Tag Archives: Memory

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.

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Opposing Lenses

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

*conversation with my father, tonight.


Courage and Cravings

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”
― Maya Angelou

Blogging can be lonely as hell.  So can marriage.  Let me tell you, I don’t know what keeps me writing or fighting sometimes.  Is it courage?  Or insanity?  What makes me so scared to start saving money and making this divorce happen?  What makes me believe that there could still be hope?  I feel these days like I’m slowly coming apart at the seams despite my incredible determination not to.  I believe it’s just exhaustion… shear exhaustion.  Exhaustion from years of trying to explain myself and the problems to my husband.  Years.  YEARS.
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” ― Dale Carnegie

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher

“Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be.”
― Samuel Johnson

He is trying.  I can tell.  In the last few days there have been some signs of a fundamental change.  I know it will not happen over night.  The only problem with it is that it is so incredibly late.  I want to feel grateful and relieved and “back to normal.”  I want to crave him… but I don’t.

The only thing I crave these days are my dreams.  I’ve been having recurring dreams of the one that got away; rather, the one that almost was.  The one that was my best friend.  The one that wouldn’t leave the room unless he knew that I felt at least better… until I felt understood and heard.  The one that could hug me and make the world disappear.  In my dreams, he’s been doing that.  He’s been hugging me, and I’ve finally been able to feel his intimate touch and his lips against mine.  It has been my saving grace in the middle of the night… compensation for the lack of affection and security I feel with my husband.  A good friend told me that he is showing up in my life to remind me that it is possible for me to be loved that way – that it’s out there.  Of course, I spend a lot of time (too much time?) imagining that he sometimes dreams of me as well… that he wonders if he made the right choice.  I wonder if he thinks about me and longs to know what it would’ve been like to grow and travel the world with me.  It seems like he’s living the life I was meant to live, somehow.  Whatever the reason he has come back into my life, even if only fantastically, I am so grateful for it.  I am grateful for those dreams that feel so real I wake up feeling comforted and loved.


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.