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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November 14, 2012

It’s like Laundry all over again (or is that Déjà vu?)

Some may say that the common cold is the most humorous (or ironic?) plight of the human race; something so simple yet so debilitating (takes me nearly 4 weeks to get over a cold!).

I, however, think it is laundry. Each time you do it you swear you just did it!

Wash, dry, iron, fold, hang, wear; wash, dry, iron, fold, hang, wear…!

Note how it is called Laundry until it’s clean…then it’s referred to as clothes (I have to do the laundry as opposed to put the clothes in the dryer)!

Before we bought a house (we lived in an apartment complex), we would load up the laundry every two weeks and go to the laundromat. Many hours later we returned home with our clothes to hang or put in drawers. It was an all day event. We established routines and traditions – earlier morning laundry meant Taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwiches from the deli. Later in the day laundry meant pizzeria food on the way home. Sometimes we would hop into a store in the strip mall for some miscellaneous item we needed. Sometimes we read or played travel games. I often remarked at how much I was looking forward to never ever coming back to a laundromat. I swore I wouldn’t spend an entire day doing the laundry!

I think our fundamental internal struggles are a lot like laundry, each with its own cyclical pattern. We design routines around them. We create habits to deal with them.

Anger, sadness, fear, regret; anger, sadness, fear, regret…

Every few years I seem to have to drudge up the major, traumatic events in my life that helped shape my psychoses. I’ve found a new therapist, decided to try once again to deal with them once and for all or something triggered the cycle.

Sometimes the start of Fall is the trigger. The smell, the colors and the chill. A lot happened in the Fall months.

I wash, dry, iron, fold and try to put away the emotions. Somehow I think the more I entertain the cycle the more residue there is left behind.

However, somewhere underneath these memories, I still exist.

How focused I have become on the memories and residues. How far removed I have become from the complete picture.

It’s like when you have a body image disorder and you look in the mirror – all you see are the fat thighs or the wide hips. You never see your entire self; just the parts you’ve decided are the worst.

I am not the sum of my worst moments.

I am not a remnant of my potential.

I am not held together by residue from mistakes made.

But after spending 5 hours washing and drying laundry and folding and packing up the clothes, one is left wondering how else could that time have been spent?

What if I didn’t spend my energy on anger, sadness, fear and regret? What if Fall just meant another day with different weather?

It has been nearly 24 years of dealing with particular internal struggles and I am left stating at the washing machine wondering when I can stop.

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