Tag Archives: Contradiction

Speak.

I love my new therapist. For those of you who are in therapy, I highly suggest switching therapists at least every 3 years. A lot of growth and discovery can happen in three years when you’re committed but after that time, it is necessary to have someone else’s strategies, if for no other reason than to shake you out of your comfort zone. I have reluctantly changed therapists three times (and by therapists, I mean the 3 good ones I’ve had). This time, I took a year off and then finally realized that it was time to bite the bullet and “start over.” That is why it took me so long to see someone else – I just could not bear the thought of rehashing my entire life for someone new. I even thought it may be unhealthy for me to do so. Not so! She has an entirely new approach and expertise in areas I didn’t even realize would be relevant for me, such as post traumatic stress. I’ve learned extremely valuable lessons from each of my therapists – but there’s something different about the one I have now. She questions me, which means she’s really listening. She challenges my thinking, which means she’s not afraid to call me on my shit – who doesn’t need to be called on their shit!? NO ONE. The most important thing she has done so far, though, is to validate me in very specific and important ways.

I have come to a place where I tell “my story” as if I’m reading from a script to anyone who will listen. I almost don’t even thing about the events of my life, I just explain them and then ask, “Why am I not over it?” I didn’t have my records transferred to my new therapist because I wanted to start anew, and this was a wise choice. As I am explaining matter-of-factly the huge decision my parents made when I was 15 that I’ve always said forever changed my life, she stopped me and reminded me, “You realize that a decision means they had a choice, don’t you?” My immediate response was “Well, they didn’t really have a choice… my dad would have lost his job if…” She stopped me. “What may or may not have happened with your dad’s job is part of what they had to weigh when making the decision. But regardless of the factors that played into their decision, it was still a choice.” I was somewhat speechless and shocked that I’d never actually believed it was, which had allowed me to pity them and feel guilty for being angry at their decision for so many years. I had to think about it for a few weeks before I could make sense of it. And it seems so simple, doesn’t it?

I started to realize how often my parents, and my entire family for that matter, present scenarios to me as if another choice other than the one they are choosing is just not possible. In fact, every one of these circumstances absolutely do involve the option of a more respectful, less hurtful choice. So, I started to ponder the concept of choice in general. This realization has freed me in a way 200 more therapy sessions of hearing myself talk never ever could have. I’ve told that particular story my therapist heard at least 20 times to various people in my life, therapists and friends alike. Every time I have presented it as a tough situation for my parents in which they had no other choice. Just changing the beginning of the story will now change the way I tell the rest of it. This particular epiphany is quite monumental.

Since I have decided that this new therapy journey I’ve just embarked upon will be the one that heals me apart from my family as well, I have been pushing myself to challenge my self-talk. And, what do you know? I do it too. I make decisions and remain in circumstances as if another choice is simply not an option. “I hate my job but I can’t do anything about it because I have to stay here so my husband has the freedom to change jobs as he wishes because he’s hated his job longer than I have and our benefits are with my job.” Now, it may seem noble of me to make that decision. But I’ve been making that decision A LOT, practically for our entire marriage. I just figured out part of the reason I have such resentment for my husband – because of CHOICES that I have made. It is a choice for me to stay in my job. I have potential that far outreach my day-to-day “duties” and yet I accept that doing anything but collecting that paycheck and those benefits is “impossible.” It’s not impossible. The resentment plays in when I don’t see my husband actively applying himself to looking for a new job as I feel he should. So, he doesn’t spend every waking hour looking for a new job – the longer he spends procrastinating the longer I have to stay in my job, and you see how the tension in my house remains fairly high. What I really need to do is to make a different choice.

A wise friend once told me that taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do, because if you don’t do that, you can’t take care of anyone else. I used to think that was selfish way of thinking – and the reason I felt that was a selfish way to think is in part because I have been surrounded by people who did not take care of themselves my entire life. I was also taught that any attempt to take care of self was, in fact, selfish. I am still being taught that looking out for myself is selfish.

And, here we arrive at the title of this post. This weekend, my parents were to come to town – for their usual 24 hour visit. The details of what occurred aren’t really relevant. My parents made another hurtful and extremely selfish decision. Considering many recent events in my and my sister’s lives, we were both extra bothered by this decision. My sister has always been the peace maker and regardless of how upset she is, she will never stand up and say why. I usually don’t either, but I’ve been closer and closer to the end of my rope in the last two years and I finally couldn’t take it any more. I refuse to enable their behavior, and that is a choice that I’ve been making for my entire life now – mostly subconsciously but now that I realize there are other choices, I’m going to start making them. I called my mother and explained to her that her decision had caused unnecessary confusion, energy, and hurt. I was respectful, calm, and very direct. I am not normally direct. 10 minutes after I got of the phone with my mom, my dad called. I let it go to voicemail because I knew exactly what had happened in the last 10 minutes. My mom called my dad and told him that I was mean. My dad called me to “punish” me. His voicemail essentially said that he didn’t like my “attitude” and that I could call him if I wanted to discuss the situation. Let’s be clear… by “discuss” he meant lecture. I was not interested in being lectured, so I made a choice to save myself the pain that would have come from taking his verbal abuse in that moment. The voicemail was enough.

So, blogger friends, this is a giant step in the right direction for me. I like this study on the power of choice. I like the perspective it’s given me. The realization that my parents have had a choice in how they treated me and still treat me gives me the freedom to take back the power of my own choices. And I choose not to sit by and let their choices affect my daily life any longer. It will be and has been a long journey, but I am getting there. The first step was today, when I made the choice to SPEAK. And I think I’ll be doing that much more often.

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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?  


Reformation

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted and there are far too many reasons to explain why. ¬†Ultimately, I am finding that blogging is getting harder instead of easier. ¬†I realized that while I started this blog as an attempt to try and explore myself and write my own story, that instead I ended up writing the story of my marriage. ¬†Which, I will never understand, has been easier. ¬†The story of my bipolar marriage is not a fun one to tell, I struggle every day with what my love for my husband means and what his love for me means. ¬†I struggle with the concept of a soul mate… whether mine really does exist out there. ¬†I struggle with the lack of solid support in my life, I struggle with strength of self. ¬†I struggle with the idea that I have settled for a life less than what I imagined it should be. ¬†A very good friend remarked that having an oppressive marriage feels at times like your life is being stolen away from you, day by day, hour by hour. ¬†I’ve felt that way.

But.

In the beginning of my blog journey, I wanted to to explore myself. ¬†I wanted to tell my stories. ¬†I didn’t want to harp and hound my marital circumstances. ¬†I don’t think they will change, regardless of what drastic measures do or do not happen. ¬†I don’t think my marriage is ever going to change. ¬†I think this is the life I chose for myself and am still choosing to live in for the moment and so that I need to make the most of it. ¬†I don’t mean this quite as cliche as it sounds. ¬†It just is. ¬†I’ve not accepted¬†inexcusable¬†behavior, nor will I fight for myself any less. ¬†I am a different, stronger person than I was when I met my husband and that is irreversible.

For now, I need to stop focusing on what I can’t change. ¬†I need to focus on what I can change. ¬†The blog was titled “the colors of me” because I wanted to tell my stories. ¬†I have so many stories to tell. ¬†Telling them will no doubt bring me closer to myself. ¬†I need to be there, I need to understand what makes my heart beat before I go blaming someone else for not making it beat stronger. ¬†My strength needs to come from within.

I have come a long way in my search for understanding. ¬†I’m still young and I have a long life ahead of me. ¬†I also have a past that is filled with family secrets, denial, shame, fear,¬†hypocrisy, tragedy, and abuse. ¬†I need to write these stories down. ¬†I’ve told them… many times… to many friends and therapists. ¬†I don’t think I’ve ever told them to myself… so I’m going to make a promise to myself to start telling myself these stories in an effort to get to know myself through them. ¬†They are ugly stories, but they are necessary truths that I must embrace.


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.