physically capable of drying them myself.  What I eventually learned was more subtle and more important:  I figured out that I could dry them off for myself.  I didn’t have to put up with what she handed me — I could do something about it.  I didn’t internalize completely the message she was sending, that I was entirely not worth caring about.  I could care about myself.

Lesson learned.  Take care of yourself, that’s the only person you can depend on.  But you also don’t have to put up with someone else’s shitty, uncaring treatment.  It’s a poor substitute for a mother’s love, but it’s something.

I have zero memories of us doing anything fun together in my childhood.  There were very few hugs, hardly any physical affection from mother to daughter.  In fact, she used to make me brush her hair, because she enjoyed it — but I can’t remember a single time when she brushed mine for my pleasure.


So.  Put that together with another thing my mother used to tell me regularly, which is this:

“You have a lot of advantages:  you’re smart, you’re thin, you’re pretty, your family is well-off, and because of that, people aren’t going to like you and you’re going to have to be twice as nice to them to make up for it.”

Well.  Apparently just existing as I am is enough to bug some people by making them jealous (obviously my mom is one of them).

So I guess I just shouldn’t be me?  Shouldn’t be as good as I can be?

This is not an uncommon outcome for those who are victims of narcissism.

Another underlying message here is that having people like you is IMPORTANT.  Everyone.  As many as possible.  Quantity counts, not quality.

And it becomes your job to placate them, to take on the responsibility for their feelings about you.  Um.  Scapegoating, in a word.  If you “make” someone else feel bad about themselves — jealous or guilty or ashamed or angry — they dump that onto you, and then of course they have to keep you at a distance.  Awesome.

“Don’t bug people” becomes “Don’t bug ME”.  “Don’t bug US”, specifically.  Don’t be so needy.  Don’t be needy AT ALL.

Don’t ask for anything, because that would be bugging us because we won’t want to do it because we don’t care about you, we don’t love you.

But we will feel guilty and shameful about that, because family is supposed to be a certain way and we aren’t, so just don’t ask — don’t you dare make us feel guilty, it will be your fault for asking and making us either say yes and be angry, or say no and feel guilty or ashamed, so just don’t even ask.  We will blame you for our bad feelings if you ask.

Sometimes you don’t even have to ask for anything.  It happened with the very fact of my existence.  My mother was so embarrassed at how old she was when she had me, that for years she would not put her birth date on my school registration card.  For years I did not know how old she was, in case I told someone.  Every year they would ask me about it, and every year I would have to tell them I didn’t know.

This is how scapegoating works.

She was embarrassed about the results of HER OWN ACTIONS.  I certainly had fuck all to do with how or why she ended up having a child at 48, or how she felt about it.  That was a result of her own choices, her own actions, for good or ill.

And the feelings of shame originated with her — they didn’t come from me.  But she associated them with me.  And instead of dealing with those feelings of shame by herself, working through them on her own, considering her own actions and her own responsibility and, just possibly, learning from it — she simply decided that *I* was the cause of those bad feelings.

After all, if I didn’t exist, she wouldn’t have those bad feelings, right?  Must be my fault.

You certainly don’t have to follow the train of thought any further than that — it’s a comfortable place to stop.  Much more comfortable than continuing on to the part where my existence — and therefore those bad feelings — is still her responsibility.

After reaching that easy first conclusion, all you have to do is keep the scapegoat away, or somehow contained, distant, separated — pretend they don’t exist — so you don’t have to deal with those bad feelings.  Problem solved.  Relationship fucked, but hey.  As long as the narcissist is OK, that’s a win.

I suspect something much like this is what my MIL and my sister did to me, too.

My MIL had an alcoholic mother, and I don’t know much more than that.  So while I can understand why she had her own bullshit to deal with, I am angry with her for not having dealt with it herself.

Then again, she was of a generation that just buttoned that shit up and put it away.  And she was young when it happened.  But she still prevented or affected 3 relationships by her refusal to face up to her own shit.

And my sister, too, was only 17, so I don’t hold the initial choice against her.  After all, she had a bad example right in front of her, teaching her to blame the baby, to put those bad feelings there.  She made the best decisions she could make at that age, with all that was going on, and the example that she had to follow.

As with my MIL, I do hold it against her that she refuses to revisit those decisions as an adult, refuses to talk or listen to me, or let anyone else talk or listen to me.  Way to be a grown-up, Sis.  Way to ruin a bunch of relationships.  But I guess if you’re OK, that’s all that matters.  Stay selfish and true to Mom, because that’s the important shit.  And it’s easy.


Mom went away when I was just a baby, twice, once around 8 months and then again around 12 months.  She came back physically, but whether she never cared about me, or whether what happened in hospital changed her, she never really came back.

Then my other caretakers, my older siblings, went away to college — but I didn’t understand that.  The first was the one I depended on most, my sister, who went away when I was about 18 months old.  Then my two older brothers.

Dad went away when he died, when I was barely 30.  My best caretaker was gone forever.

I was immediately attacked for asking for something, from people who were supposed to be my family and my support, at the worst moment of my life.  And when I needed protection from that attack, everyone I had known my whole life abandoned me.

Eventually the whole bullshit edifice that is “our family history” began to unravel, because someone had finally gone too far.

Treat me like a second-class citizen up to that point, I guess that was fine.  At least, it was expected and accepted.  Because I was young, I guess, I accepted it.

But Susan tried to fuck with me and Dad, and put herself ahead of me when it came to my dad — and that was going too fucking far.

In a way, that was the last gift that Dad had to give me:  the ability to stand up for myself on this one thing at least, and start down the long, sorry road of recovering from a lifetime of being the one at fault.

I started asking questions and pulling on the loose ends.  And the more truth I found, the more sense my alternate viewpoint made.  And that is very threatening to certain people — the sister who is so angry she won’t even read what I write, and won’t let anyone else talk to me any more.  Or the brother who does read it, and then insists that what I write isn’t true.

Because when the scapegoat starts asking why everything is her fault, why she doesn’t get fair and equal treatment in her own “family” — that’s a problem.  It’s a HUGE problem for the people who hate the idea of having to treat her decently — especially when that comes at the expense of dealing with Susan, who will throw a holy fucking fit about being held accountable for her actions.

And of course, they rationalize that it’s the SCAPEGOAT who is “the problem”. Not them and the mountain of bullshit they hide behind.


Over and over I read that “no contact” is the only thing for me to do, to save myself and heal.  It’s what Dad did, too, for himself and for me, to the best of his ability.

I am sure they say, and believe, that I have rejected them.  That is how they would be forced to frame it, to make it fit into their fucked-up infrastructure.  To say otherwise is like pushing over the first domino.  To say that I might be right about anything is to admit that they might be wrong about something — and that opens the door to that whole mountain of bullshit falling on you like a ton of bricks.

Instead of accepting the testimony of experts, professionals, and myself — instead of being glad that I am doing what’s best for me — instead of offering loving acceptance if I should ever choose to return.  Which of course, would be the loving, decent thing to do for me.  And of which they are not capable, when it comes to me.

Fortunately, it is working.  It doesn’t hurt much any more.  Time and distance really do work.

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Traumatic Bonding

One question my husband has that I could never really answer is,

So why do these people matter so much to you?  You have nothing in common, you rarely see them, you never talk to them — why do they matter?

The answer, I think, is traumatic bonding.

For me, a milder form than what you’ll find if you google the term.  It usually refers to the reason why abused or battered women stay with their abuser.  But its definition is “Trauma bonding is loyalty to a person [for me, persons] who is destructive.”

I think it probably has its roots in the fact that my primary caregiver, my mother, completely disappeared twice during the first year of my life, for a month each time.

Each time I was abandoned by the one person that I was supposedly bonding to, the person who was supposed to care for me and keep me safe (although I have no idea, and no way to find out, how much of that she was actually doing — given that she was hospitalized for some unknown combination of mental illness, severe depression, and probably a psychotic break to start it all off).

Each time, that care was then provided by other people in my family:  namely, my father and three oldest siblings.

So on some level, I learned very early and very deep down that siblings (and my father) were very important.  They were who you had to rely on to take care of you when you were abandoned.

On some level also, I believe I learned in my early years that you had better not ask them, or my mother, for too much:  you better not bug them or they might get mad and stop taking care of you.

But, they were my family, and they were important to my survival.  And because they more-or-less took care of me, I thought they loved me and would always do so.

And when my father died — the ultimate abandonment — my siblings acted otherwise, that very deep belief was hugely betrayed, and became a moral injury.

Some other features of a traumatic bond:

You seem unable to detach from someone even though you can’t trust them or really don’t even like them.

There is a constant pattern of nonperformance, yet you continue to believe promises to the contrary…  Victims stay because they are holding on to that elusive “promise”…or hope for fulfillment of some deeply personal need within the victim…

You keep trying to do more and more to please [them], but nothing you do is ever good enough or acknowledged.

I believed in my younger days that if I wrote more letters, made regular phone calls, tried harder, got older — one day I’d finally do or be whatever it was I had to do to be “in the club”.

The promise here wasn’t a spoken one, but I saw the bonds that my older siblings had, and I was a sibling too, right?  So I’m supposed to be part of the family, right?  That’s automatic when you are born, right?

I still remember one trip my oldest brother made out here, when he and his wife brought her elderly parents out to see an uncle, I think it was, for what was obviously going to be a final visit.  The plane was horribly delayed, they didn’t get into town until very late, everyone was tired and hungry.  I think they were supposed to drive to the uncle’s house that night, but it was far too late for that.  So they came to our house.  My husband and I fed them a spaghetti dinner, put them all up for the night, and took care of them.  It wasn’t that much to do, but they were, naturally, very grateful.  I was so pleased to be able to do something for them, and be appreciated in return.  And it was perhaps the only time I can remember feeling like an adult, an equal, around one of my siblings.

The environment necessary to create a trauma bond involves intensity, complexity, inconsistency, and a promise.  Usually trauma bonds occur in relationships involving inconsistent reinforcement… Dysfunctional marriages also cause trauma bonds because there is always a time when things seem to be “normal.”

There were always times when we seemed to be a fairly normal, even happy, family.  There were good times.  There was fun and laughter.  My sister remembered birthdays and sent presents and so on.  There was enough of a “keeping up appearances” to fool me.  Then again, there was the lack of warmth, my inability to make her laugh, the casual remark by one of her daughters that made it clear she did not like me.

So often, those in a traumatic relationship are “looking right at it, but can’t see it.”  Only after time away from the unhealthy attachment can a person begin to see the destruction it caused.  In essence, people need to “detox” from trauma bonds by breaking them and staying away from the relationship.

An interesting list:  again, written about women in abusive spousal relationships but I can see some connections.

1. You think being treated badly is normal.

2. You have repetitive fights about the same thing, over and over, and no one ever wins, there’s never any insight.

5. You’re in love with the fantasy, not the reality.

6. “Auuuughhh!!!” You often feel like Charlie Brown, who repeatedly kicks the football that Lucy holds, only to have her pull it out at the last minute. The idea that THIS TIME he won’t pull the football continues to have power despite his always pulling the football and you always landing on your back.

I kept going to the reunions for a few years, thinking that things would get better.  They did not.

7. Conversion. You keep trying to “convert” your spouse into someone who treats you right, “convince” him to behave differently, or “prove” yourself to him. You think if only you can “prove” yourself, everything will be different. You try to get him to “understand” that what he does/says is hurtful to you. If only he would “understand”!

Probably what this blog is about.  Also, You continue to ruminate over the hurtful things your partner did, even though they might be out of the picture now.”

8. You don’t like him. You “love” your spouse, but you don’t like, respect, or even want to be around him.

They are all conservative; religious; some are bigoted and racist and mysogynist.  As my husband pointed out, they aren’t people I’d choose to socialize with.

10. Obsession. If you do manage to break away from your spouse, you obsess and long to the point of nostalgia about the horrible relationship you got away from and that almost destroyed you.

It’s not this dramatic, but I do get nostalgic and lonely at holidays and birthdays and so on.  Another source says “obsess means to be preoccupied, fantasize about, and wonder about even though you do not want to“.  That is a lot closer to my experience.

That same source lists these symptoms, among others:

  • When you want to be understood by those who clearly do not care.
  • When you choose to stay in conflict with others when it would cost you
    nothing to walk away.
  • When you persist in trying to convince people there is a problem and they
    won’t listen.
  • When you continue contact with an abuser who acknowledges no
    responsibility.

Of course, the first item in the list of strategies is “no contact”.

Strangely, growing up in an emotionally unsafe home makes later emotionally unsafe situations have more holding power… traumatized people often respond positively to a dangerous person or situation because it feels natural to them.

I don’t know that it is so strange though.  What is familiar always feels comfortable, on some level.  Why is Susan such a natural fit for that family?  Because she is as unhealthy as our mother was.  I’m not the only person in this group who has a trauma bond.

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More on Toxic People and Maladaptive Behaviors

Notes from here:  20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths And Psychopaths Use To Silence You

Toxic people… engage in maladaptive behaviors in relationships that ultimately exploit, demean and hurt their intimate partners, family members and friends.

1. Gaslighting

a manipulative tactic that can be described in different variations of three words: “That didn’t happen,” “You imagined it,” and “Are you crazy?

2. Projection

One sure sign of toxicity is when a person is chronically unwilling to see his or her own shortcomings and uses everything in their power to avoid being held accountable for them. This is known as projection. Projection is a defense mechanism used to displace responsibility of one’s negative behavior and traits by attributing them to someone else. It ultimately acts as a digression that avoids ownership and accountability.

Instead of admitting that self-improvement may be in order, they would prefer that their victims take responsibility for their behavior and feel ashamed of themselves. This is a way for a narcissist to project any toxic shame they have about themselves onto another.

Narcissistic abusers love to play the “blameshifting game.” Objectives of the game: they win, you lose, and you or the world at large is blamed for everything that’s wrong with them.

Narcissists on the extreme end of the spectrum usually have no interest in self-insight or change. It’s important to cut ties and end interactions with toxic people as soon as possible so you can get centered in your own reality and validate your own identity.

3. Nonsensical conversations from hell

Malignant narcissists and sociopaths use word salad, circular conversations, ad hominem arguments, projection and gaslighting to disorient you and get you off track should you ever disagree with them or challenge them in any way… In their eyes, you are the problem if you happen to exist…now your entire childhood, family, friends, career and lifestyle choices have come under attack. That is because your disagreement picked at their false belief that they are omnipotent and omniscient, resulting in a narcissistic injury.

4. Blanket statements and generalizations

…they generalize anything and everything you say, making blanket statements that don’t acknowledge the nuances in your argument or take into account the multiple perspectives you’ve paid homage to. Better yet, why not put a label on you that dismisses your perspective altogether?

invalidate experiences that don’t fit in the unsupported assumptions [and familial beliefs]they are also used to maintain the status quo.

“You’re always too sensitive” rather than addressing the real issues at hand. It’s possible that you are oversensitive at times, but it is also possible that the abuser is also insensitive and cruel the majority of the time.

5. Deliberately misrepresenting your thoughts and feelings to the point of absurdity

your differing opinions, legitimate emotions and lived experiences get translated into character flaws and evidence of your irrationality… Narcissists weave tall tales to reframe what you’re actually saying [or what you actually did] as a way to make your opinions [or you] look absurd or heinous…This enables them to invalidate your right to have thoughts and emotions about their inappropriate behavior

This is also a popular form of diversion and cognitive distortion that is known as “mind reading.” Toxic people… chronically jump to conclusions based on their own triggers rather than stepping back to evaluate the situation mindfully. They act accordingly based on their own delusions and fallacies and make no apologies for the harm they cause as a result. Notorious for putting words in your mouth, they depict you as having an intention or outlandish viewpoint you didn’t possess…they have succeeded in convincing you that you should be “shamed” for giving them any sort of realistic feedback.

6. Nitpicking and moving the goal posts

The difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism is the presence of a personal attack and impossible standards… they just want to nitpick, pull you down and scapegoat you in any way they can. Abusive narcissists and sociopaths employ a logical fallacy known as “moving the goalposts” in order to ensure that they have every reason to be perpetually dissatisfied with you. This is when, even after you’ve provided all the evidence in the world to validate your argument or taken an action to meet their request, they set up another expectation of you or demand more proof [or just declare that you’re still wrong].

…able to instill in you a pervasive sense of unworthiness and of never feeling quite “enough.”they aren’t acknowledging the work you’ve done to validate your point or satisfy them, their motive isn’t to better understand. It’s to further provoke you into feeling as if you have to constantly prove yourself.

7. Changing the subject to evade accountability

It is a literal digression from the actual topic that works to redirect attention to a different issue altogether [which is always The Divorce]… they will reroute discussions to benefit them… This type of diversion has no limits in terms of time or subject content, and often begins with a sentence like “What about the time when…”

On a macro level, these diversions work to derail discussions that challenge the status quo [the beliefs that Dad was a bastard and Mom was a saint].

8. Covert and overt threats

instill fear in you about the consequences of disagreeing or complying with their demands… If someone’s reaction to you… having a differing opinion from your own is to threaten you into submission… this is a red flag of someone who has a high degree of entitlement and has no plans of compromising.  We can never have the reunion anywhere else but on my sister’s turf.  Deciding not to come is met with hysteria.  No one can call Susan or Joe on the carpet because there is some unstated threat there.

9. Name-calling

Narcissists preemptively blow anything they perceive as a threat to their superiority out of proportion. In their world, only they can ever be right and anyone who dares to say otherwise creates a narcissistic injury that results in narcissistic rage.

A well-researched perspective or informed opinion suddenly becomes “silly” or “idiotic” in the hands of a malignant narcissist or sociopath who feels threatened by it and cannot make a respectful, convincing rebuttal. Rather than target your argument, they target you as a person and seek to undermine your credibility and intelligence in any way they possibly can… realize that they are resorting to name-calling because they are deficient in higher level methods.

10. Destructive conditioning

Toxic people condition you to associate your strengths, talents, and happy memories with abuse, frustration and disrespect. They do this by sneaking in covert and overt put-downs about the qualities and traits they once idealized as well as… sabotaging your goals, ruining celebrations, vacations and holidays. They may even isolate you from your… family…
[Mom telling me repeatedly that people weren’t going to like me because of all my positive qualities.  Susan sabotaging the meal-planning.  Everyone else being free to talk about how awful Dad was at any family get-together.]

11. Smear campaigns and stalking

…they start to control how others see you; they play the martyr while you’re labeled the toxic one. A smear campaign is a preemptive strike… so that you won’t have a support network to fall back on

A victim… often doesn’t know what’s being said about them during the relationship, but they eventually find out the falsehoods…

Toxic people will gossip behind your back (and in front of your face), slander you to your loved ones or their loved ones, create stories that depict you as the aggressor while they play the victim, and claim that you engaged in the same behaviors that they are afraid you will accuse them of engaging in.

12. Love-bombing and devaluation

…the saccharine sweetness a narcissist subjects you to…

13. Preemptive defense

…a high level of sympathy and empathy at the beginning of your relationship to dupe you… Genuinely nice people rarely have to persistently show off their positive qualities

14. Triangulation

Bringing in the opinion, perspective or suggested threat of another person into the dynamic of an interaction is known as “triangulation.” Often used to validate the toxic person’s abuse while invalidating the victim’s reactions to abuse… They also use the opinions of others to validate their point of view… Everyone is essentially being played by this one person.  Susan using Joe to support her view of things.  Mom using my sister for the same purpose.

15. Bait and feign innocence

Baiting you into a mindless, chaotic argument [like the one over turning off the oven] … it becomes clear that the person has a malicious motive of tearing you down [more like making sure I was the one seen as being at fault].

16. Boundary testing and hoovering

…The more violations they’re able to commit without consequences, the more they’ll push the envelope[my brother refusing to respect my wish for no contact]

17. Aggressive jabs disguised as jokes

Covert narcissists enjoy making malicious remarks at your expense. These are usually dressed up as “just jokes” so that they can get away with saying appalling things… a way to divert from their cruelty and onto your perceived sensitivity.

18. Condescending sarcasm and patronizing tone

So long as you’re treated like a child and constantly challenged for expressing yourself, you’ll start to develop a sense of hypervigilance about voicing your thoughts and opinions without reprimand… you begin to silence yourself.  [This is less about sarcasm and more about simply not being able to express an opinion that goes against the grain, such as not agreeing that Mom was wonderful and Dad was shit, or being atheist or progressive.]

19. Shaming

…It can also be used to destroy and whittle away at a victim’s self-esteem: if a victim dares to be proud of something, shaming the victim for that specific trait, quality or accomplishment can serve to diminish their sense of self and stifle any pride they may have.  [Back to mom telling me people weren’t going to like me]

20. Control

manufacture situations or conflict out of thin air… engage in disagreements about irrelevant things and rage over perceived slights.

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Invisible

I found out yesterday that a high school friend of mine suffered a serious stroke in late April.

Of course I hope she fully recovers, which it appears she is well on the way to doing.  I feel sad for her, and glad that she obviously got prompt medical attention and her life was saved.  Those are normal feelings that healthy people with empathy have for other people in misfortune, and of course I have those feelings for her.

That isn’t what this post is about.  It is about the other feelings that have come up for me with reading about this news.

[I shouldn’t have to explain that.  Nor should I have to spell out that the fact that I do have other feelings about this just goes to show that my life, and the relationships in it, or lack thereof, hasn’t been normal.

And of course right off the bat I have felt compelled to explain, to defend myself against an attack that isn’t even there, although if certain people read this I know it will be.  That’s the problem.]


My friend’s Facebook page, and the website they set up to keep everyone updated, is chock full of family and friends writing things like, “I love you so much” and “Thinking of you every day” and “Love love love to you and to your family” and “I’m so proud of you”.

All that tangible, visible proof that the people around her love her and care about her, in the biggest crisis of her life.

Her mother.  Her mother-in-law.  Some of our other high school friends, who are like sisters to her.  REAL sisters, I mean.  The kind that don’t heap a lot of shit on you that isn’t your fault, but just love you instead.

They just love you.  Out loud, in writing, with a little note or a phone call or a comment on a web page.

I have another high school friend whose Facebook page often shows a comment from someone in her equally large and extended family.  A niece, or her sister, or a brother, or a sister-in-law.  Always something loving and kind, and obviously not there because it’s a birthday or something — just because they felt like saying it.

I don’t know what that’s like.  I see it, and it looks wonderful.  I wish I did.

I actually can’t imagine my sister writing anything like that to me, ever.  “I love you so much.”  I challenge anyone who knows both of us to try it.  You can’t picture it, because IT NEVER HAPPENS.

She has excuses — there are too many years between us, she was busy raising a family, we are poles apart on many things — but shit, it’s not like she ever tried.

I did, once upon a time, but after enough failures, eventually even I got the message.

PiPhiMom1Nor did I get that kind of love from my mother.  Facebook wasn’t around 30 years ago, but the one time that I know of where my mother was invited to write a letter about why she was proud of me, what I got was a chilly, formal letter.  It was so bizarre, I don’t think they even read it at the pledging ceremony — or if they did, it was in such contrast to everyone else’s letters that I have blocked the memory, out of embarrassment and shame at how impersonal my mother’s letter was.Mom2

She didn’t even write it by hand — she typed it.  In the handwritten note that accompanied it, she even wrote “end”, as if it were a business communication.  And of course, she had to make it about a topic that was important to her:  religion.

Years later, my sister defended my mother’s coolness on this occasion with a bunch of bullshit about “she didn’t know who was going to read it” and so on.

Fucking hell.  Someone who loves you doesn’t CARE who reads it.  THAT’S THE FUCKING POINT.


But that’s the way it always goes.  I expressed my disappointment in the way my mother wrote this letter — because it hurt me to be shown so starkly the contrast between the chatty, friendly letters that she wrote to my sister when she was in college, versus the one that I got when I was in college (by the way, there aren’t any personal letters from my mother from my college days, because I was expected to call HER every week).

And my sister didn’t say, “I’m sorry she couldn’t love you.”  My sister didn’t say, “I bet that was important to you.  I’m sorry you were disappointed.”

No, what my sister did was defend my mother’s abnormal behavior.  Because my sister has apparently inherited that abnormal behavior, that unwillingness to love me, or to let anyone else love me.

This is very similar to my mother-in-law, who was the oldest daughter of an alcoholic mother, and also strongly parentified.  And while she couldn’t stop her son from marrying me, she wouldn’t let her husband be too nice to me, either.

Once she was gone, he spent his few remaining months trying to finally be friends, but he didn’t have much time to work with.  But we could have had a loving relationship, I think — if it hadn’t been for my MIL, and the anger she directed towards me for us making a life decision that she didn’t approve of, and as she saw it, depriving her of her “right” to grandchildren.

Because of course she can’t direct that blame at her son, and besides, women are “supposed to” have kids — even if they are women as fucked up as her own mother, and my mother, I guess.  See how well that worked out.

Over the 20 or so years that I knew her, she did her best to retain some control and undercut me with “her” son as well — even criticizing me to him under our own roof — and often she pretended I didn’t actually exist.

I remember one time they visited us, and she and I went to buy tickets for a ferry.  The woman at the kiosk asked my MIL why she was here, and she replied — with me standing right next to her — “We’re here visiting our son.”

Another time we were all out at a garden, and my husband and I went for a walk while his parents sat on a bench.  When we came back, she looked directly at him and, using his name — so it would be clear that I was not included in the caring, no matter how trivial — she asked him, “How was your walk?”

On another memorable occasion, his dad left a phone message wishing him — specifically and only him, again by name — a “happy anniversary”.

Kind of like my sister not even giving me a welcome hug, or noticing that I’m in the room.  (At the same time that she can sure as hell notice that I failed to ask her about being a grandmother.)

Little wounds.  Over 20 or 40 years they add up to big ones.

It would be one thing if the people involved were like this to everyone, not just me.  But they hurt even more when, after she’s gone, you get to hear from the neighbor how wonderfully warm and loving your MIL was to her — treated her “like a daughter,” in fact.


So eventually you learn that no matter if you are nice, and caring, and give love to others, they don’t give it back.  And you learn not to make the effort any more.  That’s the person I’ve become.

Which is why my siblings will say – have said, in fact – “Well, but YOU don’t show love to US!”

Because of course, to them, it’s all about them.  (Except the part about who’s responsible.  That is most definitely not about them.)

We are each too wounded to put our own pain aside in order to love the other person.

The difference here is, my siblings’ wounds were not inflicted by me — but mine were inflicted by them.  I don’t have anything to apologize for, but they do.

I tried for years and years, and got rejected over and over.  And the ultimate wound, of course, was the moral injury of the night my father died, and the morning after.  And the lies about it, and the believing the lies, and the not upsetting Susan and Joe, because it was easier and simpler to upset me.

Their wounds were not inflicted by me.  Theirs were, at the heart, inflicted by a mother who was selfish and sick and couldn’t let anyone else have love.  Our mother’s version of the control was to not let “her” children love their father.  She deprived them of that hugely important relationship, for her own selfish reasons.

See the pattern here?  Selfish, angry, injured women, deliberately ruining relationships between others.  I’m not the one who’s doing that.


I used to have brothers, and even a brother-in-law, who at least appeared to care about me, but they are no longer allowed to do so.

My brothers have said some nice things to me in the past.  One of them once said he enjoyed conversations with me, but of course that was said in the context of the rest of the sentence, which was that he refused to discuss the family issues any longer.  So yeah, he enjoys conversations with me as long as they are on his terms.

I have other brothers who probably couldn’t say a nice thing about me if their lives depended on it.

My sister won’t let her husband speak to me any more.  Nor, I suspect, are her kids (and eventually, their kids) allowed to contact me.  Once in a great while, as on the actual birth of a child, I get a picture or two from a niece – that’s the return I get now on the investment of years of caring about my sister’s kids.  Of course my sister never had to put out anything for the ones I didn’t have.  And we aren’t even told about their weddings any more.

This isn’t exactly new:  we have been left out before, not told about get-togethers until someone lets it slip after the fact, not invited until it’s too late for us to come.

This is controlling and dysfunctional and fucked up, of course, but it kind of works.  It’s easier than the alternative.  Can’t do anything to upset my sister and SIL, or there will be hell to pay.

As my father used to say, and I know where he learned this lesson:  “In an argument between a reasonable person and an unreasonable person, the unreasonable person will always win.”

They are the ones who have won, by being unreasonable, by being the bigger threat to familial harmony.  By having the power to throw the bigger tantrum.  Me leaving is no big deal, compared to what they could pull off.


Another Facebook friend has a son who is getting married this fall.  All week her posts have been about planning the wedding, her excitement, her happiness about having a new daughter-in-law to love.

It’s hard to read those posts.  I actually don’t like to think about my own wedding, because even for the one fucking time it was supposed to be all about me, it wasn’t.

Not for my mother.  My mother wouldn’t even shop for her own dress. I had to go shopping for her in Dallas, buy and ship a few dresses to her, and then harp on her to send the others back so I could return them.

For context, up until my wedding, my mother’s immediate first concern about any such event was what she was going to wear, down to shoes and accessories, and she often sewed her own dress for such occasions.  I had to hem her fucking skirt myself, the night before the wedding.

In hindsight, the complete lack of giving a shit is crystal clear.  And, I suspect, it also sent a subtle message to everyone else that this event wasn’t something they needed to care about.

The excuse made for her is that she was getting sick at the time, but I defy you to show me another loving mother who lets physical illness get in the way of caring about her daughter’s wedding.

Not for my MIL.  I recently found out from that same neighbor that my MIL never spoke about our wedding.  “You could have gotten married in Jamaica for all I know,” she said.  The only thing she ever heard about our wedding was that at some point, apparently my father asked where my FIL was, and said he needed to talk to him, and went to find him.

Somehow that offended my MIL.  What she had to say about our wedding day, after the fact, was vague criticism for my father.

Before the fact was worse.  The planning was a nightmare.  She had her own separate guest list.  She literally doubled the budget for the reception dinner.  She used the same pattern that I chose for the bridesmaid’s dresses for her own dress.  At one point she told me directly that what I wanted didn’t matter.  And there are weirder parts that are too long to tell here.

It would have been awesome to have a sister and a mother or even a matron of honor who was on my side through all of that, who could have been a reality check, but no.  It will be no surprise that my matron of honor was also a narcissist, who was also no help to me at all, and actively contributed to my problems, instead of helping.

[Side note:  A few years later, when we told her and her husband that we were leaving Texas and moving to Oregon, the first words out of her mouth were “Oooh, I’ve never been to Oregon!”  The first thing she thought about was herself and what good we could be to her.  Classic.  We never gave them our new address.]

And not for the rest of my family, either.  Ask them about my wedding, and you will hear about how much fun they all had in Boston together the day after, without me or my husband.

But, they will say, you had just gotten married.  You were busy.

Of course, that’s not the fucking point, but that is seriously how they see it.  That’s their excuse.  To all of them, the important thing about that event was not their sister (their daughter, their son, their friend) getting married.  It was not welcoming their new brother-in-law.  It was about them, having fun doing something else.  Something that, in fact, specifically didn’t involve me, or us, because I was “busy”.

The “something else” that I was busy with was, in fact, supposed to be the center of attention and the whole fucking point.  That’s how it is when people love you and are happy for you, anyway.

They didn’t ask us what we would like to do that last day.  I don’t think we had anything specific planned, but it’s not like anyone said, “Hey, what is the plan for Sunday?  What would you like to do?  Oh, there’s nothing planned?  Well, here’s what we thought we could all go do.”

They didn’t even ask us if we wanted to go along.  They just assumed, I guess, that we wouldn’t want to go?  I don’t know.  I do know we didn’t get invited, even though it was the last day everyone would be there and we all knew that and it was MY FUCKING WEDDING.


“Often clients tell me that they felt that their family didn’t understand them, that they felt different from the rest of the family or like an outsider. What is being described is the trauma of invisibility.

That doesn’t even come close to describing it.  It’s not so much being invisible – it’s that they see you, and they don’t care anyway.  They don’t love seeing your face, or think of you “just because”.  In fact, they hate the sight or the thought of you so much they will pretend you aren’t there.

Years and years and years of being rejected by the people, especially the women, closest to me — being met with criticism or disdain, or  unacknowledged or taken advantage of, every time I tried to reach out and build relationships — has taken its toll.

I don’t reach out to anyone any more, because my love kept getting met with rejection.  Rejection from my mother, from my sister, from my mother-in-law:  all women in my life that you would think would have been a bedrock of love and support.  The kind of love that is visible, the kind I see other people getting.

Love that is allowed to be expressed, and doesn’t have to hide for fear of pissing off some fucked-up, controlling, unhealthy person, who can’t stand to see someone they hate being loved.

I don’t know why I ended up with so many of these women in my life.  Some sources say that being trained by one narcissist leads you to attract others.  Certainly I think the familiarity factor is how my SIL ended up in the family, and why she is so welcomed.

Intellectually at least, I realize now that they all had issues.  Just as I now have issues, and am unable to simply feel for my friend, without also being envious of what she has that I don’t have.

I don’t have the capacity to just be openly loving and caring, without these other feelings getting in the way.  I don’t have enough logs in my raft, the hole hasn’t been filled enough.

I could have been that person, though.  It’s what I wanted to be — still wish I could be.  A healthy, loving person, with people to love, who love me back.

But at least I have the guts to work on my issues, and not perpetuate the bullshit.

Sometimes I am that person.  For example, one thing I have noticed in the past couple of years is that I don’t do art unless it is something FOR somebody.  I am not an artist for myself.  I don’t make time to draw, or paint, for my own enjoyment.  But let me get an idea for something someone I care about would like, and I am all over it.  I love to make art that will make someone I love happy.

There have been loving women in my life, here and there:  a housekeeper, a friend’s mother, a junior high school teacher — but they all fell away, one way or another, because they just didn’t have the same tie, day in and day out, that you get with a mom.  You don’t get a second chance at having a mother or a mother-in-law or a sister, someone who’s been there your whole life, who just loves you.

I did have Dad.  I got about 15 years less of him than I should have, but I did have that.  I have loving notes, and letters from college, and some saved emails, and a box full of other things that I still haven’t gone through in the 15 years since his death.  In the absence of a loving mother, that’s what saved me, but it’s still not the same.

Mostly, it’s just too late.  I don’t see where I will ever find that kind of love at this stage, or people TO love.  I’ve been cut off from the next generation of my relatives.  And the healthy people all have wonderful loving families of their own.  There’s no room in them for a couple of strays, and there’s no replacement for those 40 years of shared history that we wouldn’t have.  I don’t see any way now to find or make a place like that where I really belong.

Maybe if I’d had kids, I’d have one.  More likely, in my 20’s I’d have been the lousy mother that I suspected I’d be, even though I didn’t quite know why.  I understand why a lot more now, and I even think I’d be a decent mother now.  But it’s pretty late for that, and “to not be alone” is a shitty selfish reason to have kids anyway.

At least I’m not carrying on the tradition.

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