My sister would frequently snap: “Not everything is about you” when I expressed anything difficult or needing. And it made me confused in a sad and shameful way. Like it never addressed anything but the collective need for me to shut up and be different. Under the guidance of my older sister, parents, and extended family I failed to learn about me, myself, in relation to whom I am, only in relation to how pleasing or displeasing they found me to be, mostly the latter. For example, my birthday gifts and foods weren’t about me, weren’t on my list of things I liked or wanted. I was informed that those were expressions of whom they were and what they wanted to share with me and that I should be grateful…yet their raging and diminishing behaviors were purely about me AND I should remain unaffected. I still do not really get it. I have stopped trying–as that made me want to not live.
Having my own unique sensitivities, preferences, and emotional experiences was responded to as a hostile and intentional breaking of code. There was some sort of requirement that was never clearly and directly communicated to me in terms I could understand–that: I know, be, and feel, only as they did or wanted me to. But I simply did not.
My physical sensations of hunger or cold along with my emotional experiences were reported to be vastly different from theirs, and probably untrue and invalid. Mine were treated as inconvenient burdens and lies aimed at vexing and shaming them, and served as ultimate evidence of my defectiveness at a cellular level. I recall so vividly how my requests for food or a bathroom were met with agitated retorts indicating the timing of my last feeding or trip to the restroom. If I were cold, rather than the offering of a snuggle, a sweater, or blanket, I was issued a reading of the thermostat and shown how everyone else was just fine. Sheesh. Right? Get on board, dammit. Stop sucking. So, I just never got super sure on what was and was not about me. I did get clear that being ME was unfavorable and my own doing and I would pay…I think my mother said it best whenever I felt physically or emotionally injured: “You got what you deserved.” Well, I suppose, under that regime, I sure did. This not only broke my heart, but broke my fucken spirit….for which I was judged. Thank God for unlearning.
Now with a God of My Understanding guiding me in the stead of diminishing family members, I have established a wonderful home, lovely children, a beautiful and loving relationship with my boyfriend and a few close friends and the ability to work with my ex regardless of what he does with my family. He cannot help himself. He gets a pass, for the sake of my children. All of the goodness in my life in spite of what they try to convince me about myself has only to do with my own personal and well-guided choices which include NO Contact to those who willfully impose hardship and confusion for my family.
You know what else is about me. My life today. My limits. My needs. My behavior. My preferences. My serenity. My truths. How I raise my sons. Living my best life. Today, I have a program of recovery to help re-parent myself and to recover my spirit, sense of self, self worth, and the ability to know self-love. Just as other people’s kindness is not about me, neither is the cruelty of others about me. People behave as they are.
In the relationships of my making and choosing, people do not earn love or abuse. Some people are loving, others are abusive. No Contact, while it is definitely a painful last resort, is the only option for all of the days, especially the holidays. The passing of time and my mother’s age; change, fix, repair, undo none of the damage and do not make it more safe or prudent for me to come round. A collective action toward kindness and building of trust is the only thing that could do that. Change and Trust building is wholesome and badass and too much for my family.
Triangulating with my ex serves their ego and the optic. They gathered for a birthday breakfast for my older son over the weekend. Without any authentic connection between them, visits are called for by the calendar and my ex’s need to belong somewhere. Poor guy. My sons continue to report the awkwardness of the gatherings, my sister’s giddy and weird laughter and fawning over my ex and them–doing nearly anything to wrangle the slightest physical contact with my sons who want nothing to do with it. They hug my mother because their father insists they do and my sister yells “group hug” and hops on. This arrangement is nauseating BUT teaching my boys some important things about what does and does not feel good, wholesome and natural. Thank God they feel comfortable to share and that they have healthy connections and physical contact to compare THAT to. Because, when you do not know what wholesome love and touching feel like, you also do not recognize the unwholesome kind.
My boys get to observe me navigating with their father( in spite of his participation in my sister’s performance) to create joy and connection that is for and about them. My sister’s antics illuminate division more than connection. I hope for her that she may some day experience the magic of unforced connection and not have to try so hard to corral people to sit at her table and to touch her. I am not sure her self proclaimed role as the gatekeeper is panning out for her. Slowly, I am finding compassion for her. Very Slowly. I am a work in progress.
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