|Tuesday, October 21st, 2003|
The following is a letter I wrote to my aunt today because I am so totally sick of the absurd fight they are having over my grandmother's estate.
I recently got a call from Gloria where she alluded to “documentation” you had that she was controlling. I am guessing that this is probably in the form of the stuff that I wrote to you long ago. If not, I apologize for the assumption.
I would like myself and anything I have said to you in the past to be left out of your vindictive petty squabbling over crap neither of you need and your ongoing lifetime of hatred toward each other.
I once attempted to reach out to you because I felt bereft of family I could turn to, and in the hope that you would somehow have skipped the trauma that must have been your shared childhood. I was a very young, very angry person, and while what I said was true, it was also incomplete and baggage associated with trying to come to terms with myself and my past.
The balanced picture is this: I think that both of you have hated each other and tried to wall each other out in self protection most of your lives. I believe you’re both insecure and need help. You’ve convinced yourselves that you must try to control each other before the other controls you and that this is necessary because the other is so mean/controlling/vindictive/broken/deceitful/whatever. As far as I can tell this has gone on most of your lives because you could not acknowledge that you were both equal victims in your own ways as children and come to share that as a building block for trust between you where you couldn’t trust your parents.
Despite my sometimes fawning little girl crush on your father, the light of every room he was in and expert on all topics, I have come to understand as an adult, what it must have been like to grow up with that in a father. You could fight it obsessively to the point of complete loss of reason beyond the continual need to fight, like Gloria seems to have, or you can choose your route and try to hide from being noticed, pretend you’re the good kid, attempt to dodge the angry wrath you watched between your father and your sister and nurse your wounds more privately whenever possible. Whatever you decided, you all lived in his shadow. He had a textbook case of ADD but nobody knew what that was back then. He learned how to turn it to his advantage in most situations, except at home where meltdown was imminent.
Your mother seems to have struggled much of her life with depression that has gone untreated. She has never been an especially easy going, nurturing or agreeable person. She was born to a generation where you didn’t question that you wanted kids. You had them because you were supposed to. But she seemed to find relatively little reward from the two of you growing up, and you both knew that and hated each other for it, because you couldn’t call it what it really was. She picked a career over you two, but still had you because she was supposed to want children and have a perfect family or because Ralph wanted kids, I don’t know which.
Instead of growing up and realizing that it sucked for both of you and that was your parents’ problem, not each others’, you have turned it into a lifetime of hating each other for the things that you imagine the other one got that you didn’t. You imagine that Gloria got effective attention from your parents before you came along. That they were somehow nurturing to her but not you. You imagine that the amount Gloria fought with your parents was at least attention and you never got any, preferring to hide as much as possible from them. You imagine that she has always been their favorite and the favorite of the rest of the family and friends because you lacked the social skills to draw those people in and thus you hated Gloria for having them and now you compete for their approval since your father is dead and can never approve of either of you.
Gloria hates you for feeling like you got loving attention from Ralph as a baby that she never got. She hates you for not having the financial skills to take care of yourself and thus constantly getting money and help and loans that she never got and wouldn’t have gotten if she’d asked because of the terminal Mexican standoff about her choices that existed between your parents and Gloria. She hates you because you didn’t bear the load of fighting with them constantly and playing go between when they stopped talking to each other. She hates you because she gave you lots of the attention she never got herself, reading to you, taking you places on her bike, whatever, from your parents and you never seemed to appreciate the effort because you were busy mourning your parents not providing it, etc.
The list goes on and on and on. All of it is shit your parents failed at. They probably meant well. They tried, I’m sure. They were bound by a cultural nightmare for a woman who never wanted children and for two people who sucked at communication and they both came from nothing and hadn’t the first idea what to do with either of you in any functional way. But their best still fucked both of you over. Accept that and move the fuck on instead of hating each other over it and beating each other over the heads with your competitively ridiculous paranoia and resulting attempts to control each other.
Your parents meant well, loved you in their own way, probably did the best they could and better than many, but ultimately they were not what either of you needed and they had very limited resources related to how to get it right with kids or even how to communicate amongst themselves. You were both neglected and probably also abused because of the situation and the limitation of the parties involved and the information available to them.
The really sad thing is that neither of you seem to acknowledge how much you need help. Neither of you seem willing to see that you have desperate communication deficiencies, trust issues, control issues, brain chemistry problems, etc. because of your genetic heritage and your childhood experiences. You’re both too busy blaming and trying to wall people out of your lives or control and micro-manage them in some other way. I pity both of you on the topic.
Because neither of you have ever dealt with the disaster that was your childhood, you never found a way to not perpetuate the pattern. You both duplicated the worst aspects of your parents in your own spousal and child rearing experiences as far as I can tell. You fought with Elisha just like Gloria fought constantly with me. You both taught the second child to hide from the ongoing war. You both picked spouses you could snow plow into most things and fight with the rest of the time.
I’m done fighting. I’m done passing it on for the next generation to struggle with as well. I’m done with hearing about the many ways that you two have found to express your hatred and distrust for each other. I am done being either of your pawn to manipulate the other. I am done considering either of you family. I am done expecting anything of the two of you other than what I have always seen until such time as one of you shows some sort of forward growth requiring reevaluation. I’m not looking for changes in either of you at this point because I have seen so little evidence to support the idea that it will ever happen.
What I have learned in the intervening years is that family are the people who support you when you need it. Family are the people who can be trusted. In my case, family has almost nothing to do with my genetic line as much as I have at times wished that it could be otherwise. I have learned that there is no shame in treatment for abuse, neglect and chemical problems. I have learned that it is possible to have loving relationships where you sit down and solve problems instead of screaming, threatening, ranting, accusing, blaming, hurting and falling into the gaping maw of the abyss of depression wherein “why me?” seems like a legitimate question. I have found that the adult answer to “why me?” is “because you chose this path and continue to chose it. Choose differently if you need to.” So long as you cling to the pattern and continue to reproduce your end of it the same way over and over again, it is your fault your life is hell on the subject in question and you can choose to change that. I have learned not to do things because I’m supposed to and not to do them just because I’m not supposed to. I have learned to decide a real path forward in my life and to kick myself into motion when I feel stagnant through whatever tools are necessary, be they medications, counseling, journaling to myself or anything else. I have learned that in every fight there are two parties fighting instead of being the bigger person and that they are both equally responsible.
If either of you were remotely capable of being adults about your mother’s imminent death, you would both agree to assign the entire estate over to a third party to divide as evenly as possible and require agreement to be reached before possession is taken of anything, like you mother should have done in her will had she had any willingness to see the two of you for what you are instead of dwelling on who to give each gravy boat to. I once suggested it to her, but a stubborn desire to force you two to get along as her dying wish prevented the possibility, not that she had any real chance at success with the two of you through such a means. But then if you were adult about it, you would not both be hording, Gollum style, anything of value, stroking it and calling it precious and trying to make sure you each get the biggest share of what is important to you in the first place. You would be honored by being left anything and negotiate with each other effectively about the details.
I write this to you because I want you to understand that while I cannot force you not to use my attempt to find family where none was available and heal some very strong pain to attempt to manipulate Gloria, you do so as a misrepresentation of my adult feelings about you both. Neither of you have shown me anything remotely suggesting that you might be able to claim the moral high ground of sanity. I hope that Elisha and I are asked to testify in the court battle that is the logical conclusion of all of this nonsense, because I think that the courts will hear a very interesting answer about the two of you that will lead to this particular saga ending a lot differently than either of you would demand it happen. I want it to be clear that if asked in a court of law, I will tell them that I think you’re both crazy as bed bugs and wish that you would seek help instead of fighting over stuff neither of you need. I will tell them that I remember being that crazy myself, and that that is the ground from which I claim this. I will tell them to appoint a third party as executor on the estate and to sell everything you can’t agree on and divide the money exactly in half.
I do not regret having said what I said to you back then. I will deal with it if you have some obsessive need to hurt Gloria by showing it to her, should that come up despite my request back then not to do so, because I meant every word at the time and in that state of pain, however little she will hear any of it anyway in her blind fury to lash back at you instead of listening. It is my opinion that it will not change anything and will just elicit her being equally cruel in return just like the last hundred times you two have gone rounds with each other. She will be more actively furious at me for a while, but I’m used to that and good at protecting myself from the wrath of broken mothers at this point. This is what door locks, caller ID and the delete feature on voicemail are for. That is why I did not go to Ralph’s funeral when I would not have a way to leave when you two showed your complete lack of respect for him, your mother, yourselves and each other. The whole thing disgusted me because I saw it coming long before it happened.
On other topics, I recall that you had been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I have read some that salt (potassium and calcium) deficiencies have been linked to CFS and arthritis and a variety of other similar muscular and skeletal system failure diseases. Blood tests can tell you what your levels look like on the subject. Also, going on Wellbutrin has done wonders for both my depression as well as the ADD and has an odd side effect, because it alters the dopamine reception in the brain. It also got rid of many of my symptoms that had been diagnosed as CFS. Basically if you brain has too much or two little dopamine or a faulty regulation system it can effect the pain sensors in your brain dramatically, causing essentially phantom pain. This is especially true if you are one of the quarter of the populace who inherited no pain modulation gene from either parent. I do not know if any of that information might be of use to you, but there are too many people in pain in this world, so I share it in case it might help to heal physical wounds since I long ago gave up on the extended families emotional ones.
I will offer this to you once and only once, and you may decide if you are capable of trusting the offer or not, but we are considerably financially more comfortable than either you or Gloria at this point. We have a ton of computer equipment of all sorts including 50 year stable professional print quality printing capacity (more stable and enduring than most real photo paper). I use it to create the prints of my art that I sell. I have the technology to scan all of the family photos and paper heirlooms and give people print and/or CD copies of all of them. I am willing to spend the considerable time this would entail if it can solve one of the major feuds brewing between the two of you over the family albums. I would charge you the cost of print quality paper and ink if you wanted paper copies. I will not charge the estate the considerable time, and I will throw in a CD free, because they only cost me a few cents, assuming the two of you can control yourselves for however long that takes and not erupt at me about anything or start playing your games. I would require a signed statement from both of you about what to do with the originals upon completion, and I would need adequate time to copy them all as my life permits without emotional or control related drama ensuing.
Also, we are going to purchase a laser record reading device some time in the next few years to start a non-profit museum of historic music online. We have been collecting antique records for some time now. This is the only known technology that does not degrade the original record in any way while replicating it. Because the device is running at about $8k at this point, it is dependant on either a grant application being accepted or some time for us to rebuild savings now that Joel is once again employed so that we have enough cushion beyond the expenditure on the device. I am willing to make CDs of any antique records beyond their copyright should you choose to donate the records to the collection and are willing to wait for the device in question to materialize in our lives. I have not had any trouble finding records and have never assumed I would see the family photos again, anyway, so whatever you decide and whatever your justification makes no real difference to me. You need not explain your answer because I don’t care what your reasoning or emotional basis for the decision entails. You need only inform me if you do wish either potential to happen and not start any of the emotional nonsense on the subject because I will no longer be willing to help once it ensues. Otherwise I will assume you’d both rather duke it out between you over them and hate each other and fight in court or threaten each other or whatever it is that you all intend to do since I haven’t been keeping close track.
There is some chance we will decide something to convert film to DVD would be a possibility in the future, but I would have to look into whether there would be enough of a market to make it worth the expenditure or whether we had some personal want for the technology for other reasons. If it happened it might take care of your battle about the home movies Gloria has. Until I know more, I cannot say whether we would be willing to purchase the equipment or not, but I would be willing to let you know if we do, if you would appreciate it as a way to help solve your feud over them.
I wish you both reality and healing and help. You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I trust that you can use the address with more self control than reports of what you and Gloria seem to achieve in email with one another.
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11:29a - PAtterns
So we had a group session at the counselors' office last night. Most of it went okay, but we got onto the subject of food and the fight that always ensues about dinner and the cooking versus eating out, etc.
A couple of relevant things came to the surface. Dinner as we understand it is a completely broken subject. The one time that I feel like we all successfully communicate together (at dinner) is both not "family time" to Deb, and Deb feels like she can't get a word in edgewise and no one cares or listens to/about her during this time I'm percieving as the only time it's working. The same seems to be true in reverse. She feels like the times she thinks are working either don't exist often or aren't aknowledged by me to be working.
The whole thing is quite a mess.
Deb is struggling with depression pretty badly as far as I can asertain. On the way home (Deb drove the other car home from the train station) one thing that I said was that I don't ever feel like Deb is happy around me unless it's when I'm pissed off at Joel about something and that it was easy to feel like she was jealous or not really okay with poly or something. Joel observed, and I think he's probably right, that she is forcing the state to try to cheer me up at that point and the real problem is that neither he nor I could really come up with much in the way of examples of times when she really seemed happy and not constantly tired, lethargic, struggling with weird appetite fluctuations, berating herself, feeling hopeless to change anything, etc.
This manifests as Deb seeming like a work-aholic because she spends her time at home exhausted having held herself together for the emotional onslaught of work all day. This is something I've struggled with too at times. Thus evenings have often already been a loaded subject prone to emotional dissaster because everyone is tired and cranky and my need for spouse time is further drain in her exhaused state and it always feels to her like I'm keeping her from her needed sleep when I try not to do so very often. So dinner ends up with all of that as a subtext.
Then there is the issue that most of the foods that Deb seems to feel up to cooking at night are things I can't eat at night anymore because of reflux problems. She says she loves to experiment with new things in the kitchen, but I can't remember a time that she felt up to a kitchen project on any day to day basis. She seems to like the idea but has no actual energy for that or most other things.
This is compounded by the fact all of us have different eating habbits. I will spend all night nearly vommitting and awake if I eat greasy or really acidic things late at night. By the time they get home and we have dinner it is almost always late at night on my stomach's clock. Joel will not eat a vegitable to save his life, grosses out at texture extremely easily and is in general a royal pain in the ass on the subject. When I'm by myself I eat about two thirds vegitarian not because I'm trying to, but just because that's what sounds good at the time. Deb and I almost never want beef which is his first choice most of the time.
I spent so many years forced to cook for my sisters that I have a really hard time coming up with an answer to "what should we have?" because I have to sort through the emotional distress at the question in the first place and attempt to be creative on the spot while still picking something that is easy enough that it won't take all night. Most of what I think of is a half a day project, and I get frustrated. They're frustrated with me because of the grease and acid thing. I'm really frustrated with Joel and the vegitable thing.
I try to be accomodating and allow a few things on the menu that are easy or that they really like but that toe the line of what I can cope with at night, but that seems to frustrate them just as much because it often means that I have to be able to reshuffle dinner tonight based on how my acid and fat tollerance is being and whether or not I'm already experiencing reflux because it fucks with there ability to plan and feels to them like being spoiled and finicky without being able to give them immediately useful alternatives without some time to think. This just tends to piss me off because I get acussed of being picky and uncooperative when I feel like I have a medical reason to stuggle with it, I'm trying to accomadate their likes, and Joel is mostly just being finicky himself and vastly limiting the options, but he doesn't get as much shit for it daily because his is more predictable and he's willing to say "I'll just have pasta" which then triggers me feeling like I have to give because I don't want him to kill himself with the crap he'll put in his system if I don't give and he won't give. He abdicates responsibility for eating healthy food unless we make him try to and thus negates us feeling justified in telling him to knock off the horse shit about his detailed list of preferences because we know that he'll go off and eat pasta and kill himself slowly and we don't want that even if he's okay with it. I want to tell him to just stop being a 5 year old and make himself get over it and move on, but I don't think he'll listen. He has an entire childhood of fighting with his mother and asserting his own control over himself and trying to force his individuality all rolled up into this one little loaded veggie bomb and he's extremely defensive, rationalizes the nonsense or jumps to "it's hopeless, I can't help it, what do you want me to do" when any such thing is brought up.
Basically I get fed up at the fact that dinner can't just be simple and has all these hard to coordinate ground rules of people's diets. Debann seemed to be inidicating that we should just let Joel eat canned pasta if Deb and I could agree on something he wouldn't like. But I would like him to live past 40 and dinner of Chef Boyardee every night is so not healthy that I can't stand to watch it and live with it, since I know that's what he will do if we don't try to work around his nonsense on the subject. I know damn well that vitamins which I suspect he rarely remembers to even take anyway, don't make up for not eating well. That and I get sick of the we're eating together but not together dance and just want to scream "Fucking cope!" about Joel's texture and taste analysis process wherein it feels like he is guarenteed to not like anything because he's thought way so goddamned long about it and paid so much attention to it. It feels like a problem of "If you go looking for trouble, you'll find it."
If he just eats canned pasta for dinner he is often hard to get to join us while eating or for the evening. We can't agree on what family time seems to mean. Most of my top choices annoy Deb or don't work in her perception. Deb can list some things she says are family time to her but because of the depression or something, she doesn't generally seem willing to actually do those things at night because she's too exhausted constantly and wants to go to bed at 6pm.
We also have a problem with communication styles. Joel is only really beginning to have a mode other than silence or pontificating until he has utterly exhausted his entire knowledge of a subject trying to avoid allowing interruptions and making other people feel unheard by seeming to wait patiently for you to shut up so he can pick right back up in quest of whatever he thinks the end point is of his previous thought. I can step up and do things Joel's style enough to not get trampled in conversation, but Deb then feels totally excluded and ignored because there are now two of us who are on full speed ahead with heavy overlap and an unwillingness to back down easily.
Joel is the most agressive talker among us but his target selection on the subject seems to be things that neither Deb nor I are often interested in exploring in that level of detail, thus "what should we talk about, then" is a common theme as we try without seguay to come up with something worth talking about for him.
Deb rarely and unpredictably wants dinner at all and thus there are no two of us who can easily eat together and make it worth more than freezer food except that most freezer food is so unhealthy that I can't eat it late at night.
The whole overlapping set of subjects is a real mess that I am mostly at a loss for what to do with. The obvious things to me that I think would help are things that I can't make other people decide to do for the sanity and health of everyone else. The one I can see for myself of just dealing with cooking for myself makes me really sad and frustrated because cooking for me is extremely high on my list of ways to make me feel loved, having been strapped with it myself constantly as a child and thus I don't get that feeling loved and frustrate Deb with how often I am just not up to cooking for myself but not eating makes me bitchy and unpleasant, so I feel like that idea gets pathologically circular pretty easily and doesn't really help the overall emotional state of the evening which is the biggest issue.
*sigh* Anyone got a magic wand?
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And the frightening thing is that all of what I listed is far from a complete list of the overlapping issues which are considerable.
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I realized a 1 to 1 map between Deb's feelings about my lack of reguard for a seat belt and Joel's food problem. She was constantly worried about it and I eventually decided that it was cruel to do something to her that was only mildly annoying to me to fix and would make her feel dramatically better. Only Joel hasn't decided that about his food thing. Hm.
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