Category Archives: Contradiction

My brother: Chapter 3: ME.

That phone conversation sent me into the dark place… that place where I go when I feel emotionally trapped.  I’ve been to that place oh so many times over the years.  I’ve lived there for months at a time.  I don’t go there very often any more, but when I do, I go with a new awareness that makes the pain deeper, and therefore shorter lasting.  There was nothing I could say… nothing.  Anything I said would have made me look like the ass hole.  I couldn’t believe the tone in his voice, the matter-of-fact way with which he spoke… the absolute void-of-emotion conversation we were having.  He was leaving to go back across the ocean in less than 24 hours… no desire to see your sister who is one of the greatest people you’ve ever known???  No NEED to see her and hug her and say thank you, I love you, one more time?  No.  Nothing but a slight obligatory tone indicative of a family member who is obligated to appease another family member just by showing up when is expected.  And then my mind started spinning…

Of course he was acting distant to me now that he’d come home and my parents were completely and amazingly supportive of his situation.  He’d called them and told them and given them a few days to think it over before he called back to tell them he was coming home to marry Rachel.  I finally spoke to my mother about it and her word-for-word comments were these,”I mean, what are we supposed to do, but be supportive?  We can make a big deal about it and worry about what everyone will think, or we can just accept that this is what it is and love them and be the supportive parents that they need us to be right now.  It could be a lot worse.”

Pause still for shock and awe.

My jaw nearly fell off my face.  After a few seconds of speechlessness, I managed to tell her how proud I was for her and how right she was.  I told her I was proud of her three times.  She acted surprised… and finally said, “Well, ya know, we’ve been through a lot, Ellie, and we aren’t going to be the kind of parents that aren’t there for our children.  I can’t tell you what some of my cousins went through with their families and the lack of support they received.  We’re just not going to do that.”  She talked a little bit more but I tuned her out… I told her I was proud of her for the last time and we said goodbye.

I shared this apparent awakening with an old friend and was able to laugh about how I feel that I have a right to take credit for some of that obvious emotional growth and development that has occurred in my parents… I like to think I broke them in with my bi-racial marriage and all.  They ignored my husband’s existence for 2 years and lectured me about how they’d burn in hell before they had black grand-babies… they told me at the age of 25 that I had no “idea” what I was doing and that I “better stop it now” before it’s “too late.”  Doesn’t take a genius to figure out what they meant by “too late.”  They never reacted well to any situation I found myself in.  They were never supportive of me in my darkest hours when I needed them the most.  As proud as I was of them for the way they were handling this situation, their ease and acceptance just dug the knife they planted in my heart many years ago in just a little bit deeper.  That is a pain that is profound and very energy consuming to cover up when they are around.

So, here was my brother, home and spending time with my mom and dad who completely and almost immediately embraced him and the girl they once said they could not stand.  They surrounded him with the love and support he needed almost immediately, as he said they would.  He told me, “they don’t have a choice, they’ll love her and be supportive of her because our family is amazing and that’s what families do.”  It has taken me years of therapy to realize that they very much do have a choice when it comes to what kind of parents they choose to be.  I am finally beginning to understand this. Parents always have a choice as to how they will react to their children.  Herein lies the “ME” part of this chapter.

In my frustration, I tried calling my parents, no answer.  I tried calling my sister, no answer.  I just could not bring myself to seek comfort from my husband, who had the knowledge to offer the most compassion, but lacks a general ability to actually show compassion, which presents an obvious problem. But, I decided to tell him anyway because quite frankly, he was the only one who knew the history and sometimes I just can’t be bothered explaining it all, nor do I want everyone in my life to know the drama that is my family.  I explained to my husband that I was feeling hurt by the entire situation on multiple levels:  hurt that my brother was showing no interest or even care about whether or not he saw me before he left the country, hurt that my parents had shown him such support and love when I never have been able to receive that from them. I told him that if it were not for me and all of the things I “put them through,” this would never be.  His response did not shock me… he told me “Don’t even take it there, Ellie.  Don’t even take it there. This isn’t about you or your parents…”  I stopped him and calmly explained that the situation involves me because of the bond I have with my brother.  I explained that I am allowed and should be granted full permission in my own house to feel things as I need to feel them as I adjust to the situation.  I explained that he must understand my shock and awe at my parents behavior considering that I had received such opposite behavior from them on multiple occasions in my life.  Certainly, he could understand that?? Apparently not. So, I told the blog. ūüėČ

They finally came by; it was after their dinner reservations, around 9pm.  I’d just put my son to bed.  As soon as I saw him, all the anger and hurt I’d been feeling all day naturally disappeared.  I hugged him and told him to please keep in touch once he was back home.  I’m a bit of an over protective sister at this point and I do recognize that I have some adjusting to do, but who wouldn’t?  


My brother: Chapter 2: Echos

My brother is one of the few people in my life who I feel understands me. ¬†The distance that grew between us in the months following his stay with us created a bit of a hole in my heart. ¬†I have never been very good at letting people go – I understand that people change, but when I feel as strong of a bond as I do with my brother – it is difficult for me to let things be as they are¬†and go about my day-to-day life without thought or worry. ¬†I watched, mainly through pictures and emails from my mother, my brother breeze through the initiation into the Navy, graduate first in his class, and thereby taking the¬†privilege¬†of choosing where he would take on his first assignment. ¬†He chose Spain, and thus, he fulfilled a dream. ¬†He’s always loved Europe and never really wanted to settle down in the US. ¬†So, his move to Spain was something that I both admired and feared. ¬†His entry into the Navy was something I’d feared for many reasons, the obvious ones and the not so obvious ones. ¬†My worry proved true as he continued ignore his alcoholism because he entered a world where drinking alcohol came with the job, much like it came with being his father’s son.

When he called me to tell me how scared he was about unexpectedly becoming a father, his voice was rattled and heavy with reality. ¬†He spoke with conviction and desperation and I did what I knew I had to do… what he had done for me so many times. ¬†I had to validate him, encourage him, and allow him to feel everything he was feeling without judgement. ¬†After he admitted to me that he is an alcoholic, I immediately told him that this was the first step in his recovery – and I don’t mean that in a 12 step program kind of way. ¬†My brother isn’t one who would benefit from AA. ¬†He was trained very well not to accept such formal treatment. ¬†After all, he was the one who got to hear my dad’s reaction on the day I sought formal treatment for my disease. ¬†I didn’t use the word recovery, either. ¬†I did encourage him to consult his commanding officer and reach out to someone for help. ¬†I explained how helpful therapy has been for me and that I, of course, would not suggest he join “something like AA” but I did highly recommend that he give himself the gift of an objective listener so that he could work through is feelings and grow and change as he was so desperately telling me he wanted to. ¬†His response to me? ¬†“I’m doing that now. ¬†That’s why I called you. ¬†You are my therapy.” ¬†Few things are more complimentary than that. ¬† While I was flattered, I immediately told him “Thank you, but I am involved in this, honey. ¬†I am not an objective listener, as much I want to be, it’s impossible. ¬†You are my brother and I am emotionally involved in this situation.” ¬†But, at the same time, I took such incredible comfort in that comment and I clung to it… thus allowing myself to believe that this meant I had a little piece of my brother “back.” ¬†I thought, as I had a couple of times in the last two years, that he was coming back to me… that our bond was rekindling, that my friend was mine again.

The next time we spoke, his voice was once again, less familiar to me. ¬†He spoke with authority and an almost robotic confidence and conviction. ¬†My heart sank a bit, as I knew there was no way I could reach him in this place. ¬†I had written him many things in the aftermath of our conversation, including what I thought was valuable information for him to consider. ¬†I explained to him that he should wait as long as possible before telling mom and dad. ¬†I told him that he should probably tell them in a letter rather than face to face or over the phone, as their immediate reactionary words could be almost irreversibly cruel and hurtful. ¬†I still have the Skype chat…

Hey hon… need you to touch base with me, please. I really wish we could make a date to Skype – I know weeks are hard for both of us but if you can just drop me a quick line so I know that you’re okay. I really want to talk to you before you tell Mom and Dad – just to give you some advice.¬†I don’t want to alarm you or make it even harder – but I want to caution you to give mom and dad as little details as possible about this situation. I hope that you will trust me on this and that you will also trust me when I tell you that you must not internalize anything that they may say to you. In fact, it may be better for you to write them a letter so that you cannot hear their first thoughts because they could potentially be very, almost irreversibly hurtful. You know that I’ve been through a lot with them and I’ve shocked them and challenged them in many ways. I really want to make sure that you know that regardless of anyone’s reaction – I am here for you and I want and need you to communicate with me and stay focused on my support because you need to know that you have it. Just like I knew I had yours – knowing that kept my heart beating at times.

Prior to that, I’d sent him many message in my immediate reaction mindset… looking back I realize it is fairly intense, but I know why now. These “My brother” chapters are obviously eventually going to come back around to me. Here are pieces of what I told him after finding out about my new niece/nephew:

I have to be truthful here as well… as much as mom and dad love us and their grandchildren, they are far less involved in their little lives as your sister and I both imagined. This has been extremely painful for both of us and it’s something you probably are very surprised to hear… but it is true. Mom and Dad are very much in their own world and visit the cabin more than they visit their grandchildren. They make excuses for why they can’t make it to birthday parties – mom rarely wants to leave dad’s side so she hardly ever (and I mean once or twice year) comes on her own just to spend time with her daughters, and when she does, it’s almost always when dad is traveling. Two reasons I’m telling you this: so that you know that this is how they are and when they are this way with your future wife, you’ll know it isn’t just because of mom’s fears about her. This is just the way they are. The second reason is because you won’t be able to count on mom and dad’s help and support like you may think you can. Because your sister and I have both been shocked, humbled, and hurt by how often they have been absent. When Dad is with mom on the weekends, they are rushed because dad is anxious in a crowd and can never wait to leave. (when I say dad is anxious in a crowd, I mean anxious outside of his own house… anxious even when it is just our families that are present. He can only handle being away from home/mom for so long and it changes even the way mom interacts with the boys when they are both here.) We have told Mom how we feel more than once, and nothing changes. Our feelings are ignored. This is probably way too much to put on you, but I just want you to have a realistic picture of what things are like – so that you aren’t shocked or disappointed when you don’t get the support that we should all expect from our parents/grandparents of our children. It’s just the way it is.

Here is what he wrote back to me:

Yes, the message I just got was WAY too much. I wouldn’t like to have any other way. We will have to speak, and I wish it could be in person…….. my frickin brain is overflowing. It is my fault that we have not been able to communicate enough. My fault. But, the energy that you just stirred up in your brother, I have told my father once, only once, twelve years ago, that he better not say another fucking thing about this girl, and he got the message. Mom was there. I am truly lucky to have you in my life. I consider you as one of the best influences, and simply one of the best human beings the world has ever seen. And you don’t have to apologize to me, sweetheart. I am the one who has laid this crazy news onto the planet. I’m just lucky to have a great sister that I can spout my mouth off too… they will support us. That is what families do. They do not have a choice. And neither do I. There will be another life on this planet because of me. I just hope it has my last name. The fact is that I am a sailor in the US Navy and my future wife has to go through this all by herself. I know you will be a part of the support structure that she needs and that i can’t give from 3000 miles away. I know you support me, so get on board. I know you already are. goodnight, sis.

And, as our chat continued, this is what I wrote back to him while he was sleeping in Spain:

I love you so much. After talking to you and realizing the incredible bond between sister and brother and how powerful it is, I feel the need to have another baby. Because your little nephew shouldn’t be alone in this world. All I think about is you taking me on that date when we lived in Europe, giving me that rose, showing me that I was human when I felt so very far from it. I remember you walking into the hospital and hugging me, despite the fact that our sister, Mom, and Dad all walked past me like I was an insect. You were the only one that didn’t. And you know what the counselor said to me? She said, “You aren’t the one that needs to be in here… your whole family, save your brother, needs to be in here.” Because what kind of family doesn’t support their own DAUGHTER when she feels so incredibly sad that she wants to end her life? Remember dad’s reaction?? He said it to you. So, remember, above ALL ELSE, that Mom and Dad are NOT perfect and they DO NOT know it all. You are about to feel the wrath of this family – and I have only felt it like you are about to feel it. My advice to you is to tune out as much of it as you can. It does come from love but it will eat you alive if you listen to it. I have had time to think and really reflect on the whole situation and I feel SO much better having talked to you and hearing your voice and knowing that I have my brother “back.” I have missed you.

You need to stay focused, stay strong. No. Matter. What. I am here for you. Fuck religion, fuck tradition, fuck judgement, fuck presumption. Fuck the past. I want more than anything for you to do the same. I have so much faith in you that I know you will rise to this – I know you will be who your dad never could be. I know you will face your worst fears, you will fix your demons, you will face yourself – and you will conquer everything that attempts to defeat you. You are one of the strongest people I know. You can do anything you set your mind to, you’ve already proven that. Alcoholism is no joke and you, more than anyone I know, can squash it like a small bug that lives in my house and is very, very annoying. All it needs is a little vinegar down the drain and a LOT of discipline. You know a little something about discipline, ey? I already love this baby and I already love his/her mother, because I know that if you love her, I will too. Whatever happens in this, I am with you.

And, that is that. That is the last time we spoke from the heart. It saddens me that I miss who he is when he’s drunk, because most of the heartfelt things he said were said when he was drinking. No wonder it is harder for him not to drink that it is for him to drink – that is how he described alcoholism to me. My confession is that for part of that conversation I had consumed a fair amount of alcohol as well. ¬†I rarely do so, but in familial stress especially, it just comes natural to me to deal with that particular anxiety with the old familial remedy more commonly known as red wine. ¬†I’m never particularly proud of that fact, but it is a fact; and I only do it once in a blue moon. ¬† As you can see, our bond is one that only sister and brother could share. ¬†The fear and confidence we exchange is incomparable and irreplaceable, and unfortunately, also happens once in a blue moon.

So, my brother is now on a plane back to Spain. ¬†He was just here for a week. ¬†He flew home on Thursday, came to our house for dinner on Friday, had lunch with Rachel (not her real name but it’s getting difficult to leave names out) and her parents on Saturday afternoon, went to my parents’ cabin to have dinner with them on Saturday night, got engaged on Sunday morning, drove back to town that night to have dinner with us again… but never showed up. ¬†He called to say they’d had a long day, told me the ring fit, and apologized for waiting until 8:30pm to call and tell me he wasn’t going to make it. ¬†All day I’d been telling my son that his Uncle was going to come back. ¬†All day I’d been preparing food and anticipating the time with him. ¬†When 6:00 came and I hadn’t heard from him, I called and texted Rachel. ¬†No response until 8:30. ¬†This is the brother that I don’t know, the one I’m not bonded to, the robot that seems almost void of connection and affection. ¬†On Monday, he obtained a marriage license, they were married in a courthouse on Tuesday (while the rest of us worked) and left for their honeymoon. ¬†They returned to town on Friday. ¬†I didn’t hear from him all day on Friday. ¬†Apparently he had dinner with our sister that night. ¬†He had told me on Monday night that he’d call me when he got back to town. ¬†He didn’t. ¬†I didn’t hear from him until I called and texted again, on Saturday. ¬†When I finally got to hear his voice again, he explained to me that they had a busy day of running errands ahead of them, furniture shopping and such. ¬†I told him that I’d really like to see him before he left because I had something to give him. ¬†His response cut a knife in my heart, reopening the hole that I thought was full again. ¬†“Okay, well, do you guys live near any furniture stores?” ¬†In fact, we do. ¬†So I explained where he could buy furniture for Rachel, and how to get to my house from the stores. ¬†I asked what their plans were for dinner… again his response all but broke my heart. ¬†“We don’t know yet, we may go out, we may just order in.” ¬†He had no desire to see me again. ¬†I practically had to beg him to just stop by long enough so that I could give him what I had for him. ¬†I had a card for him, that was it. ¬†I didn’t want to mail it, I thought I was going to get to give it to him on Sunday… and if not then, when he had returned on Friday. ¬†I had no idea he was content leaving town without seeing me again at all. ¬†That’s not the brother I know, that’s not the brother that is my best friend and one of the few people on earth that understands me, and vice versa.


Opposing Lenses

“Everything you see is, is through a lens, huh?” He said, as if he understood me.*

*conversation with my father, tonight.

Flowers and Jewelry (and a little hypocrisy)

Our latest argument was about money. ¬†We argue about money quite a bit. ¬†Mainly, this is due to the lack of money we generally have to do things that we have to do – such as grocery shop or pay for our newly established gym membership. ¬†Last week we were too tight to pay the gym membership so I told my husband we needed to put it on the credit card until payday, when we could pay it right back. ¬†His response? ¬†“That’s not our money. ¬†I don’t know what you’re going to do b/c we aren’t going to be able to pay it for another two weeks.” ¬†Obviously, this meant I couldn’t go to the gym for those two weeks and he knows I am currently trying to lose weight (and doing very well!) ¬†This absolutely infuriated me. ¬†In my mind, it is just another way for him to try and control me.

Fast forward to Valentine’s Day. ¬†He spent the day with a mutual friend of ours who I decided to clue into the recent (ha, recent) drama in our relationship. ¬†Essentially I chose to let him in on the fact that I really believe that my husband is clinically depressed and needs a mentor or at least a friend to force him out of the house. ¬†I knew this friend would be asking him what he was planning on doing for me for the big day in February that I’ve just grown to hate. ¬†Excuse me for not sounding like a very appreciative wife here in the next paragraph.

I got a phone call towards the end of my work day. ¬†He asked me to pick up the little guy even though he could’ve done so easily. ¬†I figured that he could probably use some more time alone and as usual, held out a bit of hope that what he really needed the time for was so he could go home and prepare a romantic candlelight dinner, ya know, as part of his “I’ll do anything” campaign tour. ¬†In my drive home, I tried to talk myself out of these expectations. ¬†After all, I’d gotten him a card (because that was seriously all I could afford) and figured he’d probably done the same for me and that would be that. ¬†I actually found a very appropriate card this year. ¬†It essentially gently reminded him that I do love him without indicating that he’s this gigantic support system for me/the perfect man/my soul mate like most of them do. ¬†I felt he needed that assurance because he seems to be convinced that I don’t want to be with him (although, I realize as well that this is a tactic part of his denial that our problems are real and therefore fixable if we just try to fix them). ¬†I’ve somewhat shifted from anger to compassion as I’ve realized that his depression is real and true. ¬†It’s the fact that he’s in denial and has always exhibited emotionally abusive behaviors that tips the scale to anger on some (okay most) days. ¬†I can’t exactly use his recent depression as an excuse for that behavior, can I? ¬†No, unfortunately. ¬†Because, that would probably be easier. ¬†Sigh. ¬†I feel like I will never get to the end of this paragraph. ¬†I think I have to start a new one now.

I got home. ¬†No candles were lit, but I’d convinced myself not to expect that, right? ¬†No, it couldn’t be that simple. ¬†The house wasn’t picked up, but there were a dozen roses, two cards, and gift box on the table. ¬†It was sweet, unexpected, but still fell short. ¬†He knew what time I got home – I walked in the door to a mess and he was sitting on the couch talking on the phone. ¬†It was almost like…. “See, I did it. ¬†Here’s your freakin’ Valentine.” ¬†See what I mean? ¬†I sound a bit like a spoiled brat. ¬†But that’s the thing – I’m NOT. ¬†So what if I expected that he’d maybe have dinner ready? ¬†The table set for us all to sit and eat together? ¬†Maybe a frickin’ candle? ¬†Instead, a box, that I knew would have jewelry in it, because he still thinks that I need things like this. ¬†He is so convinced that if he buys me expensive things like jewelry, I’d feel better. ¬†You can probably understand per the first paragraph why I felt like strangling him with whatever piece of jewelry was in that box before I’d ever seen it. ¬†Seriously? ¬†You got me JEWELRY? ¬†You can buy me jewelry, but you can’t borrow money from the credit card to pay the gym dues so I can keep working out? ¬†Oh, I see – what YOU think is important and not completely wasteful and unnecessary is acceptable, what I think is important is just little woman talk. ¬†So, we opened each others cards and decided to save the jewelry for later. ¬†When I opened it, I started crying. ¬†As is the story of my life – I wasn’t crying tears of frickin’ joy – I was crying because the man is just so utterly clueless it literally hurts me. ¬†It was a fancy, and beautiful choker (HA, the irony kills me). ¬†It was great! ¬†It will sit in the box it came in on top of my jewelry box and I’ll wear it maybe once a year; I don’t have clothes nice enough to match the damn thing for god’s sake! ¬†I don’t care about expensive jewelry!!

I just let it go, though. ¬†I said thank you, we watched a show, we went upstairs and finished every married couple’s Valentine’s Day ritual. ¬†It was the first time I’ve ever gotten through it with the constant thought… “Is it over yet?”

Is it?

“I’ll do anything.”

I’ve been waiting to hear these words for quite a long time. ¬†Writing my last post was pretty important for me. ¬†I needed to release all of that tension and call it like it is, if you will. ¬†Since then, things did get better for a few days and then, of course they went back to what has become our “normal.” ¬†I never remember what argument triggers it because it’s not the argument, it’s the communication pattern we’re stuck in. ¬†We ended up having another talk about the state of things, which started out cordial and ended in tears. ¬†I said the same things I’ve said a million times, again. ¬†I don’t know why I keep repeating myself. ¬†I think it is because I feel so stuck that it only makes sense to keep trying. ¬†Perhaps… perhaps I’m just a good example of insanity! ¬†I walked away from the conversation when he started to get extremely aggravated that I brought up counseling again. ¬†He is¬†adamant that he will not go and has been since I’ve known him. ¬†This has always been a problem of pride also tied in large part to his culture. ¬†Of course, I know that in general, men have a hard time with it. ¬†I finally told him that we should just call it like it is and accept that things can’t change because we both aren’t committed 100% to doing whatever it takes. ¬†I told him that I would clean out the guest room and move my things and we’d just be as friendly and accepting of each other as we could be until our financial situation changed enough for us to separate.

I went to the guest room and ripped it apart. ¬†I put my favorite pictures in it, I removed things that had been driving me crazy since we moved here; I bought myself a new comforter. ¬†I made it my haven. ¬†It is my haven… I walk into it and I feel relaxed and comforted by my artwork on the walls, my intention in the air. ¬†It’s my space and I have needed a space that is mine for quite some time. ¬†Of course, there is more I want to do and it’s depressing how much I’ve been sleeping here, but that was the plan. ¬†It’s depressing because that evening as I was preparing dinner, he approached me and finally said the words I’ve needed to hear for so long. ¬†He put his arm around me and said, “Honey, I don’t want you to leave, I don’t want us to separate. ¬†I want to be married to you for the rest of my life. ¬†I’ll do anything.” ¬†Again, tears. ¬†I really hate my tears these days. ¬†I told him, “Anything? ¬†I don’t think you mean that. ¬†What is ‘anything’ to you?” ¬†He¬†proceeded¬†to tell me he’d take me on dates and try and bring some romance back, pay closer attention to me, etc. ¬†I did tell him that was one thing I thought would help us earlier, but that isn’t all. ¬†Maybe I should’ve been happy with that. ¬†But my heart is so hard and I have so much anger built up in me, and resentment that I could not just fold and tell him, “Okay, I’ve waited so long to hear you say that…” ¬†It just isn’t that simple anymore. ¬†Nonetheless, we ended up having a good couple of days again, until the next argument when we started from zero again.

I guess I still have a bit of hope because he seems to respond and listen better since I made the solid decision to sleep in the guest room when I need to. ¬†He doesn’t understand and still repeats the same things, but not as often. ¬†He still says that I think counseling will fix everything, but it won’t because I’ve been wanting to leave him for years. ¬†I can’t really go into everything he told me because I am exhausted. ¬†I am sick of being so exhausted. ¬†I get up in the mornings and muster every bit of strength I can to let the sadness drip out of me so I can get through my work day productively. ¬†I am taking care of myself by exercising and keeping up with my doctors. ¬†I know how important this is and I take pride in doing it and knowing that.

Last night, my son was going to sleep and was particularly clingy. ¬†He did not want me to put him down and he clutched my neck and seemed to be somewhat scared and insecure. ¬†I was pretty sad last night and I think he could pick up on that. ¬†I’ve had enough training in child development to know that he is already affected by all of this. ¬†And it kills me. ¬†I promised myself I would never put him or keep him in this kind of tension. ¬†It is not fair to him. ¬†I pointed this out to my husband this morning – maybe he heard it, maybe not. ¬†But this is one of the reasons I have to do whatever I have to do to bring back peace in my heart. ¬†I owe that to my son. ¬†He does not deserve to already feel that he has to comfort me. ¬†I asked him, “Do you want mommy to rock you a little bit longer?” ¬†He has just started to appropriately answer, “Yes” like a big boy. ¬†“Yeah,” he said. ¬†It broke my heart and comforted me at the same time. ¬†We rocked for about 5 minutes and then he went right to sleep, secure again.

And, so did I. ¬†In my “new” bed, under my new comforter. ¬†Life is strange and hard, but I’ll make it through this. ¬†I know I will. ¬†Thanks for reading.

Red Red Wine

Tonight I reached for a glass… okay… a bottle of wine. ¬†I had a hard day at work. ¬†I just needed to cool down a little and re-claim the pieces of me I felt I may have lost sight of in some exciting opportunities at work. ¬†I do that. ¬†I get all excited about an opportunity, a window, and I run full speed ahead. ¬†I’m kind of like a child in that sense. ¬†I still have not decided whether or not this is part of the child that I should’ve outgrown by now or not. ¬†Either way, I needed to take myself down a notch and as I have been taught by most members of my family… this is seemingly the best way to do that :).

Lately the skeletons have been creeping around my curves a little too comfortably, so I thought I owed them some attention tonight. ¬†I feel like I barely have time to breathe anymore. ¬†I am supposed to be committed to this craft of writing again, yet I barely have time to stand still. ¬†I am doing important things… raising my son… for one :). ¬†I just wish I had a few more hours in the day so I could carve some much needed “me” time in between all the responsibilities pulling me left and right and forward! ¬†Okay and sometimes, back.

I really hate the way memory can creep in and ruin a perfectly good drive home. ¬†While visiting some old friends in my hometown this weekend, I had the chance to drive down the street I spent all of my teen years growing through. ¬†I would say growing “up” but I really didn’t start moving upwards until I was out of my teen years. ¬†My stomach turned and for the first time I felt I was having a physical reaction to the painful memories that can still bring me to my knees. ¬†My father took me for a walk when I was about 15 years old to explain to me how “different” I am.

The conclusion that I have come to over the years (and through years, and years of therapy) is that all of the whispers of diagnoses never really stuck because there were always real, substantial, circumstantial reasons for my depression/anxiety/mood swings. No doctor could ever truly rule out that I was just a product of my surroundings, which included a substantial amount of emotional neglect. ¬†There’s no doubt in my mind that the anxiety disorder diagnosis is dead on… name a person in my family who doesn’t have it and I’ll send you a million dollars! ūüôā And if I am truly bi-polar, however “soft,” I’m cool with it – and I take great comfort in the fact that I’m the only one who has chosen NOT to use alcohol to cope with this awkward state of mind… so I am the healthiest one of us all! ¬†I digress.

Back to the walk. ¬†I can remember feeling so special when my dad wanted to spend time with me. ¬†He spent a lot of time with me when I was little… pretty much up until teen. He did okay even in the pre-teen years. The older I got, however, the more he became a distant, powerful stranger in my life. ¬†He was wonderful and inspiring when he was happy. ¬†But I never knew if he would come home happy – throw change up in the air and giggle with me and my siblings as we jumped to collect the most quarters – or angry, all but treating us like we were the last people he wanted to bother with. ¬†No one is perfect, I realize this. My dad worked hard, for many, many years, at a job he ultimately hated, and he did it for us. ¬†I know that now. ¬†I know that he struggled through it, for us, his family. ¬†I have always wondered how much happier my dad could’ve been had he actually taken a chance or two earlier in life… had he not let go of his idealism as quickly as he did. My dad loves John Lennon. LOVES him… but you would never know it today… because he has been known, more than once, to actually agree with Rush Limbaugh. From John Lennon to Rush Limbaugh… that’s gotta explain a lot about the kind of change my dad has made in his lifetime.

The walk. ¬†My dad invited me to walk with him. ¬†As most of these “special” moments with dad went, I danced down the driveway of our quiet, suburban house, so proud to be my daddy’s daughter. ¬†I wrapped my arm around him and couldn’t wait to share a daddy/daughter moment… hoping this would be one of those rare occasions that he chose to father, rather than coach (he was a great coach!) ¬†We didn’t get very far at all until he said the words that have echoed in my soul now for years. “You’re different, Karen,” he said, placing his hand firmly on the tip of my right arm the way he always did. ¬†“Yeah, isn’t that a good thing, though, Dad!?” ¬†I was always brave when I was younger with him – the fear really grew with age, thanks to moments like this. ¬†“Well, yes, you’re right. ¬†But you’re different in maybe the kind of way that you don’t want to be different.”

It was something along those lines. I, of course, can certainly not remember every single word – but I remember their impact. I remember that the word “different” established itself in my head that day as something I did not want to be.

He went on to ask me why I am the way I am… and I couldn’t tell you exactly what he meant by “different.” ¬†I remember him always wanting to know why I always wrapped my arms so tightly around my friends for pictures… why I was so passionate about the love I had for my friends and pretty much, for anything I was involved in at the time. ¬†I had extreme passion… and it was complimented by extreme sadness. ¬†I remember the sinking feeling settling in… the self-doubt, rebellious anger, frustrating refusal to accept his evaluation. ¬†I knew, though, that I could not argue. ¬†What he said must be correct. ¬†He told me that people “noticed” this difference. ¬†And that he thought I should know that people “talk about it.” ¬†I asked him what they said as the first tear rolled down my face… it’s all a blur now and I could fabricate a memory. ¬†I am sure whatever I come up with would be close enough to convey the point. ¬†I think this is far enough though. ¬†The feeling of walking, elated… and then so intensely defeated.

I wish I knew why this particular memory has been at the forefront of my mind recently. ¬†I have worked through so many of these intrusive memories in the past; this one seems to be sticking around much longer than normal. ¬†Maybe because my mom has been in full abandonment mode lately. ¬†I don’t know. ¬†I know that it sickens me every time I think of that day and every other day I mistakenly let my guard down with my dad.

I’ve learned a lot. ¬†I don’t share exciting news anymore. ¬†When we bought our first house, I did not tell my parents until we’d bought it. ¬†They were offended… it would hurt dad’s feelings that I didn’t want his advice, my mother warned, but I knew I had to keep it from them in order to maintain the strength to go through with it.

For years I dreaded Father’s Day. ¬†This has been a bit of an easier holiday since my son was born and I have my husband to celebrate on this day (and especially since he’s actually been very much worth celebrating lately!) ¬†However, it is always very emotional for me to choose an accurate greeting card for my father. ¬†So many cards out there say things along the lines of “Dad, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for your encouragement, love, and support…. ¬†or Dad, you are the best father a daughter could ever…. or Your love has turned me into a better person…. or even you show your love…” cards that i just cannot bare to read. ¬†It takes me at least 2 trips to the card (stores) and then 20 minutes at least to find the perfect, “not too much, not too little” card for him. ¬†Sweet enough to make him feel like he’s a good dad, but true enough too. I don’t think there’s any point in buying a card if it does not speak to the reality of a situation. He is not the best dad in the world. He is not my hero, nor is he my inspiration – nor do I feel like I am a better person for the way he chose to live his life – but he’s my dad.¬† And I’m learning more and more every day how to appreciate him for who he is.

It is love that builds faith… not the other way around.

I’m not religious. ¬†At all. ¬†My husband says that I don’t believe in God. ¬†Sometimes I don’t think I do – but I can’t look at my son without the belief that his presence is anything less than a miracle. ¬†The moment of childbirth solidified my belief in a higher power. ¬†I do believe… just not in the traditional, Southern way that I was encouraged to.

I was raised in a church. ¬†I was baptized, went through all the ceremonies of First Communion, Confirmation… all that. ¬†And then I was pretty much free to do whatever I wanted. ¬†So I followed my sister to her church. ¬†We were both vulnerable and passionate teenagers. ¬†We loved our friends and having fun… we shared confusions and frustrations that we didn’t know how to verbalize. ¬†We were “normal.” ¬†We were as normal as two loving, spirited, vulnerable teenagers living in the South could be… so it was a perfect time to stumble across a church that would attempt to transform us into little Christian soldiers. ¬†For awhile we were both hooked… to the point that I remember actually believing that because my parents didn’t approve of our attending the church, this meant that they were destined for the¬†fiery¬†depths of hell. ¬†And all the pastors could tell me was that “not everyone is destined for the promise land.” ¬† While I recovered pretty nicely from this temporary insanity in college, it changed my sister’s life forever. ¬†She hasn’t been the same since. ¬†We stopped going to that church right around the time we left for college.

We both left for college determined not to let the separation from our newfound baptism (that church) shake our faith. ¬†I entered college as a Bible thumping, glorified Christian ready to take on all the sins that awaited me with a solid, “No.” ¬†I left wondering if God existed at all… and believing if nothing else, that if he did exist, the last place he was to be found was inside a church/mosque/temple. ¬†I don’t believe in Christianity. ¬†I am not a Christian. ¬†Calm down now… I promise you it’s okay. ¬†I always feel so defiant and rebellious still when I “admit” to that. ¬†It horrifies my husband. ¬†It horrifies my sister. ¬†My sister changed forever when she entered that crazy church – she is as brainwashed today as she ever was. ¬†She once told me that the reason I was depressed was because I had a “hole in my heart where God belonged.” ¬†She actually said that to me. ¬†It was a strange moment in our history as sisters. ¬†She felt so bad for me… and in a very different way I felt so bad for her. ¬†We will never understand each other, and for the most part we’ve stopped trying. ¬†I am sure that my way of life disappoints and confuses her much the way hers disappoints and confuses me. ¬†I am sad for her, and I’m sure she is sad for me.

It’s an interesting study. ¬†We were raised in the same house – and while I cannot say that my parents didn’t sacrifice for us or love us – I can say that we experienced the same level of¬†hypocrisy¬†and contradiction in our upbringing. ¬†My parents tried, but not as hard as they could’ve. ¬†Maybe that isn’t fair. ¬†Their generation didn’t encourage self-reflection…rather I guess it was more about where and how they were raised in their own houses and less to do with the time they were coming of age… which would’ve been the 60s and therefore they should truly have no excuse for not having explored themselves and their limitations a bit more. ¬†Regardless, as loving as they were – they weren’t and they still aren’t whole people. ¬†They think that they complete one another – but truly I believe that they have grown to fill a space in each other that each of them gave up on in themselves. ¬†My dad has been a functioning alcoholic for as long as I can remember. ¬†My mom, although highly educated, never has been able to separate herself from the traditional “wife” role her Southern Baptist upbringing taught. ¬†Although I did watch her rise against it in protest many times throughout my life, and she’d deny it and be utterly offended if I were ever to tell her, but my opinion is that she ultimately settled in defeat. ¬†She decided, almost overnight, that her life would be less challenging if she stopped fighting and instead, allowed herself to fall second to my dad. ¬†I am sure it was gradual, but sometime I am sure I will post a blog about the night I think she made this decision. ¬†For now… back to religion.

Everyone in my life is full of contradictions. ¬†As am I. ¬†Maybe it’s unfair for me to talk about my mom giving up on herself because sometimes I feel like I am in the process of giving up on myself… at the very same time that I feel more empowered and strengthened than I ever have… I still can’t gather the strength to accept that I have changed and that my marriage hasn’t changed with me. ¬†It isn’t my husband’s fault that we are unhappy. ¬†He hasn’t changed. ¬†It’s me who’s gone through an enormous shift – and while I’ll tell anyone who asks that I’ve become stronger and less insecure and aware of healthy boundaries… maybe the truth is that I’ve just gotten very good at telling myself that I don’t have to settle for what I’m settling for, even as I settle for it. ¬†I know I’m not free of hypocrisy. ¬†That’s my point. ¬†But at least, I know it. ¬†At least I own it. ¬†This is something that many people do not even recognize in themselves. ¬†I worked damn hard in therapy to get to this place where I do recognize it.

My sister goes to church nearly every Sunday… and between her and her husband they also each attend another church function at least once during every week. ¬†She has always looked down on the rest of us in the family because we don’t share her “passion for Christ.” ¬†I am sure that her heart genuinely aches when she imagines, through her religious goggles, that we aren’t destined for eternal happiness in Heaven as she and all her fellow church going Christian friends and family are. ¬†She doesn’t know that I’m not even a¬†Christian. ¬†She’s fully aware that I don’t subscribe to the ways of any church. ¬†A couple years ago I told her I didn’t believe in missionary work. ¬†She nearly lost her lunch. ¬†I explained that it’s not the “doing good for others” part that I don’t agree with, but the “doing good so that you’ll think Jesus is your savior” part that I cannot fundamentally support. ¬†I believe in helping others because we should want to be helped if we were in need. ¬†I believe that our desire and at times our need to help one another is fundamentally human. ¬†In fact, it’s not just a human trait… we are animals, and just as most living things do, we are generally programmed to help and protect one another from harm. ¬†I don’t believe that it is fair or genuine to help someone under the pretense that by helping them, they should then believe in the same thing that you do. ¬†This steals the love out of the very deed you boast about to your fellow church goers. ¬† I only pick on my sister because I have a window into her world. ¬†I am therefore exposed to this religious vision of the world that she has. ¬†It is draped throughout every area of her life. ¬†Her blog makes me sick to my stomach… many times. ¬†While I agree that I should let her live as she lives – it is painful to watch and listen to her put her all into something that doesn’t even bring her genuine joy. ¬†All it brings is guilt. ¬†Constant guilt – her blogs are filled with “I should’ve… I should…” and praising of those people in her life that agree with her and support her religious beliefs and her overall struggle to find God and Jesus in everything… right down to the Easter egg hunt that she put together for her very small children…she’s all about keeping Christ in everything. ¬†While she’s busy finding Christ in everything, she’s worrying about how inadequate she is in every way – as a mother, as a wife, as a servant to God. ¬†She is constantly apologizing and explaining and talking about how unsupported she feels and all at the same time she’s blogging about how thankful she is… wait… so am I! ¬†So who is to say that we are so different? ¬†I just went to therapy, instead of church. ¬†I recognize this. ¬†What I rejected about religion as I went through my journey, was the guilt it encouraged in me. ¬†I grew up with so much guilt it took me years to find myself in all the layers that were so neatly put together over my spirit throughout years and years of being told just how “wrong” I was about pretty much every thought I had. ¬†I’m not sure my sister’s experiences were the exact same as mine were – but they weren’t far off. ¬†We were raised by a perfectionist whose pride caused immense pain and confusion in our hearts. ¬†He loved us, but we were never ¬†doing what we should. ¬†If anyone did what she should, it was my sister. ¬†Until she found that church. ¬†My parents hate that church – ironically for much of the same reasons that I do.

I go to church, as I did this morning, with my husband from time to time, to show support to him… although he knows that I do not believe as he does. ¬†When we met we were on the same page with religion. ¬†We understood each other. ¬†We shared the general believe that God didn’t belong in a church – that Christianity was just one of so many religions that claimed to be “the way, truth, light” when ultimately all they were doing was creating war against one another. ¬†He changed a few years ago when his life took a devastating turn and he experienced something that few will ever know, including myself. ¬†It’s not to be shared now, but I understand his turn toward religion, because it was the only way that he could make sense out of what happened to him. ¬†And that’s okay. ¬†Maybe that’s what the undertone of my sister’s search is as well. ¬†And that’s okay. ¬†It just doesn’t make logical sense – I wish it did. ¬†But it just doesn’t.

This morning, and every morning that I sit in church I am utterly disturbed by the militant and mindless worship. ¬†Repeating a creed while raising your hands in the air… is different than bowing towards a temple and repeating a different creed… how exactly? ¬†Telling your “followers” that they are right and others are wrong… in the same breath that you tell them to have hearts filled with love… is teaching love… how exactly? ¬†One thing the priest said this morning was true. ¬†He said, “For it is love that builds faith, and not the other way around.” ¬†This is true. ¬†If I felt that what was behind this Christian movement was more about love and less about faith and whose is stronger/louder/more correct, then perhaps I’d sympathize with it a little more. ¬†I’d understand and even sympathize with my sister a little more. ¬†But the underlying message that she and all other religions teach is that it is faith that builds love… and only the “right” faith leads to “true” love. ¬† That’s why my sister has built a protective wall between us… because my lack of what she calls “faith” contradicts her own, and the church teaches her that those who do not walk in the kind of love that they seek, will only lead them astray. ¬†It’s a great analogy they use with the flock of sheep… genius, really… like everything else that’s brought the¬†Christian¬†empire where it is today. ¬† It takes a certain genius to gain power and maintain it for so long. ¬†They even change the sacred “word of God” every couple years by coming up with a new “version” of the Bible that helps translate their message through each and every era we’ve experienced as a culture… and few question it. ¬†It’s okay to have doubts… God can help you with that. ¬†But to question the word of God… that’s blasphemy. ¬†It’s faith that she thinks she has. ¬†All that she is truly searching for is the kind of love that we were never really shown. ¬†The kind of love that comes naturally at the start of life… when a person who has experienced some serious radical self-love and acceptance can feel. ¬†It’s the kind of love that I feel for my son. ¬†The kind of love that is unparalleled and¬†unyielding, selfless but with a healthy dose of selfishness too – because the only way you can truly love someone is to love yourself. ¬†It’s that self love that religion frowns upon. ¬†Because if taught to love ourselves with all our faults… then what would our faith be? ¬†What good would that do the church? ¬†If¬†people¬†don’t feel guilty all the time, they don’t give money, they don’t gather and worship, they don’t feed the insatiable need for power that every religion from the beginning of time has held.

So, that’s it. ¬†Another great divide between my husband and I. ¬†That’s not really why I blogged about it… I blogged about it because it’s been heavy on my mind. ¬†Marriage is an offspring of religion… and I am still studying how and why I am so scared to imagine that it is as free of logic as religion itself. ¬†Some things are so ingrained in us that even years of acknowledgement can’t cure our denial. ¬†Maybe I’m not really that different from my own mother, after all.