I’m Almost With You

(It’s a little rough, but I prefer this live version to the studio one.  The studio version is clean, produced, and loses the raw feeling.  Also, this solo is awesome.  The acoustic version is also good, and better than the studio version for some of the same reasons.)

See the chains which bind the men
Can you taste their lonely arrogance
It’s always too late and your face is so cold
They struggled for this opulence

See the suns which blind the men
Burnt away so long before our time
Now their warmth is forgotten and gone
Pretty maid’s not far behind

Who you trying to get in touch with
Who you trying to get in touch with
Who you trying to get in touch with

I’m almost with you
I can sense it wait for me
I’m almost with you
Is this the taste of victory?
I’m almost with you

See the dust which fills your sleep
Does it always feel this chill near the end
I never dreamed we’d meet here once more
This life reserved for a friend

Who you trying to get in touch with
Who you trying to get in touch with
Who you trying to get in touch with

I’m almost with you
I can sense it wait for me
I’m almost with you
Is this the taste of victory
I’m almost with you

Last Call

Today I realized in a fairly clear way just why this whole thing with my family has had such a profound effect on me.

And basically, it is the fact that this is it.  Last call.  The end.  There really is no hope for anything else.  I know that sounds incredibly obvious and stupid.  I’ve been saying it over and over.  But today, it kind of hit me in a very solid way.  I guess we’d probably have to call that “internalizing”.

There are beliefs that we hold very deeply, and I think one of mine has always been that someday, somehow, I’d find “the key” — there would be something I could do or something that would change, to finally get me “in the club”.  Of course, for most people, simply being born gets them membership in that family club.  For me, I have always known I wasn’t in it.  I’ve always been on the outside looking in, at my older siblings’ relatively close relationships with each other, and waiting and hoping for the day when I’d get to have those too.

I think for a long, long time I put it down to being the youngest.  They weren’t that interested in me because I was a teenager, and they were 30 or close to it.  Because I was in college, and they were long past it.  Certainly my sister claims that age is a big factor in our distance.  Mind you, she manages to have a close relationship with my youngest brother, and he is only 3 years older than me, but I guess those 3 years are just a teensy bit too much of a gap to bridge.  14 years, no problem.  17 years, HUGE PROBLEM.

In the letter that I wrote to my siblings in 2013, after a year of therapy, I spelled out this belief towards the end.

At rock bottom, I think it has been a mistake to pretend to include me as part of a family that I do not think I have ever really been considered a part of. [My husband] and I are simply not in the club, and I think I never have been, other than to be expected to attend certain family events to complete the set. This distance goes back decades, far beyond our parents’ deaths and The Susan Incident. I can remember in my twenties and thirties, every single year I made resolutions about making regular phone calls and writing more letters, to try to bridge the gap that has simply always been there. The ties we have are not of affection, just genealogy. It was obvious to [my husband] from the first reunions that I am treated oddly, especially by my sister. [She] acts as though the family ends with [brother #4] and treats him as the baby of the family. No one calls or emails us just to say “hi” and see how we are doing. I don’t expect anyone will ever get on a plane for one of my milestone birthdays, as I have done several times for others. In the thirteen years we have lived here, we have had three visits from my family. And two of those were from [brother #2 and his wife], who had additional reasons to make those trips besides seeing us.

But I clung to that belief that if I could just find the right something to change, then finally I would be accepted and loved.  Maybe the key was that I needed to be OLDER.  Maybe when we were all adults, at the first reunion, in 2006, when I was 37 and my sister was 54 — maybe THEN I could be in the club?  This HAS to be it!  And of course nothing ever worked before, because it wouldn’t happen until I was old enough!

Nope.

I hoped that the reunions were going to provide the opportunity for me to finally be an accepted part of this family. I should have known better at the very first one, when I reached out to Joe and Susan beforehand, sending more than one email, with the suggestion that we do the meal planning together, and was ignored. We showed up, only to find that Susan had planned the meals on her own, and deliberately excluded me from my own idea. That wasn’t an accident, and it wasn’t nice. That’s not my idea of a family. Last year I accidentally found out, from [my sister’s] Xmas card letter, that we were deliberately not invited to another get-together, i.e. [my nephew’s] ‘ graduation. That is not my idea of a family either. I will echo [my sister’s] sentiment that it is too bad that things are the way they are. I wish they were different, but try as I have done, they are not. If no one else makes an effort, this is how things will stay. I think for the most part that you all are pretty happy with the status quo: so be it. I am happier not being ignored or yelled at or simply feeling like a second class citizen.

This time, I have finally learned something that at least approximates the truth.  I have realized what the real problem is, or at least where it lies, and that it is not in my power to do anything about it.

So much for that belief.

The other thing I realized, with the force of a slap, came in the form of self-talk, in which I said to myself, “Well, they’ve never done a single thing you’ve asked them to do before, so why would you think this would be any different?”

This is another belief, or maybe an expectation, that has been so deeply established that to me it is just a truism.

I can remember at the second or third reunion, when I still believed I had a chance at being in the club, I brought up the fact that it was going to be my 40th birthday in a year or two, and solicited ideas for what we could do as a family to celebrate it.

Not one person showed any enthusiasm about that idea, at all.  The only person who even engaged in the conversation was my brother-in-law (who of course does not have all the family baggage about me that everyone else has).  And of course, my first milestone birthday passed with little or no notice.  I have different, more realistic expectations for the next one.

The conversation that they recorded “at my request” when I was trying to learn more about my earliest years — before I asked them to do it, I talked to my husband about it.  I put out the idea that I should make it sound as though the assignment came from someone else, perhaps a therapist.  My husband asked why I would do that, and I said, “Because if they think it’s coming from me they’ll never do it.”

He thought about that for a few seconds and then he simply said, “You’re right.”

So, I wrote them all an email that made it sound as though I had a therapist telling me to ask them to do this, and as though I was trying to hide that fact.  And guess what — they actually did what I asked.  I had to trick them into doing it, but they did.  That recorded conversation was a gold mine of information, too.

But I had to lie to achieve it.  I had to make it look like I was not the one asking.

So, what made me think that this time would be any different?  What made me think that explaining, spelling it all out, asking for justice, asking even just to be heard, was going to work?  I guess I was just hopeful that since we’re all adults now, that things would change.

I’ve learned better in the past couple of years.  I’ve learned that the problem isn’t me.  I’ve learned that patterns of dysfunctional behavior don’t change.  And I’ve learned from many sources that self-preservation, going no-contact, is the only solution.

We want closure which is never going to come in a way that we want but we can find closure by No Contact. We want to be heard, want them to know the pain they’ve caused but they are never going to listen and if they do, they don’t hear the words. What we often miss is the beauty of “No Contact.” You are finally saying No More. It is your voice without the words but they hear it loud and clear as if you screamed from the top of your lungs – “Go to the Devil.” No Contact is your pure and sweet rejection. It is empowering. It is your last word. It is your closure. It is one of the most hurtful narcissistic injuries you could inflict. They have finally come to understand you know just who and what they are. They know the tricks do not work anymore. They know you are no longer prey or a pawn in their game. It is your last word.

I had a dream a couple of weeks ago.  In it, I was carrying around a wooden box, not heavy in itself as such but I could tell the contents were very heavy.  And it seemed like I’d been carrying it for a long time.  I finally put it down, and somewhere in there was the suggestion that I was putting it down for the very last time, and that I was challenging, daring my sister to PICK IT UP.

It’s not my box any longer.  For a long time I was made to think it was mine, but it isn’t.  It belongs to my sister.  Maybe someday she’ll open it and figure out how much shit is inside.  But I’m not holding my breath.

Your Love’s A Fuckin’ Drag

OK, not 100% applicable — some of the lyrics are clearly about romantic love rather than familial.  But such a great song.

Cross my heart and hope to die
Burn my lungs and curse my eyes.
I’ve lost control
And I don’t want it back.
I’m going numb
I’ve been hijacked
It’s a fucking drag.

I taste you on my lips
And I can’t get rid of you.
So I say, Damn your kiss
And the awful things you do.

Yeah, you’re worse than nicotine
Nicotine
Yeah, you’re worse than nicotine
Nicotine, yeah.

It’s better to burn
Than to fade away,
It’s better to leave
Than to be replaced.
I’m losing to you,
Baby, I’m no match.
I’m going numb
I’ve been hijacked
It’s a fucking drag.

I taste you on my lips
And I can’t get rid of you.
So I say, damn your kiss
And the awful things you do.

Yeah, you’re worse than nicotine
Nicotine
Yeah, you’re worse than nicotine
Nicotine, yeah.

Just one more hit
And then we’re through
‘Cause you could never love me back.
Cut every tie I have to you
‘Cause your love’s a fucking drag
But I need it so bad.
Your love’s a fucking drag
But I need it so bad.

Yeah, you’re worse than nicotine
Nicotine
Yeah, you’re worse than nicotine
Nicotine,
Yeah.

The History, Part 6 – The Start of the Healing

My second letter to my siblings was written after a year of therapy — the therapy that I was oh-so-condescendingly told I needed.


 

Dear siblings:

At least three of you told me last year that I needed to go see a therapist, so that I can “get over my problems”.

So, I did go see a therapist. With Tracy’s help, I figured out a few things and I have a much clearer understanding of how and why some events transpired as they did. On what is more-or-less the anniversary of the email that I sent last year after the family reunion, I think that after a year’s worth of work, it is time that I share what I’ve learned. I don’t know if it will be at all helpful to any of you, but I feel it is only fitting that I should share the fruits of your own suggestion with you.

The type of therapist I worked with focuses on exploring patterns of thinking, and the beliefs that direct these thoughts. Brothers and sisters often have shared childhood experiences and memories and beliefs. Some of you have those strong commonalities, especially the Triumvirate of [my sister, brother #1, and brother #2]. While we have the same parents, and we do share some history, we do not have those shared experiences. Birth order, circumstance, and decisions made by others — some of them decisions that were bad for the family — have meant that I am functionally an only child. Most of you grew up in a “strict father” family. (James Dobson is a proponent of this parenting style. Mom loved him.) I grew up in a “nurturing parent” family. My beliefs were formed at different times, under different conditions, and for the most part, my beliefs are not very similar to those of the rest of the family. However, this does not automatically mean that my beliefs are wrong. They are just different from yours.

 

Foremost in this family, as far as I can tell, is the belief that I call, “Mom was a saint and Dad was a bastard.” My corresponding belief is pretty much the opposite. For me, what is true is that Dad was a dependable, loving parent, and Mom was uncaring towards me and didn’t put much effort into being a mother.

I think this difference in our beliefs creates a tension that underlies almost everything else, and it is probably what sets me up to be treated as a second-class family member. My therapist says it is a common problem in families where siblings had different experiences of the parents, but in this family, it is magnified a thousand-fold, due to a couple of major things: Mom’s illness, and The Divorce.

My belief deserves as much respect as your belief. I have respected your collective belief, insofar as I can without compromising my own, but my belief has never gotten the same respect from you. I have never once insisted that “Mom was a lousy mother” in anyone’s experience but mine. By contrast, [Brother 4] felt perfectly entitled to insist to me last year that “You have to admit Dad was a lousy father”.

The facts that I know, the documentation I have collected, and what I experienced contradict that collective belief. I know what kind of a relationship Mom and I had, and it was far more like the relationships that she had with [my sister]’s kids — distant and unconcerned — rather than anything approaching a motherly one. After The Divorce, when I would go to her apartment, what I remember most is she had me do her dishes, clean her fridge, do her laundry and her vacuuming. I do not remember very many times we went anywhere or did anything fun. The activities I can remember with her were centered around church: things like CCD classes, where I was in a classroom and I didn’t actually spend time with her at all.

For years I used to say I didn’t have a mother, so much as a sort of aunt. I was cognizant of this even at the age of six, when we minor kids were asked by the lawyer to choose which parent we would live with. Reading what the lawyer wrote about the reasons I gave for choosing Dad, it is apparent that I was entirely aware that Mom did not do things for me that mothers normally do. The lawyer’s own observations about Mom, from his interview with her, back this up.

I don’t think the older siblings realize that this is how things were for me/us. They were out of the house by then and not looking back. The ideas expressed during the recorded conversation that Mom’s neglect wasn’t actually bad enough for her to lose custody, or that the legal system had to be compromised somehow for that to happen, indicate that pretty clearly.

But Dad took on the job of a single father when he didn’t have to. He could easily have found another job, moved away, remarried, started over with a new wife and family. Instead, he chose not to abandon the younger kids to Mom’s haphazard parenting, but he gets no credit for this choice.

Within the past few years, I have tried to find out as much as I can about the period of time when I was born, and the years afterwards, and I thank those of you who have contributed to that knowledge. Unfortunately, I will probably never know why Mom checked out, apparently on just me. Apparently she was able to have loving relationships with everyone else, including [brother #4] (whose childhood was in the same timeframe, i.e. both before and after her illness and The Divorce).

It is hard to imagine what a baby could do to “deserve” such indifference from her mother. Thus I assume that whatever the reason was, it had to do with Mom or the circumstances, not with me as such. Presumably it takes an awful lot to break such a naturally strong bond as that between mother and child. I do not believe divorce would change how a mother feels about only one of her children. I have wondered if it was because as an infant, my mother completely disappeared twice during my first year of life, we were separated for a month each time, and that is what damaged our relationship. I have wondered if it had anything to do with the electroshock treatments, which can apparently have that effect, in rare cases. There is some evidence that post-partum depression can cause mothers to ignore their babies, and Dad alluded to some evidence of physical neglect, to the point where I had diaper rash so badly I was bleeding. But, I will never know for sure, unless anyone has any more pertinent information that they have so far withheld.

 

A second, related belief, is the collective belief that “Mom is never to blame.” What is more truthful is that Mom was excellent at deflecting blame onto other people. This behavior is not uncommon. I have a diagram from my therapist that spells out this, as well as several other unhealthy effects of low self-esteem.

Dad was her main target, of course. Once she and he were no longer together, The Divorce became her favorite excuse. At the time of Joe and Susan’s wedding, when [my husband] had the talk with Mom, calling her on the carpet about the hurtful things she was saying to me, Mom managed to blame even THAT on “You don’t know what their father did to me.” She would not take responsibility for her own hurtful words, spoken to me in conversations between the two of us, twenty years after The Divorce. The things she said to me were Dad’s fault, somehow. How does that even make sense? When looked at factually, the behavior defies logic.

Another blaming example, from when I was in kindergarten: At Open House, we drew life-sized portraits of ourselves, and we had to dictate a few lines about our families to the principal’s secretary, who typed them up on cards. The descriptions were posted next to each of our portraits. Mine said something like, “My parents fight a lot and my mother prays a lot.”

I don’t remember Dad’s reaction, but I remember Mom was horrified and embarrassed, and she placed the blame on me for not knowing that I should not have said those things. That was when I got labeled as a “big mouth”.

I have been ashamed of that incident for most of my life. I believed what I was told: that it was my fault, and I should have known better than to say those things, when asked to talk about my family. Six years old, but it was my fault. I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong just by telling the truth — but from Mom I got the blame, I internalized it, and it caused me shame and guilt for years. However, looking back on it with adult eyes, I can see where the blame should have gone: to the secretary, and maybe the teacher, if she knew what that card said. Certainly there were adults involved who should have had better judgment than to post that for all to see.

Realizing, as an adult, just how screwed up this was and why, made the guilt and shame just vanish, instantly and completely. This example shows exactly how this kind of therapy is supposed to work: revisiting things that happened in the past, but with adult knowledge and empathy, in order to understand what really happened, and possibly what should have happened, and placing responsibility for the outcome where it truly belongs. (HINT: It’s generally not reasonable to shift blame onto a baby, nor a six-year-old.)

Part of the success of the blame-deflecting technique lies in choosing on whom it will be easiest to deflect the blame. If Mom had complained to the principal, or the teacher, she would have had a fight on her hands. But the defenseless little girl was a perfect target. Multiply that shame x 6 years x 365 days and watch a child crumble under that guilt, and I have an inkling as to maybe why Dad came to the decision to divorce Mom.

Another good example is Mom’s words upon seeing the picture of herself that [my sister] mentioned in the recorded conversation: “Look what your father did to me.” I could accept, “Look what happened to me” or even “Look what having that baby, after I was told by the doctors not to have any more children, did to me.”  But “Look what your father did to me”? How is that all Dad’s fault, exactly? Mom is the one who decided to not have the recommended hysterectomy. I could more easily accept, “I should never have had that baby,” because at least that would acknowledge that she made a choice that was ultimately destructive to herself and to the family.

The blame-deflection technique is an effective one, and it has worked in this family for decades. But it is very destructive to people and to relationships. Also, as a side effect of this continual blame deflection, there is a very strong habit in this family: when there is a problem, the very first thing everyone does is decide who is to blame, whose fault it is. No one says, “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt.” Instead it is, “It was YOUR fault!” or, “YOU MADE ME do it!”

And, conveniently, if one can blame someone else for the problem, one has no responsibility to try to fix it.

If these ideas make you angry, let me point out that we do not get angry when someone makes an obviously invalid challenge to our beliefs. We don’t get angry when someone says something absurd. We get angry when we are afraid the challenge might be valid.

“If someone pointed at your hair, claimed it was green, and then started to laugh out loud at how silly you looked would you feel hurt? Probably not. (I’m assuming that your hair is a more natural color than green.) When you know your hair is not green you would know this person is just being silly, on drugs, or having problems with their vision. You know the issue is with their perception… It only hurts if we believe… ”

I have always been a little puzzled as to why [my sister] was devastated (her word) to be told that “Your mother doesn’t love you.” Even at the same age, if someone had tried to tell me that “Your father doesn’t love you,” I would have laughed at the very idea. I might have been angry at them for trying to lie to me, but the statement itself wouldn’t have had the power to hurt me. In a similar vein, [brother #1] considered Mom’s psychologists to be quacks, and did not want to believe what they were saying. But he couldn’t just completely discredit them because Mom was manifestly sick and hospitalized. So his reaction was to be angry at them.

 

A third belief in this family seems to be, “We all have to agree on everything, or else there is a problem, and the problem lies with the one who disagrees.” At one point, Tracy asked me, “So, you aren’t allowed to have your own opinions?” What immediately came out of my mouth was, “Oh, I can HAVE them, I just can’t say them out loud.”

Case in point: my “discussion” with [brother #4] last year about sexual harassment in the workplace. Looking back, I realize now that the question he asked, “Why is something as innocuous as that in a book of things you can’t say at work?” was not really a serious question. What it was, was an invitation to agree with him. He was not open to viewpoints other than his own. So when I tried to explain my own, personal experiences to him — experiences that were painful and difficult for me — my story was not met with concern and empathy for my experiences, or a willingness to listen to or consider another point of view. Instead I was literally told by [brother #4] that I should not have said what I said, or done what I did — presumably because it did not conform to his own beliefs. Even later on, in emails, he suggested that the real problem was not that sexual harassment exists, and affects women negatively, but instead that I had “given up too easily”.

This mentality is actually a hallmark of the conservative worldview, in which the “other” is the enemy. Anything different is bad, suspicious, and met with criticism and ridicule. (As I suspect this letter will be.) But this crab-bucket mentality basically guarantees that things will never change (i.e. will remain “safe”, at least for some people). I’ve actually had people in this family tell me, “Well, I agree with you, but don’t tell (X) or (Y) I said that.” How screwed up is that? To be seen to agree with me openly is some sort of controversial stance? Apparently so.

 

All this leads me to a fourth family belief. With the first three beliefs operating, the only way to reconcile them with a person who has different beliefs is to conclude that the other person must be “wrong”. The word “wrong” here could mean stupid, untrustworthy, ignorant, or a host of other negative interpretations. I think the most accurate one in this case is “[She] is not one of us.”

The Susan Incident is the icing on top of that cake, but the cake was definitely already there. However, it takes one more belief to turn The Susan Incident into the issue it has become. The additional belief is that Susan is never wrong. It has been easily accepted and incorporated into this family because it has exactly the same form, and works on exactly the same blame-deflecting principles, as Mom is never to blame. And it means that I am not going to be allowed to be right about this, even though I am.

Once again, let’s look at the facts: I did exactly three things that night and day when Dad died.

  1. I politely asked Susan to take her cheerful conversation into another room, so I wouldn’t be hearing her laughter as I sat beside my dead father. She refused to do as I asked.
  2. I tried to talk to Joe about that refusal the next day, in the kitchen, just between us.
  3. When Susan burst into the kitchen and the two of them stood there yelling right in my face, I fled the house in shock and bewilderment.

No one can honestly say that any of my actions were wrong, or unreasonable, or overreacting. Except that they did. To take just one example, Joe has used loaded words like “emotional over-reaction” to describe my simple request of Susan to leave the room.

Everything else that happened, happened because of Joe and Susan’s actions, not mine. Once I was gone, those events, which were witnessed by no one else, were deliberately presented to the rest of the family in such a way as to put me wholly in the wrong, by people who have a vested interest in making sure it is seen that way. Joe and Susan’s explanation was accepted by everyone else, without anyone ever once talking to me about what happened, or even being willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. Of course, if “[She] is not one of us”, no one will bother to defend an outsider against a person who shifts blame onto her.

Joe has written that “my problem” is that I think I am completely innocent of blame in this conflict. Of course, that happens to be exactly the position that he and Susan have taken for themselves. In their case it is not “their problem” but simply the way things manifestly are, as though Susan has a god-given monopoly on being right in any conflict — even the ones she manufactures, as this one. There was no criticism of Susan in my request that she converse in another room, but she decided to see it that way.

I would like someone to explain to me how it is logical or fair that if I think I am right, that is a problem — but if they think they are right, that is just because they are right. It is an intriguing set-up that makes it impossible for me to even make a start on telling my side of the story.

Joe discredited the hospice nurse’s empathetic apology to me by saying “as for the hospice nurse, there are all kinds of reasons her apology might appear more “heartfelt” – for one, she could lose her job if you complained to her organization, and she doesn’t have any history of the family and personalities involved, either.”

Sooo… one has to have knowledge of the family history and personalities before one can come to the “right” conclusion? Interesting. No more evidence is needed to see that this whole issue has been entirely biased by beliefs, as opposed to being thoughtfully judged on what actually happened. This is unfair, because those beliefs amount to a set-up.

If I have a problem with The Susan Incident, it is that this family is perfectly fine with heaping all the blame on me without hearing my side of the story, no one wants to “get involved” with what is obviously “my problem”, and I am supposed to “just get over it”. I am certain this is why I was told to go to therapy, because everyone assumed the professional would be on their side and would also tell me to “just get over it”.

Well, the therapist didn’t tell me that. She told me that I am absolutely right. I did nothing unreasonable. Susan’s behavior at Dad’s deathbed was disrespectful to me. She and Joe treated me horribly, with no justification for it. And the rest of the family has let them do it. These are simply facts.

I am certain that the next move will be to try to discredit my therapist. I am equally certain that if I had reported that my therapist had told me to “just get over it”, there would be no such argument and she would be considered to be extremely creditable. So I think we can skip that obvious ploy, yes?

My behavior at Mom’s death has been brought up as an additional example of my supposed wrongdoing. A remark I made to [brother #4] at that time was taken to be extremely insensitive. Joe considers that it was “disparaging and disrespectful” and “completely disregarding the feelings of others that had a better relationship.”

Well, in terms of what Susan did when Dad died, I couldn’t have put it better myself. She ignored what I clearly and politely asked her to do. If that isn’t “complete disregard of the feelings of others that had a better relationship” with Dad, then I don’t know what is.

But when Susan did it, she “did nothing wrong”. And when I did it, it was completely wrong.

Susan had a conversation at Dad’s death, I found the content upsetting, and asked her to take it elsewhere. That is me overreacting, and I am the one at fault for that. When I say something at Mom’s death, and [brother #4] finds that upsetting, he is not overreacting. His angry, upset reaction is perfectly acceptable. I am at fault for that conflict, too.

The two events are equivalent, yet somehow people manage to believe I am at fault in BOTH of these situations. How does this happen? By letting beliefs take precedence over the actual facts. One side of the story is left out, the facts are manipulated to suit the other side’s views, the logical contradiction is simply ignored.

It is obvious to me that the outcome is predetermined. In some minds, I am going to be wrong, no matter what, no matter how the facts have to be distorted in order to make that happen. No matter if I have a professional therapist backing me up, even. Some excuse will be cooked up to explain why I STILL can’t possibly be right about this. If that is not true, then tell me what I would have to do — no, wait, that’s what I did. Forget it. I am done with jumping through the hoops. [I am] clearly in the wrong, because Susan can’t be.

Tracy pointed out, “You aren’t even allowed to defend yourself.” If I try, I get shouted down — literally, as by Joe and Susan — and I will not forget Susan actually bending down in order to shout more directly into my face that horrible day — or as by [brother #4] on the walk to the lake last year — or figuratively, as in the various hateful emails that were sent. All of these things were done to try to shut me up, to silence my attempts at self-defense.

Or, I am just ignored. I am supposed to sit here and “get over it”.

People have nit-picked to death what I said and did, in an effort to judge whether I actually had any right to be upset, and decided I didn’t. I could point out several logical fallacies in the emails that have gone around, but there isn’t any point because apparently, the facts are not what matter here. The message is loud and clear: Mom was worth grieving over. Mom was worth getting upset over. Dad wasn’t. Because, of course, Dad was a bastard.

Except that he was my father, and he loved me, and I loved him. I miss him and I have no one to share in my grief for him. I’m sorry that the rest of you didn’t have as good a relationship with him as I did, but that is not my fault. I didn’t have as good a relationship with Mom as you all did, but I don’t hold that against any of you. I put the responsibility for that on Mom, where it belongs.

Attachment_Theory_Attachment_Avoidance

So where does this leave us? On this diagram, replace the word “partner” with the word “family”. The triggering condition was of course Dad’s death. I was expecting support from my family at this horrible, stressful time and everywhere I turned, I got a very negative response. It was traumatic for me. Most of this was a direct result of Joe and Susan’s actions. I had no one willing and able to defend and protect me from those hurtful actions. Certainly over the years it has become clear to me that I can give up on getting a positive response of any kind from at least half of the family. So, we are at “Distancing.”

If you believe that my role ought to be to put up and shut up for the sake of the family, then I can only ask why on earth should I do that? I am not the one who created this conflict. It is obvious that what most of the family has been willing to do for me in all this is a big fat nothing.

Certainly that option would be MUCH more comfortable for a big chunk of the family, but it sucks for me. I’ve tried it.

I have had to come to terms with the fact that the family I wish I had, is not the family I have. [Brother #4] has commented to the effect that this is my fault for being distant — note, this is blaming me again. (It is AMAZING how well that crutch works!)

At rock bottom, I think it has been a mistake to pretend to include me as part of a family that I do not think I have ever really been considered a part of. [My husband] and I are simply not in the club, and I think I never have been, other than to be expected to attend certain family events to complete the set. This distance goes back decades, far beyond our parents’ deaths and The Susan Incident. I can remember in my twenties and thirties, every single year I made resolutions about making regular phone calls and writing more letters, to try to bridge the gap that has simply always been there. The ties we have are not of affection, just genealogy. It was obvious to [my husband] from the first reunions that I am treated oddly, especially by my sister. [My sister] acts as though the family ends with [brother #4] and treats him as the baby of the family. No one calls or emails us just to say “hi” and see how we are doing. I don’t expect anyone will ever get on a plane for one of my milestone birthdays, as I have done several times for others. In the thirteen years we have lived here, we have had three visits from my family. And two of those were from [brother #2 and his wife], who had additional reasons to make those trips besides seeing us.

It is not me who needs to reach out to try to get back in everyone’s good graces, as a penalty for something that I didn’t even do. I have seen the therapist that I was told I needed to see, and came away with my knowledge reinforced that none of this is my fault, or of my doing. I am writing this letter to communicate that knowledge to you, and as part of the process of making peace with the whole situation for myself. Any effort to repair any relationships worth saving will have to come from someone besides me. This is not just my opinion, but also that of other people who actually care about me and my well-being: my husband, my true friends, and a professional, to boot.

I hoped that the Chicago reunions were going to provide the opportunity for me to finally be an accepted part of this family. I should have known better at the very first one, when I reached out to Joe and Susan beforehand, sending more than one email, with the suggestion that we do the meal planning together, and was ignored. We showed up, only to find that Susan had planned the meals on her own, and deliberately excluded me from my own idea. That wasn’t an accident, and it wasn’t nice. That’s not my idea of a family. Last year I accidentally found out, from [my sister]’s Xmas card letter, that we were deliberately not invited to another get-together, i.e. [my nephew]’s graduation. That is not my idea of a family either. I will echo [my sister]’s sentiment that it is too bad that things are the way they are. I wish they were different, but try as I have done, they are not. If no one else makes an effort, this is how things will stay. I think for the most part that you all are pretty happy with the status quo: so be it. I am happier not being ignored or yelled at or simply feeling like a second class citizen.

I will return the favor, and would highly recommend that several of you go to some therapy yourselves, although part of the problem with the blaming thing is that the people who do it don’t think they are the problem. (Of course not! they are never to blame!)

I am open to thoughtful, honest, polite responses and discussion. Arguments, angry diatribes, attempts at invalidation, or further attempts to turn the facts on their heads will be disregarded.

It’s Too Late

Lately I’ve been thinking
And how the whole world’s come undone
Everybody’s got this sinking feeling
Feeling they’re on the run
But I know a place where time stands still
I can picture it in my mind
But I’m not sure if we can get there

(There is no reason reasons rhyme
Why can’t you see we’re almost out of time)

It’s too late it’s too late it’s too late
To cover what you’ve done
It’s too late it’s too late it’s too late
To call for anyone at all
Well I guess I should be so brave to think that I’m the only one who knows
It’s too late it’s too late it’s too late
To cover what you’ve done

Oh no we need a change (This world’s stranger now)
Now is not the time to run away (There must be a way)
A way that we could listen to the warning signs so pay attention
This is my intention to prevent this fate before it gets too late

And as the hands of the clock go round and round
And the world keeps marching on
Can you afford to let it fall now?

(The fish in all the streams are dying
Fluorocarbons fill the sky
And I don’t really want to die before my time has come)

It’s too late it’s too late it’s too late
To cover what you’ve done
It’s too late it’s too late it’s too late
To call for anyone at all
Well I guess I should be so brave to think that I’m the only one who knows
It’s too late it’s too late it’s too late

It’s too late
Now now
It’s too late

(Lately I’ve been thinking
Haven’t had that sinking feeling now)

What the Hell Could I Possibly Have In Common With Zoe Quinn?

THIS.

In fact, I’ve come to realize that most sane people can see through a smear campaign… the people who refuse to see it for what it is would find a reason to hate me regardless.  Let’s face it — if they found any part of the campaign convincing, they clearly didn’t need much convincing in the first place.  Keep all of that in mind if you ever find yourself at the wrong end of something like this.

Of course, that won’t undo the damage to your personal life… But it (hopefully) won’t be the end of the world for you.  Eventually things will move forward, and you’ll still have your friends to help you pick up the pieces.  Hell, sometimes you even make new ones you wouldn’t have expected.

Compassion and Contrition, or Lack Thereof

Unabashedly reblogged from Seth Godin, because he is awesome.

Two elements of an apology

Compassion and Contrition

“We’re sorry that your flight was cancelled. This must have truly messed up your day, sir.”

That’s a statement of compassion.

“Cancelling a flight that a valued customer trusted us to fly is not the way we like to do business. We messed up, it was an error in judgment for us to underinvest in pilot allocation. Even worse, we didn’t do everything we could to get you on a flight that would have helped your schedule. We’ll do better next time.”

That’s what contrition sounds like. We were wrong and we learned from it.

The disappointing thing is that most people and organizations that take the time to apologize intentionally express neither compassion nor contrition.

If you can’t do this, hardly worth bothering.

But it is worth bothering, because you’re a human. And because customers who feel listened to help you improve (and come back to give you another chance.)

 

Here’s my version:

Compassion and Contrition

“We’re sorry that we did this to you. This was a horrible time for you, you were grieving the loss of a beloved parent, and we made it much, much worse.”

That’s a statement of compassion.

“Yelling at a loved sister who trusted us is not the way we should have acted.  We messed up, it was wrong of us to have accused you of criticizing Susan and her job in an attempt to justify her ridiculously rude behavior to you.  Even worse, we went around making sure everyone knew our side of the story, and we spun the story and assassinated your character to make us look good.  And then when Mom died, we blamed you for doing exactly the same thing Susan did.  To top it off, when it turned out that you were still upset and angry about the awful, horrible things that had been done to you, we didn’t do everything we could to make things right, to hold the right people accountable, to show you that we love you, and that we are truly sorry this happened.  We’ll do better next time.”

That’s what contrition sounds like. We were wrong and we learned from it.

The disappointing thing is that my family thinks this is an acceptable apology, which intentionally expresses neither compassion nor contrition.  It is so very carefully worded to avoid doing either of those things.

They can’t do this — so it’s hardly worth bothering.

But it should be worth bothering, because I’m a part of this family — except that I am slowly learning and accepting that in reality, I am not.  And because family who feel loved come back to give you another chance.

I don’t feel loved, and I’m not giving any more chances.

Writing to Heal

“Emotional upheavals touch every part of our lives,” Pennebaker explains. “You don’t just lose a job, you don’t just get divorced. These things affect all aspects of who we are—our financial situation, our relationships with others, our views of ourselves, our issues of life and death. Writing helps us focus and organize the experience.

Our minds are designed to try to understand things that happen to us. When a traumatic event occurs or we undergo a major life transition, our minds have to work overtime to try to process the experience. Thoughts about the event may keep us awake at night, distract us at work and even make us less connected with other people.

When we translate an experience into language we essentially make the experience graspable… Making a story out of a messy, complicated experience may make the experience more manageable.

“…one day they may be talking about how they feel and how they see it,” he says, “but the next day they may talk about what’s going on with others, whether it’s their family or a perpetrator or someone else. Being able to switch back and forth is a very powerful indicator of how they progress.”

 

According to Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, the placebo theory of suffering is one window through which to view blogging. As social creatures, humans have a range of pain-related behaviors, such as complaining, which acts as a “placebo for getting satisfied,” Flaherty says. Blogging about stressful experiences might work similarly.

 

So, it seems that I might as well blog about the whole sorry mess.

After all, it’s become very clear that I’m not going to get any satisfaction any other way.  And I’m told I need to figure out some way to “deal with it” on my own.

So for now at least, this is it.  And it seems to be helping, so I expect to continue with it as long as I am feeling a benefit.

What do you want to bet that if anyone in my family ever reads this blog, suddenly those rules will change?  That I will be told that this is an unacceptable way for me to deal with this?  That those who have washed their hands of me like Pontius Pilate will decide after all these years — YEARS — that they DO need to get involved?  And those who have now refused to discuss the situation with me any further will suddenly have an urgent need to lecture me about what I shouldn’t have done?

Maybe they should go and say those things to Joe and Susan first.

Or maybe it is simply too. fucking. late. for. that.  Maybe they will just have to find a way to deal with it.

The Truth Is The Truth

Born into a war and peace
Forced to choose between a right and wrong
Each man kills the thing he loves
For better or for worse
Face to face with a ragged truth
Mixed up and torn in two
And turned your back on the only thing
That could save you from yourself

WHERE WERE YOU HIDING
WHEN THE STORM BROKE
WHEN THE RAIN BEGAN TO FALL
WHEN THE THUNDER AND THE LIGHTNING STRUCK
AND THE RAIN AND THE FOUR WINDS DID HOWL

After all time building up
Comes inevitable knocking down
(ONE BY ONE )
Comes receivers liars gamblers
Pick pocket entourage
(TWO BY TWO)
Selling out is a cardinal sin
Sinning with a safety net (THREE BY THREE)
They say that all things come in threes
Here comes the third degree

WHERE WERE YOU HIDING
WHEN THE STORM BROKE
WHEN THE RAIN BEGAN TO FALL
WHEN THE THUNDER AND THE LIGHTNING STRUCK
AND THE RAIN AND THE FOUR WINDS DID HOWL

All cards are marked
And all fates will collide
The truth is the truth
Or the truth is surely a lie
Get back in your shelter
If you can’t come down off the fence
And one more question
Where were you?
Where were you?

WHERE WERE YOU HIDING
WHEN THE STORM BROKE
WHEN THE RAIN BEGAN TO FALL
WHEN THE THUNDER AND THE LIGHTNING STRUCK
AND THE FOUR WINDS DID HOWL
WHERE WERE YOU HIDING
WHEN THE STORM BROKE
WHEN THE RAIN BEGAN TO FALL
WHERE WERE YOU HIDING
WHEN THE STORM BROKE
WHEN THE RAIN BEGAN TO FALL
WHERE WERE YOU HIDING

FOUR
WINDS
HOWL

Why I’ve Given Up

Because this family is, in a word, unhealthy.

Because they aren’t going to change.

Because I’ve learned there are other ways for people who love each other to treat each other, and I like the healthy, nice, ways better.

If someone loves you, it should feel like they love you.

Because I’ve tried explaining, over and over, and they just won’t listen.  They won’t even try to listen.  My sister refuses to “get involved”.  Joe and Susan are simply right about everything.  My oldest brother refuses to talk about it with me any more, and my youngest brother thinks yelling at me is the way to fix things.

And you, as the codependent, try to reason with him, change his mind, or challenge every verbal assault point-by-point in hopes that he snaps out of his irrational behavior.

Maybe this time he will understand, you think.

If I explain it to him this way, he will get it. He can’t be THAT close-minded, I’m going to tell him once more.

But the more you explain, the colder and more manipulative he becomes. He may talk to you like a child, as if you’re stupid. And you can’t even believe how a person can lack such empathy, so you explain more, trying harder and harder to make him “get it” — and the more you do that, the more it supplies his narcissistic fantasies that he is better and smarter than anyone.

I really don’t know if they CAN’T, or if they WON’T, but either way I don’t much care any more.

All the advice out there is basically summed up as this:  You can’t do anything about it, so don’t try.  Just get away, for your own sake.

If the abuser is a family member, your options are similar: approach others to see if you can get support, and stop seeing abusive/unsupportive members. Unfortunately, the great majority of families in which there is an abuser are not at all supportive of members who demand that the abuse stop, and members of these families often turn against the abused member. Dysfunctional families are irrational and incapable of meeting requests for healthy boundaries, and no contact with some or all of the family may be your only option. If… the abuse is not seen through, not looked into, or you’re not taken seriously, then the problem, like with abusive families, is a deeper and more systemic one, and leaving will be your best option, no matter how much you may have wanted… otherwise.

I’ve gone no-contact with most of my family of origin now.

Ironically, me taking the healthiest option left to me is also being criticized by my family, and I am now at fault for “being distant”.  Well fuck me.  They don’t like it when their scapegoat leaves.  Don’t worry, from what I’ve learned, you can still blame me for all the problems, even if I’m not there.  Hell, Mom was able to continue to blame Dad for shit she pulled 20 years later, so what’s the big deal?