Tag Archives: unparalleled comfort

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.


Courage and Cravings

‚ÄúHave enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē¬†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.
‚ÄúMost 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.‚Ä̬†‚Äē¬†Dale Carnegie

‚ÄúCourage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē¬†Mary Anne Radmacher

‚ÄúThings 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.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē¬†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.


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