Category Archives: Parents

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.


My brother: Chapter 1: Shotgun

My brother just had a shotgun wedding.

1. shotgun wedding
where one or both parties are forced into marriage due to an unplanned pregnancy
– Urban Dictionary

Everyone must know what that is, but for some reason I felt the need to google it. ¬†Gotta love the Urban Dictionary. ¬†So, I have a new sister-in-law! ¬†That I barely know! ¬†This is all fine and well. ¬†My brother and I have always had a unique bond and I’ve always felt that he has some kind of 6th sense when it comes to me. ¬†Well, maybe not always. ¬†He came to live with my husband and I for a while after he almost drank himself to death and could not go home to live with my parents because after 3 times of this happening before, they finally shut their door to him. ¬†My husband and I were happy to welcome him into our home with just a few adult rules, including “no drinking” for the alcoholic who wouldn’t admit he was an alcoholic. ¬†My mother begged me not to let him live with me, swearing up and down that it would ruin our relationship. ¬†“That’s impossible,” I’d tell her, “Me and my brother have a bond that no one understands… it is impossible to ruin.” ¬†He lived with us for four months and witnessed a lot of the same problems between me and my husband that we still deal with. ¬†At one point, he made the gigantic mistake of inserting his 2 cents into the “problem” that he presumed he understood. ¬†He’s always really looked up to my husband for many reasons. ¬†He said to me, “Sometimes you just have to let things go. ¬†I hear you talking about the same one issue over and over and it’s exhausting. ¬†That’s one of my pet peeves! ¬†I hate it when people do that! ¬†Just let it go!”

Maybe that was the point things started to change… but over the course of the last month he lived with us as he completely ran out of money and as a result became very anxious and unappreciative, he finally told me to “Shut up” and that was it. ¬†I told him to get out. ¬†My brother and I hadn’t fought since we were kids. ¬†Adult fighting really is so much worse. ¬†I hated it. ¬†I had hated the last two months he was with us, because he had turned into someone I didn’t recognize again. ¬†You can never really know a person until they live with you, though. ¬†It’s the truth. ¬†Living together as children, again, is very different from living together as adults. ¬†He would sit on my couch and watch South Park and Reno 911 for hours. ¬†I would come home from work, at a job I could not stand, and he’d be on my couch, laughing as if he didn’t have a care in the world. ¬†I’d find myself asking his permission to change the channel on the TV that I paid for… the channels on the cable plan that I paid for. ¬†He had ultimately no respect for what we were doing for him towards the end of his stay. And, much to my mom’s heartbreak, it definitely did ruin our relationship for a couple of years. ¬†He never called me. ¬†I didn’t exactly seek him out either, it was pretty hard to swallow the disrespect in the end mostly because I had never experienced anything but the utmost respect and friendship from my brother. ¬†When he finally got himself back together and moved back in with my parents, he would always call my sister first if he needed to come to our town, which was quite often as he was prepping for the NAVY and had frequent check-ins. ¬†It was painful – I’ll never know if it was painful for him because he has re-entered a shell over the years. ¬†He pokes out now and then, usually when he’s drunk. ¬†I’ve gotten an email or a phone call about how wonderful I am and how much he loves me in the last two years since he’s been in the NAVY now.

The latest call that made me think he was truly “back” involved the latest news. ¬†He was drunk, and shaky and scared out of his mind. ¬†The details don’t matter – what happens next does. ¬†My brother and I have a wonderful talk and he admits for the first time that he knows he’s an alcoholic and that it is harder for him not to drink than it is for him to drink. ¬†He tells me he is afraid of failing and afraid of screwing everything up – afraid of not being man enough to raise a baby or be a good husband. ¬†He tells me all his fears and I pump him with the confidence I know he needs although inside I am crying in my fear. ¬†I was so honored that I received that call; that he had reached out to me first. ¬†He told me that he loved me and that he knew I would know just what to say to make him feel better about things. ¬†I told him that I would do anything to help him because he had always been there to help me in my darkest hours. ¬†I relied on him for my only support system many times. ¬†And, he’s my little brother. ¬†But numerous times when my mom and dad did not have the emotional capability to mother and father me the way they should have, my brother stepped up and did his part to be sure I knew I wasn’t alone. ¬†The fist time I ever experienced major depression and felt trapped (because I pretty much was) in my parents’ dysfunction emotionally and physically, my brother invited me to go on a date with him… out of the blue. ¬†He just asked me one day if I’d let him take me on a date. ¬†It was honestly the first genuinely no-strings-attached nice thing anyone in my house had asked of me for as long as I could remember. ¬†So, I said yes. ¬†We rode the bus to the movies downtown, he bought me a single red rose, and we even held hands. ¬†People probably thought we were actually on a date, it was so sweet. ¬†I’m sure my parents gave him money and admired his gesture… they had told me just weeks before that I should consider how my depression was affecting my “little brother.” ¬†It didn’t seem to be affecting him at all; he seemed to simply understand that I was very, very sad. ¬†Sad enough to want to end my life. ¬†He understood that I needed some positive human interaction. ¬†He probably saved my life that night. ¬†I’ll never forget it. ¬†I didn’t really understand why he was being so nice to me – he was only 14 years old and I didn’t comprehend how he could be so tuned into the situation. ¬†Especially, because my parents obviously had no regard for his emotional intelligence because they had no concept of “emotional intelligence” at all themselves, and certainly a 14-year-old child could not have the ability to think rationally for himself. ¬†We’ve surprised our parents, many times over the years.

About 3 years later, I had to be hospitalized because I calmly explained to my roommate that when she left to take her exams the next day, I was going to take my entire bottle of Ambien sleeping pills and call it quits. ¬†I was scared to call my dad to ask for the insurance information required for my stay, so my roommate did it for me. ¬†I am pretty sure I have an idea of what he said to her that day, but she never told me. ¬†She just told me “Your dad’s an ass hole, no wonder you’re here.” ¬†Somehow we managed to get the insurance information, which means someone was able to convince my dad that I actually was in need of some serious medical intervention… that depression is actually not something people just make up for fun or boredom. ¬†What I didn’t know at the time was that my brother was home the day my roommate called him and got to witness and hear out loud my father’s thoughts after learning that his daughter had been hospitalized for wanting to end her life. ¬†I would come to learn that the words he first uttered were “What are people going to think of our family?”

Eight days later, my family was required to come in for a family meeting so that the doctors could be sure that I was going home to a safe environment. ¬†Here’s out that played out: two therapists sat in the room with me as my family entered one by one, a small room full of chairs placed in a circle. ¬†I stood up to greet them but every single one of them walked past me without even acknowledging my existence, except for my brother. ¬†He was last to come in and he gave me the biggest hug you can imagine. ¬†Again, he’ll never know that hug saved me because there’s no way to verbalize that to someone. ¬†I’ve told him many times how much it meant to me… but there is no way that he could ever know how powerful it truly was. ¬†It will not surprise you that approximately 60 seconds later, the head social worker/counselor looked at me and asked me to come outside the room. ¬†“That was all I needed to see, honey. ¬†Your entire family needs to be committed, save your brother. ¬†You’re the sanest one among all of them. ¬†We’re not going to have that meeting because what I just witnessed was enough for me to know that it is not safe for you to go home with them. ¬†But you are ready to go home; do you have anyone else who you can stay with for now? ¬†Is there anyone that you can call?”

And there it was… maybe for the first time in my life… some solid validation that I needed in a major way. ¬†There were actual reasons for my depression, particularly this episode, that had nothing to do with my family. ¬†They just couldn’t separate themselves or their need to “keep up with the Joneses” long enough to comprehend what was actually happening and what horrific parents they were proving to be in this particular situation. ¬†But, my brother could and did.

Breaking truth

“We create all sorts of lies, all sorts of stories and metaphors, to avoid the final truth, which is the fact of falling. ¬†Our stories are seizures. ¬†They clutch us up, they are spastic grasps, they are losses of consciousness. ¬†Epileptics, every one of us; I am not alone.” ¬†– Lauren Slater, Lying

I have no lies to tell, only the truth that up until this decade has haunted my every breath. ¬†It is getting easier to see between the shoulds and should nots, a little easier every day. ¬†Although, I’m still hiding in myself. ¬†I hid in this blog for a while… I hid and then snuck out to see some old friends and people who would be able to validate and¬†corroborate my stories… that wasn’t the right thing to do. ¬†These are stories that I need to tell by myself. ¬†If anyone who knows me is listens, the stories will surely exit as lies because I cannot trust my perfectionism to tell them. ¬†So I owe it to myself to keep it a secret, a secret name in a secret town in a secret world through a secret mouth. ¬†I’ve always lived two lives – I’m whoever you need me to be at the moment… and who I am when you leave… I’m taking control and finally turning the mirror back around and breathing the truth back into every crack and crevice that breaks me.

I am tired of walking on broken glass. ¬†I’m changing the tone of my stories… I’m letting the heaviness reign. ¬†There is no other way to get it out OUT of me. ¬†And I have to get it out… the truth is lying dormant underneath my fear that it will never come out. ¬†I’m not sure what I’ve been waiting for.

No more waiting. ¬†The truth doesn’t tell itself. ¬†I think if I could understand the truth, then I could know and come to understand myself… and I need to understand myself or my life will never change. ¬†Today, I sat¬†comatose¬†at my office desk, staring into my computer screen… I felt like I was caught in between two movie sets: Alice in Wonderland and Office Space. ¬†Pretty insane side by side, ey? ¬†Well, I can’t think of a better way to describe how I felt. ¬†I felt like I had no future, motivation, or hope in the present moment… however in my mind I was the little rabbit, running around telling everyone how very late I am for a very, very important date… only the “date” is my life. ¬†I feel like I am late for my life. ¬†I think if I don’t start telling my stories and telling them raw and open and uninhibited, they will continue to eat me alive and steal away my happiness.

I have an obligation to my concept of happiness – which currently resides in my 2-year-old. ¬†I owe it to him to not give up on trying to figure things out inside of my heart. ¬†To try and figure out why I can’t seem to shake depression, why I manage to always convince myself that I don’t belong where I am…

While I was rocking him to sleep tonight after he had a crying fit for almost a solid hour, I think something changed inside of me. ¬†I realized that I was letting him cry because I felt like that was what a good mother does… assumes that he is being manipulative or sneaky or defiant. ¬†What I forgot was that this morning my husband and I were screaming at each other almost at the top of our lungs… and we did the same thing yesterday morning, and evening. ¬†I have taught pre-school and I know what a tense household can do to a child and yet here I am, living in a tense environment and somehow letting myself actually yell in front of my child. ¬†I forgot about this for almost a whole hour… I forgot about it until I was holding him and he was clinging to me for life… in that moment I realized why he suddenly could not calm¬†himself¬†to sleep like he’d been doing every other night up until tonight. ¬†We took away his¬†security¬†with our voices. ¬†We stole a bit of his peace because we couldn’t control our anger. ¬†So, in that moment with my son, I carried him to his rocking chair and started rocking him and singing to him and holding his cheek to my cheek… giving him all the assurance he needed that I was not going anywhere. ¬†I stayed in his room for a half hour, restoring, hopefully, some of the¬†innocence¬†my anger had stolen earlier.

I’ve been writing this blog for over a year now, and have come to realize that I’m dancing in this circle as it turns, just like my husband is. ¬†Except, neither one of us is joyfully moving. ¬†We are just doing the dance of marriage and of life and we are both miserable and stuck and for what we’ve just figured out are very physical reasons, we have not had the appropriate energy to make lasting changes. ¬†I’ve evolved in many ways in the last two years… in the last six months my body has taken over and I have been kicking and screaming in the form of one physical infection after the next. ¬†My husband was just diagnosed with diabetes. ¬†We have just been hit with an enormous wake up call.

So, I decided to take my blog back, take my secret story telling time back, take my voice back. ¬†I want to change, I want to make things better and right. ¬†And I can’t do that if I’m constantly looking back behind my shoulder to see who is listening, approving, judging, validating. ¬†The only validation I need now is my own. ¬†And so, here goes. ¬†I’ll continue telling you things I can never tell anyone – only this time, I promise a little more raw truth… a lot more weight, and a few hundred deep breaths…

The Sentimental Drunk

Every day, it gets easier for me to call things like they are. ¬†I really only see my mom these days when there’s a birthday or a holiday involved. ¬†Lots of people are around to keep things traditional and wonderful and we appear from the outside to be as close as ever. ¬†My family has always been all about appearances. ¬†It took me years of therapy to realize this and I’m still learning about the depth of denial and vanity that exists in our family. ¬†But, it is what it is. ¬†I have learned, for the most part, to love my parents for who they are and I choose regularly to remind myself of their good traits. ¬†I do the best I can to keep those forefront in my mind and to be thankful for ways in which they help when they are here. ¬†I know that no parent is a perfect parent.

With that said, let’s get to the truth of the here and now. ¬†I worked hard in therapy to forgive my parents for many things. ¬†At one point when I was exploring why they are still able to have such an impact on my emotions on a semi-regular basis, we discussed that this is not a situation in which I have to muster forgiveness for something that happened years ago and the effects fade (for lack of a better term) or at least improve over a period of time. ¬†It isn’t something I can exactly “put behind me” when “it” is a series of behaviors that still happen on a very regular basis. ¬†As in, every time I see them. ¬†On the rare occasion that my mother is able to visit on her own, it is maybe once a year that she stays for more than 24 hours; she cannot leave my dad for more than that. ¬†During those times, and on the¬†occasional¬†evening phone call when my dad is out of the country, I feel like I have a mom again. ¬†She listens, she responds, and that “mother” voice that offers unparalleled comfort, is alive and well. ¬†If my dad is in the house, even if in a different room, her voice is that of a distant and removed mother. ¬†She doesn’t listen, she hardly responds, and if it is, it is not a response that she would typically offer, but instead one that my dad would approve of overhearing. ¬†It truly is sickening. ¬†It’s heartbreaking for those who hear about this dynamic for the first time… everyone has sympathy and wants to talk about how “wrong” and “abnormal” this is, but then we always finalize the thought process with the age-old understanding that every family has its dysfunction. ¬†I realize this. ¬†And, this happens to be my family’s (ha! one of them!) and it so happens this is the one of them that is particularly affecting me lately.

I could really use a mother right now. ¬†This morning, my mom took care of my little one while my husband and I slept in. ¬†That was very kind! ¬†I got hope and went down to see what kind of schedule they were on in hopes that just maybe, they’d be willing to stay for a full 24 hours and let my husband and I have lunch together, outside of the house. ¬†I, for some reason, am still a little under the impression that if we had more alone time, things could be better – even now. ¬†I was about 90% sure that my dad would be ready to leave as soon as he could – but there’s always that psychotic hope in me that they’d be able to chill out for an hour or two more. ¬†I didn’t even have a chance to ask if they’d be okay with this because after about 3 minutes of sitting on the couch with my mom, my dad said, “So, are you ready to go, hon?” ¬†And, there it was. ¬†It didn’t surprise me at all, but it still stirred up some anger and disappointment. ¬†I didn’t bother asking anyway, because, I’ve done that before and it almost always makes it worse. ¬†My dad went to pack the car, and my mom and I had about 2 minutes of bonding time. ¬†Here’s how it went:

“Your eye looks swollen honey.”

“Well, I’m getting old (half joking)… it’s just bags.”

“No, they look bloodshot…” ¬†This was followed by a look of concern.

“Yeah, they always look like that in the mornings lately. ¬†I’m tired.”

Here, I got the mom stare… the inkling of engagement and concern. ¬†I’ve learned not to latch on to this, but my tears apparently haven’t learned that kind of self control yet. ¬†Because, as soon as she looked me in the eye and said, “Are you okay?” ¬†I couldn’t lie without them falling out!

“I’m okay.” ¬†Not sure why I can never leave it at that, tears or not. ¬†I tried to think of a way to sum up my life for her in the 45 seconds left of our bonding time. ¬†So, I just said, ¬†“I’m stuck; but I’m okay.”

And, my favorite part is next:

The concerned, sad look came over her and she said, “Oh, honey. ¬†We’ll have some alone time in a couple of weeks where no one can interrupt us.”

Now, let’s talk about how many times I’ve heard that promise. ¬†There was absolutely no reason we couldn’t have had some uninterrupted mother-daughter time right then. ¬†No logical reason, anyway. ¬†But, my dad was tired and ready to go and that’s all that ever matters. ¬† I may have already posted about this once, but about 10 years ago my mom wrote me and my siblings a letter that very clearly laid out the emotional map for our lives. ¬†She said a bunch of things about how wonderful and loving my dad is, about how much he had done for her, and then, proclaimed from the codependent hilltops (I am not¬†exaggerating here), “…so I hope that you can understand that if given a choice in life between you and your dad, I will always choose your dad.” ¬†This is not word for word because I don’t think it’s in my best interest to actually dig the letter out (I’m not sure why I haven’t burned it by now), but this is what it said. ¬†I didn’t believe it either at first. ¬†What mother would ever say that to their child, even if she had the thought? ¬†What mother would feel like she had to choose between her husband (the father her children) and her children? ¬†If a woman feels that that is a choices she has to make… something is VERY wrong. ¬†Tragically wrong. ¬†Well, welcome to my life. ¬†This is how my mother lives hers. ¬†It isn’t as if she had a moment of insanity and didn’t mean it how it came across. ¬†It was clearly well thought out, intentional, and prophetic. ¬†What is still amazing to me is that I’d pretty much been watching the transition from her “choosing” us and “choosing” him for years, I just didn’t think it could be a conscious one. ¬†Up until that point, I’d started to really see my mother submit to my dad in ways that went against her basic self-worth. ¬†My mother used to be a strong and independent person. ¬†She used to do what she had to do to make things happen for her children. ¬†I saw her stick up for us and for herself many times throughout my childhood. ¬†I watched her continue her education amidst teaching my dad that just because she was far surpassing his, this did not mean that she was going to leave him in the dust. ¬†The last true moment I can remember of my mom talking about her fight to stand up for what she believed with my dad was when she got her doctorate degree and he was having a moment where he felt the need to ask “Why is this so important to you?” ¬†My mom explained to me that my dad was insecure in this area of his life, but that she was not going to let that hold her back or stop her from pursuing her ultimate dream of obtaining that degree. ¬†I could not have been more proud of her. ¬†After a series of events, however, all of that changed. ¬†Every year, I see less and less of that strong woman my mother used to be. ¬†All my sister and I see now is someone who has almost no individuality and certainly no strength left to hold my dad accountable for his own issues. ¬†Instead, she takes his on. ¬†She chooses to sympathize and explain away his alcoholism, his selfishness, and his denial (which is the cause of it all). ¬†It truly does not matter how hurtful this behavior is, because in her mind, my dad is the most selfless, loving, sensitive man she’s ever known. ¬†So much of my anger is towards my dad, and I suppose at least 2/3 of it can be attributed to the resentment that has built up over time for the fact that he stole my mother from us.

Last night, I threw a party for my little guy’s birthday. ¬†After everyone left and we were cleaning up, my dad broke into his fairly regular routine of sitting back and reflecting on how proud he is of his children and how happy he is about, well, pretty much everything. ¬†But, it usually centers these days around how proud he is of his children. ¬†This is a very strange and confusing thing for me. ¬†Up until last night, I guess I’ve been thankful for these moments. ¬†Regardless of the fact that he’s drunk as hell every time he has them, I generally welcome the compliments that come my way. ¬†My dad and I are a lot alike and I like to think I got most of his good traits (sigh). ¬†He also has a strange distrust and underlying frustration and anger towards me because as far gone as he is in the denial department, I think he senses that I can see right through him and it makes him nervous. ¬†Perhaps that is why he can particularly never relax when I’m around. ¬†I can’t relax when he’s around either, so we’re even, I guess. ¬†Last night, he called me over to him for a tearful hug and it felt more like a routine than it has any other time. ¬†I went through the motions: hug him, let him hug me tighter, hug him tighter back, let him cry and tell me how wonderful I am. ¬†For some reason this time I asked him what was wrong (ha!) and he said, “I’m just happy! ¬†Nothing’s wrong, ¬†I’m crying because I’m just so happy. ¬†I love watching you and your brother and sister living your lives and being such wonderful, happy people. ¬†You know how wonderful you are, Karen? ¬†I’m so proud of you!” ¬†He tried to lock eyes with me this time and get me to enter this drunk, happy world with him, and instead, I just disengaged and told him, “Thank you, dad.” ¬†I continued cleaning, he didn’t miss a beat. ¬†In his mind, we’d just shared a father/daughter bonding moment. ¬†He felt even better and even more accomplished as a father. ¬†I’m not saying he never did anything for me – I know he worked his ass off so I could have anything I wanted as a kid… but those were just things. ¬†I’d much rather still have time with my mother today, perhaps some detox for him? ¬†Perhaps some compliments instead of insults when he isn’t drunk? ¬†Perhaps some anti-anxiety meds for him? ¬†Sigh.

I think this most recent visit from “The Sentimental Drunk” angered me because he felt so proud in that moment – through that lens of denial the alcohol gives him – that allows him to sit back and pat himself on the back and feel like he’s accomplished as a dad. ¬†Last night, I really felt like telling him that he could thank my therapists for my wonderfulness. ¬†I am finally realizing just how fabulous I am. ¬†So, when my dad asked me how I liked the flowers on my table and I replied, “They are very pretty, Dad…. kind of like me… ya know? ¬†I’m just sayin’…” ¬†He turned to my brother and said, “See what I mean? ¬†That kind of confidence you all have makes me so proud.” ¬†Ha! ¬†It actually made me laugh out loud that he thinks he can take credit for that. ¬†It actually makes me want to tell him that he’ll need to write me a check for about 10,000 dollars, which is probably low-balling it for how much all my therapy and trips to the hospital have costs before he can take even partial credit for it.

Confidence is something that I’ve only known in the last couple of years. ¬†I may not sound like it now, but I have more of it now than I ever have. ¬†That is why I am so lonely lately. ¬†I finally have boundaries and walls built around me that I never had before. ¬†I’m finally protecting myself. ¬†And, I know these are healthy and necessary walls. ¬†I have even returned to the gym and am getting physically stronger as well. ¬†Man, does it feel good to take a boxing or weight lifting class! ¬†I think it was the missing element for quite some time!! ¬†Also, I have this blog that allows me to lay it all out there and feel accepted and understood in a small way! ¬†I know I don’t have many followers, but every comment and every “read” validates and excites me! ¬†And, that is something! ¬†The point of this blog was to do just that! ¬†I’m currently not in therapy, so getting all of this out of me is important. ¬†I’m proud of myself for finding a way to do it. ¬†And, it is working. ¬†So, if you are reading I can’t thank you enough! ¬†Even if you don’t leave a comment, it really encourages me just to know that people are popping in and out from time to time.

Every one of these things gives me strength. ¬†Ya know, I am wonderful, Dad. ¬†I’ve worked my ass off to be this wonderful. ¬†ūüôā