13 February 2016

don't talk about this in public

Usually on a Saturday I exchange emails with my sister, about the weather and our gardens and husbands, anything worth mentioning from work and our father's latest adventures, maybe a bit about our latest doctor's visits. We pretend to get on well but never have
Secretly, I think that for both of us this is the subconscious continuation of all our failed communication efforts with our mother.  The thing is, if I don't write she gets worked up worrying about my miserable health and will have sleepless nights and it will be All My Fault. And that of course, is just another subconscious continuation of my vast scope of guilty feelings (of which I have truckloads).  We both know, our sharpest weapon is the purposeful generation of guilt.
Without getting too nasty here, I must add that she gets enormous mileage from my being ill. On the rare occasions when I meet any of her friends, they are usually amazed that I walk and talk and look pretty normal. The heavens only know what she tells them. 

My family, the one I grew up in, has not been a happy one. Strange as it may sound, it feels good to be able to write this and I have also said it out loud and in company. And for this and many more sins I must have committed since I moved away and failed to return, I am not included in the inner circle and rarely get invited to the various family dinners and celebrations. But as a rule, I am told about them well in advance and afterwards with details about food and wine and the glowing lists of recent shiny achievements of my blood relatives.

Over the years, this has become quite normal and I am sure by now they don't even realise how odd it is to be told that "the whole family" is going to or was having a great time celebrating this or that or whatever in great style.  

My friends, however, are outraged and furious that I am so lenient, while I try and convince them that this is just the way we are, That this family is clumsy, competitive, mean. That we know how to dish it out without noticing, that we have sharp elbows, are quick with a little slap here and there, but always so it doesn't show in the morning.

Anyway, this Saturday, I am not going to write that email. I am taking a break. Stuff happened. I try to sort it out in my mind and one minute it looks ridiculously minor and maybe just the usual daft and careless stuff, but then again, it gets bigger and nasty and rude and all that shit. 


A said...

So very well described!

am said...

Such a revealing photo. I wonder who it is that your sister is looking up and over at and who it is that you
were looking at so directly and with such vulnerability all those years ago.

Right now it is us, your blog friends, that you are making eye contact with, and your child self is looking out at you, too. Maybe I am reading my own story into your photo. In that case, your sister is the mother I never truly felt safe with because she found it difficult, if not impossible, to trust anyone deeply.

Because I won't go along with what they won't talk about in public, my sisters keep me outside what is left of our "family" in subtle and not so subtle ways. Everything hinges on that "they are right, and I am wrong." Even my father said a few years before he died, "Why can't you be normal like your sisters, just for 1 hour, when you visit with me?"

Good for you for taking care of yourself with a healthy boundary and talking about these things. This photo is in such contrast to you and your family of choice who lived in Paradise and the you of the invincible summer. Surely your light guided you away from harm and continues to do that.

Ms. Moon said...

My family was not happy either and now, since my mother is dead, my siblings and I are barely in touch. We make stabs at effort to make it happen. My most recent ones left me realizing that one brother and I will never make peace and that another brother and I have almost nothing in common any more. We are not at odds but there is just a feeling of dullness and blankness.
It makes me sad but it is what it is.
What can you do? Make yourself insane trying to change that which is?
I tried that for a long damn time. Didn't work. Don't care to try any more.
That picture is something.

Steve Reed said...

Bad energy between siblings is a hard thing to live with. We've seen it in several places in my family, though my brother and I get along more or less (though we have very little in common in terms of personal interests).

Rouchswalwe said...

Only two uncles left in Germany for me. One I've lost touch with and one I call once a month and email. It's not always easy and I understand that there are times to just drift. My old photos are B/W, too. Makes me wonder sometimes if the colour simply bleached out over the years.

Anonymous said...

Family dynamics can be so damned volatile and troubling. I'm glad you are taking a letter-writing break. Sometimes it's good to just protect your inner self from all the drama. I can't imagine a family gathering that purposefully omits a kin as beautiful and soulful as you. They are really missing out.

Elizabeth said...

I really like this post -- despite its particulars which I imagine are intensely personal, it is broad and resonates for me in so many ways. This morning I listened to my mother go on and on about the death of Justice Scalia, what an amazing man he was, ad nauseum, and while I have learned to not engage with her on politics as it's just incredibly destructive, when I leave the conversation it's like the worst possible hangover. I think it's about Not Being Known.

I, too, love that photo. Incredible.

beth coyote said...

In the photo, you are being choked by your sister...