Month: May 2015

I’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

My mom grew up in a family in which family members said hurtful things to each other and, instead of apologizing, they then just acted like none of it ever happened. From what I can gather, they all seemed to grow up inured to this way of life, and largely unaffected by it. This dysfunctional scheme for managing conflict oozed into the fabric of the family system in which I spent my formative years. I still cringe every time I think about an argument brewing because I knew whoever was upset with me would NOT make a case for the finer points of view for which he or she argue. Instead, the angry party would merely scream something at me like, “You’re just a fat pig who is weird and has no friends.” Even though deep down inside of me, I knew this was fundamentally wrong, I was powerless to stop it. My parents never did anything to stop, and sometimes my mom did it herself. I can still remember the time she called me a slut, even though I wasn’t even dating. The amazing thing is that no one in my family, including my mother, ever apologized for anything mean or hurtful they say, they just acted like it never happened. I have been thinking about that today because I realize how much that has shaped who I am today — in both good and bad ways.

The Good: In a good way, I am very careful when I am angry. Sadly, I think I am often too careful, but I when I get angry, I am scared to death that I am going to lash out like members of my family effectively trained me to do. I loathe that heritage. So, what frequently happens on those rare occasions when I am truly furious is that I shut down. I stew – sometimes for hours, sometimes for days. I have to chew on my fury until I am able to calmly use to express (to whoever needs to hear it) what I need. I honestly try to use my anger to define my needs and NOT to blame anyone else for my own feelings. Generally, I think I am okay at this, but like any human being, I fail sometimes.

The Bad: Sometimes, I tend to just swallow my anger, and that is not healthy. I suspect that is one of the reasons I struggle with my depression. I have heard it said that “depression is anger turned inward.” Well, I am the poster-child for that expression. I guess I decided somewhere along the way that it was better to turn anger in on myself than to do to others why I thought my family did to me. The worst thing that I am starting to think has resulted from those unhealthy anger explosions is that somewhere along the way, I shut down emotionally.

I just read a book by Melissa Rivers about her mother, Joan Rivers. Some of the things that Joan Rivers did and said to Melissa, I might find unforgivable, but Melissa was able to find the humor in all of it because she loved her mother. I see family situations all the time in which some member of the family does something so horrible that I am flabbergasted that anyone could forgive the person. Not only do family members forgive, but they show love and compassion. Somewhere along the way, I have lost my ability to feel love – at least for people.

I love my dogs, but I think I love them because they are dogs and they can’t hurt like people can. I think I love my husband, but only because I trust him like I have trusted no other human being in my entire life. I sometimes worry that I don’t love him as much as he loves me because I don’t really have the capacity to love anyone because my ability to love shut down decades ago.

I see brothers and sisters who seem to love each other so much on Facebook, and, yes, I know much of what is on Facebook is mythical. Hell, most people who see me on Facebook are generally fooled into thinking I am happy even though I think about dying pretty much every day. My point is that envy those brothers and sisters so much. I would love to think that I could call my brothers and sister for a get-together, and they would delighted to spend time with me. I cannot even think about calling anyone of them without getting the sweats. What would we talk about? How long would the conversation go before I said the wrong thing?

They think I over-analyze everything, so the idea that our childhood was anything but perfect is something they don’t want to hear. Moreover, any problems I have as a result of our childhood are MY problems, and I need to just get over it. Sadly, I am who I am, and I have realized that my emotional health has become far more important to me than playing along.

Commencement Revelations

We all make sacrifices for the ones we love. I have 8 nephews and 2 nieces. Since I do not have children (beyond my dogs), I would do almost anything for my nephews and nieces. This weekend, one of my nephews (who is also one of my Godsons) graduated from high school. Since he seemed to want me to come early for a Friday morning event at this school (Class Day), I left at 2:30 a.m. on Friday morning to make the almost 7-hour drive to arrive in time. I was not in town two hours before my sister (his mother) told me that I was too loud and I needed to be quiet. Were my feelings hurt? YES! Did I say anything? No, I shut up. No conflict for my nephew’s special weekend because he hates conflict.

I was EXHAUSTED, but I was a good sport and went along to lunch. After lunch, I went to nap for a while at the hotel (thank God for the hotel!!!) before dinner. My sister called to remind me to go to dinner with them, and, of course, we dined at a restaurant where they had virtually no gluten-free options. Since I am gluten-free, having no gluten-free options is a problem. She rolled her eyes. I ordered a burger without the bun and went back to the hotel hungry.

This morning, I was the first to arrive at the graduation location. I arrived at the appointed time, but no one was there as I was told they would be. I reserved the seats for the family, but after the ceremony, I turned around for 5 minutes (since my sister ignored me while she socialized with all of her friends), and when I turned around, everyone was gone. I was the ONLY member of either side of our family who made the trip to my nephew’s graduation, and no one seemed to give a damn that I was there. Now, candidly, I do not blame my nephews. They are gracious boys, and they have learned what manners they have from my sister and her husband. I feel like my sister is far more concerned with her status among the people she perceives to be the “important people” in her community than her family, especially. I probably would have told her to kiss my ass a long time ago, but I was a relationship with her sons. They are great young men who, I believe, need me in their lives, and I do not want to risk losing them alienating their mother. That said, however, keeping her in my life makes me feel like shit. Being around my sister makes me feel small.

Tonight, she invited me to attend a graduation part with my nephew, 10 of his friends and their families. I drank half a bottle of whiskey just to get through what little of it I was able to endure. I stayed about 1 hour, but after being ignored by virtually everyone there, including my own damn sister, I left. I went to a local restaurant and had dinner. I promise you, if I hosted a party and noticed ANYONE at the party sitting alone and not engaged, I would do anything in my power to make sure that person was having some fun. I mean, good grief, it’s not as if I am a wallflower! But there was not a person there who gave a damn that I was sitting alone for almost an hour. What really blows my mind, however, is that my own sister is more concerned with showing off that making sure I am somehow included. I cannot believe what I bitch she is. I can only hope her sweet boys inherit more of their nature from their father than from her.

Post-trip Reflections: After a long drive home alone in my car, I had lots of time to think about all that happened this weekend. Sadly, I sense that my sister (who is only one year younger than I am) has  nursed a general dislike/resentment of me for the greater portion of the time we have both been on this earth. Her facial expressions and body language whenever I am in her presence make her look as if she is either (1) waiting on me to say something that will provoke her to anger or (2) merely itching for a reason to put me in my place. As for me, I am no saint, but I sincerely just wish we could get along. I would give just about anything for an hour during which I could feel like my own sister sincerely liked me. It has been evident for all of my life that she would not even give me the time of day if we were not related.

The party for my nephew was so revealing. There were on 42 students in my nephew’s class, but the parents of the 10 most popular kids decided to get together and have a swanky party and a large manor house for the kids, some of their friends and the parents who appear to be living vicariously through their popular kids. Each kid was given a table with designer graduation cakes and stacks of presents and graduation cards. My sister insisted that I not give my nephew his present early so that my gift for him would be added to his table. Even my nephew commented sarcastically, “Oh, because it’s a competition.” Apparently, it was.

During the party, all the parents seemed dressed to see and be seen. I tried speaking to some people, but no one was remotely interested in me. I sat all alone in a chair in the front yard for almost an hour while people walked around me and ignored me. If I were at a party and noticed someone sitting alone, I would have done anything to make sure the lonely person felt included. No there cared. After I left, I think it took my sister another 45 minutes to realize I was gone. She seemed angry that I left. If I had invited someone to a party like that (even her!), and ignored her for almost two hours to the point where she left, I would have felt awful, not angry. Rationally, I realize this should indicate some flaw on her part, but emotionally, I cannot help but wonder why I am so unlovable that even my own sister is unable to like me or love me. If I did not love her sons so much, I would have quit trying a long time ago.

My spirit is just broken.

Mother’s Day

Virtually every post on Facebook today was either someone celebrating being a mother or fondly remembering a deceased mother. Since I do not have kids, and I cannot say I have many fond memories of my deceased mother, I was hoping for some good cheer. I told my husband much of this past week that I was expecting some sort of Mother’s Day recognition from out dogs. I guess he thought I was joking because I did not even get a card. Fortunately, I had scheduled a massage for myself today. I try to remember that just because I try to anticipate the wants and needs of people I love, I cannot expect people to do the same for me. The feeling I feel most often, both at work and in my personal life, is taken for granted. I cannot describe how often I wish I could just spontaneously combust and completely disappear, especially since I already feel so dispensable. Days like today just reinforce those feelings.

Pruning the Branches of My Life

This past week, I heard a homily at Mass about how we cannot grow beautiful flowers unless we are diligent in pruning our gardens. Upon reflection, I am realizing that I have been unnecessarily tangled in vines and branches of anger and resentment that are holding me back. I can continue to wrestle with them, or I can begin to trim them away. I have spent too much time and energy worrying about to battle or “manage” these vines and branches instead of just cutting them away. Snip! Snip!