Notes to Self

July 16, 2013

Obligation

I haven’t spoken to my family for four or so months now.

Within weeks I noticed how much happier of a person I was. I am still finding ways where I am “healing” and am becoming a different person. For example, whenever my husband was in a bad mood I always assumed it was my fault and that he was resenting me and would eventually leave me. I would then try to make him feel better, which ultimately angered him (like everyone, he just wanted to be left alone!). But the other day, when he was tired and cranky, I didn’t blame myself. I didn’t try to fix it and I didn’t think he was going to leave me. I just recognized that he was in a bad mood and that was that. When I realized this change I was floored…first, I never realized that I was doing this and, second, never imagined the link between how my family treated me, how I interpreted their treatment of me and how I applied the effects to every little aspect of my life.

I have received a few emails (“thinking about you…”) and calls (they never leave messages) but I don’t respond. I have nothing to say.

However an email I received (well, was copied on) the other day threw me for a short loop. Evidently my mother required surgery and, based on the little bit of information I received, I can only surmise that she has some form of cancer (pre or very early stage). I had to stop and really think about how I was going to respond. How does illness and death change a relationship, and should it?

I’ve always been there for my family. Done everything I could (above what was needed). I can’t think of anything that needs to be said or done or what would be worth reopening communication. I feel settled in my relationship with all of them, to the extent that until they change, I have nothing to say. I don’t have regret. Death is only a problem for the living. I don’t have to resolve anything with her from my perspective. I think people go to ill and dying relatives with which they severed ties because they need closure or resoluation for something. I don’t.

But the legacy obligation (haven’t you heard that blood is thicker than water and family is all you’ll ever really have?) made me initially take pause and wonder if I should change my approach. But as I worked it all out, I realized that the culture with which I grew up…do it because it’s family and that’s all you’ll ever have…I’m done with that. How I respond to them and how I treat myself as a consequence of the interactions are two very different things. Until I can stop beating myself up for every little thing, I don’t think I can be with them. They destroy me.

All of this change I am encountering – it is powerful stuff. As powerful as all the damage that was done. I am proud of myself for finally being true to me; standing up for myself and my well-being. These are enormous, positive changes that are making me a better person and better wife and mother.

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April 15, 2013

A year’s worth of work

Today I realized that it has been almost one year since I returned to therapy. I was surprised by this information, although not in a bad way – just seems like the time went by quickly (but doesn’t it always!).

However the more important bit of information is how this years worth of work was put into action yesterday. And I am quite proud of myself!

My mother stopped by for a visit yesterday, unannounced. I believe this is what you call an ambush.

She walked in demanding to know why I have cut everyone out of our lives. I am not joking – from the moment she entered the room she said “what is going on” – and she wanted the truth, mind you.

She continued to tell me how everyone is so pained and no one understands what’s going on with me and why would I do this to them (note the assignment of victimization here).

I told her that I was busy today and I didn’t want to discuss it right now. I told her that showing up, unannounced to have this conversation was selfish.
She told me that she figured it was the only way I would talk. I told her that didn’t make it right.

Despite my telling her I didn’t want to talk she continued to press. She continued to demand that I do as she commands.

I told her that no one hears or listens to what I say. She said she heard me and she was listening. Yet she pressed on and demanded me to respond. (So she basically admitted to ignoring me, evidently without it registering in her selfish brain that she did so).

Finally, when she said something that really got me really angry I stood up and told her it was time to leave.

I was filled with anxiety and had to breath deep and quickly for a little while. I was a little shaky from the confrontation.

But I had stood up for myself in a way I don’t think I have ever done before. I stated my position and stuck with it. I didn’t cave to her demands. I didn’t give in because that was what they wanted.

I recognized the conditions of this event almost as soon as it started. I saw it for what it was, factually, and didn’t get tied up emotionally.

This wasn’t someone who cared about me or my family. This was someone who cared about her.

I wasn’t being approached out of concern for me, I was being approached out of selfishness and self-centeredness.

It was a good moment for me, to assert myself, protect myself and finally, after so many years, not give up myself to meet their demands.

I think this tells me more than I can hear right now – the promise it holds and the potential for growth.

I think I am closer than I realize to looking in the mirror without disgust.

I think I joked in an earlier post about how long does it take to overcome, likening it to losing weight.

I don’t think I have “overcome” completely, but in this tiny amount of time (and really, one year is so small) I have made huge strides and I can’t tell you how proud of myself I am!

Yeah me!

July 11, 2012

Something to ponder

This morning a coworker shared the following quote with me (source may be Francois de La Rochefoucauld):

One forgives to the degree one loves

At first it seems like a nice, sweet statement. You can hear yourself saying “awww, that’s nice”.

But then you think about someone you haven’t forgiven or something you haven’t forgiven someone for. And it is no longer sweet. It is a painful and sad statement.

And if you then think of someone you have forgiven, and you realize how much you love them compared to the person you haven’t forgiven it gets even sadder.

After thinking about this a little bit more I thought that maybe the use of the word “love” was too general.

Isn’t trust a factor? Or is trust just part of Love?

What about intent (or perceived intent)? Or is that part of trust?

Maybe the person intentionally hurt you or they weren’t sorry, never would be and would most likely do it again? Maybe this was a repeat offense, and prior attempts to resolve the issue were ignored…

I talk a lot about my parents or rather my relationship with them, and, for a 36 year old, I realize this may be odd to most readers. I can imagine folk saying Grow up already! Cut the cord! Get over it!

But my siblings and I still live a few miles from them and we all still get together frequently. Which means that I still deal not only with the surface bullshit (which gets very overwhelming) but also the long-standing wounds that I have yet to resolve for myself. And because these issues still affect my daily life it is hard to simply move on (thus my re-entry into Therapy).

I never forgave my parents, I just moved on. I ignore a lot and when I can’t ignore I scream to my husband about it/them. I vow never to be like them. I pray that I am not already.

So I stopped this morning and thought about this – that maybe I don’t really love them. Maybe they don’t really love me. Maybe it is a matter of fact relationship; parent and child. We are just fulfilling an obligation.

I call my parents a few times a week, which I now do out of a sense of obligation. I don’t enjoy talking with them (other than the opportunity to go on and on about my daughter – although I usually then get a mix of lectures and judgments and silent guilt that they don’t see her often enough…). I usually hang up and am completely frustrated and irritated. Sometimes angry and sometimes very sad.

So why do I do it? Based on the quote at the beginning of this post it isn’t because I love them.

It is so interesting how we hang on to things – to people even – and never really think about it.

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