Triticum Turgidum

Lying Dormant and Waiting to Bloom Since 2005

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Location: The Prairie, Illinois, United States

I am a beauty-loving ambidextrous higher-order primate who learned transcendental meditation at 7, statistical analysis at 23, tap dancing at 30, and piano at 35. I tolerate gluten, lactose, and differences of opinion, but not abuse. Or beets.

Monday, December 18, 2006

No Place Like (Away from) Home for the Holidays

I wanted to write something funny and uplifting in the 5 minutes I have until my daughter wakes up from her morning nap, but I just don't have it in me.

Too tired. Too sad. Too torn.

Remember those report cards that had a picture of a tree on the front with the words, "As the twig is bent...?" So the tree is formed. One tiny deviation early on becomes a huge malformation years later.

My family is such a mess I don't even know how to process it. The roots of our collective pathology were there when my brothers and I were kids, crying as our mom (let's call her M) packed her bags and announced triumphantly, "I'm leaving this family!"--only to return 2 days later and do it all again in a month while our dad (let's call him D) watched impotently. My big brothers J and T fought constantly. T was bigger so J would take his humiliation out on me. I did well in school because school was safer than home.

Fast forward many years. J and T are in their 40s and still relying on M and D's support. T is addicted to booze and cocaine. He brags about being 5'10" and 135 lbs. He claims his trust-fund boyfriend has so much money that they have 250 boxes (not a typo) of baby clothes in their basement. They bought it all for the son-to-be of a friend, but tragically she miscarried, so he doesn't know what to do with the clothes. I suggested he donate them. He said, "WHAT?! Ralph Lauren clothes donated to some SHELTER? I don't think so." This is the narcissistic Uncle T who has yet to see his own niece and hasn't sent a thing, not even a card. Sadder still, when he told me all this, he seemed perfectly oblivious to that fact. J, on the other hand, calls me at 6am, drunk, to lament whatever drama occurred the preceding night. He's addicted to food, booze, and whatever else he can get his hands on. J's ex-girlfriend worked for my mom and stole $60,000 from her business, then attempted suicide in J's house. (This is the charmer who posted on my blog, causing me to change the site so M and her cronies could no longer oversee my posts.) Anyway, back to J -- the other night some guy pulled a knife on him; luckily he had his .45 (thanks to my home state's decision to repeal their concealed weapons law, and D's ridiculously unwise decision to support J's application for a firearm by signing a form saying, falsely, that J had never received treatment for a mental disorder). J is 6'5" and 400 lbs. He just found out that his liver is failing. His words to me yesterday morning: "I welcome death like it's my birthday."

M disowned me 5 years ago and derives great satisfaction from defamation. The extended family won't talk to me. I committed the worst possible crime: I set boundaries. I literally said, "If you say/do XXX again, I will hang up the phone or leave the room." I also moved away from them in an attempt to save my sanity, my marriage, and to preserve the safety of any children I might have.

So--I've got a child now. And I haven't taken her back home because I don't feel safe there. How can I take her where I don't feel safe? I talk to D frequently; he's the sanest one of the bunch. But he's at the center of the drama and can't see things from a distance. They use him like a pack mule. He's 65, and an old 65 at that.

Every single day I have to remind myself not to relax my standards. There's too much at stake. But D pleads with me on the phone to "fix" things with M, even though he knows I can't do it without her consent. And the hard thing to admit is, I almost don't want to, because I don't trust her and know I never can. And I've already mourned her departure from my life. Do I need to do it again? D is telling me that M is spinning out of control, and his only recourse may be divorce. I suppose that was supposed to motivate me to contact her, but instead I'm thinking, Be my guest.

It's so f***ing lonely being the "healthy" one. The tension is unbearable. Every day I ask myself, whose funeral will I attend first?

Sorry to be such a downer. I don't tell people about this blog because I couldn't care less how many people know it exists, but the people who DO know it exists have demonstrated themselves to be humane and thoughtful. Thus I feel a bit guilty loading them (you) up with this crap. I just had to vent. I've been living with this for years and keeping pretty much silent about it. But it's just so hard watching people self-destruct and knowing there's nothing you can do about it but try to protect yourself from the shrapnel. The sickness is so extensive I don't even know how to describe it; the above is only a glimpse. Watch Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Mommie Dearest, Crumb, and Capturing the Friedmans back-to-back and you'll be touching the surface of it. I do know this: I'm not going to let my daughter be sucked down into it. Regardless of what happens, I'm going to keep her safe.


Blogger Bela said...

I don't know what to say about your situation, except that I think you're doing the right thing.

I distanced myself from my constantly warring parents as soon as I could. I regret not being given the chance to be friends with either of them before they died, but I had to think of my own sanity first. School was also my refuge, my safe haven, and I thrived there. At least something good came out of the sorry mess.

12:48 PM, December 18, 2006  
Blogger WinterWheat said...

Thanks J. It's so hard to know what to do. I've seen you lament not trying to reconnect with your mother, and wondered if I should do the same. Yet the only way to connect with her is to step back into the role of Prodigal Daughter and admit to wrongdoing that I don't own. I've worked so hard to establish an authentic self in the presence of people who for years told me things about myself that were untrue. I can't go back. I wish there were a way to connect with her (them) that wouldn't require me to compromise my safety, or my daughter's. I just have no faith that such a way exists.

Be honest -- do you wish you'd just let it drop and been whatever your mother needed you to be, so you could have *some* kind of connection with her? Or are you glad you did what seemed necessary for survival at the time? (I'm thinking of your experience with the cancer misdiagnosis, and being glad you took your own survival so seriously. Do you feel the same way about your relationship with your mother prior to her death?)

Many thanks for your thoughts.

1:10 PM, December 18, 2006  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

K, I have no comforting words of advice -- I think you already know you're doing the right thing -- but thinking of you and hope your holiday with your own little family is just perfect.

4:13 PM, December 18, 2006  
Blogger PFG said...

I understand your struggle with boundaries, you've read my experiences on my blog, I won't rehash here.

It's probably small and maybe slightly less than warm comfort, but in a world where so many people have no qualms at all about broadcasting the message of absolute hallmark moment forgiveness which will FIX IT ALL, I figure it's good to know there are some people other than you who get that sometimes this just isn't an option.

5:46 PM, December 18, 2006  
Blogger violetnoir said...

Darling, I don't have anything to add really, because all of these wise women have already said it.

You are such a good person, and you are absolutely doing the right thing.

Much love!

11:21 AM, December 19, 2006  
Blogger Anjali said...

K., I don't have anything helpful to say, but I'm so sorry for all the stress and frustration this must cause you to even think about. Stay strong and keep doing what you are doing, I think you have managed to make the right choice. For now I'm sending you a bunch of hugs, and also the reassurance that whatever your past, you have managed to create a great, loving, stable family for your daughter and that's something that's both commendable and comforting.



2:34 PM, December 19, 2006  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

It sounds like your family is a mess. For your sanity and your daughters safety, I would stay away. Right now you have a chance of changing the cycle with your own child. Don't suck her into this mess. Pray for your family and love that daughter of yours....consider yourself a pioneer....

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

11:52 PM, December 19, 2006  
Blogger clementine said...

I feel for you immensely. I pretty much severed ties with a family member for my own mental benefit, and not without guilt that still affects me from time to time. Although I have don't have any animosity towards them, I couldn't be used anymore for material things while being publicly ridiculed to make the person look better in front of their 'friends'. While I know it's better for me, the guilt is because there are a couple children I will never see as a result. This too is a familial cycle, siblings severing ties so as as preserve any sort of happiness, and I can't say that it doesn't follow me around and make me wonder that if I have children, they too will end up playing out the same scenario - and I wonder if the kids I never see will as well. I hope not with all my heart, but at the end of the day you have to at least try to live your life fully and not under other family demons, otherwise it isn't fair to you and certainly not any children you have. I guess it's just feels so bad because deep down you (at least I) still want family to be 'proper' family at least once in a while to justify all the crap.

6:04 AM, December 20, 2006  
Blogger katiedid said...

I think you are wise to keep yourself and your family safe. There is no way to predict the behavior of addicts. I know that people get knotted up into co-dependent thinking and believe they can control or predict their addicted loved one's behavior. But you have made a healthy choice to break from that thinking, and you should be awfully proud of that. It's not an easy thing to do. I can't imagine what it must be like to have to pull away from your family like that - but I am sure you can't torture yourself emotionally wondering what you can do, when the weight of what's going wrong is on them. It must be very hard on you, and I am so sorry. That sounds like some pretty rough stuff to deal with and process.

I hope you whoop it up on Christmas with your husband and wee Fi, and have a holiday that will always be warm and without pain or drama in your memories. It sounds like you will :)

12:52 PM, December 20, 2006  
Blogger Jonna said...

Oh K. This is what I get for failing to refresh! REFRESH!

I'm sorry. I know that doesn't help, but man, you have my sympathy. It *is* so hard being the sane one, as my husband can attest, and as I've seen when dealing with his family.

I know you know this, but it's a huge testament to who you are, how strong you are, and how completely loving you are to have turned out the way you did. I mean, look at you! Strong, successful, gorgeous, a great mom. Man. You've done well. That doesn't make it easy, but you have done a really wonderful thing, and do it every day.

My husband is going through some of the same decision-making right now about whether to cut off his family or stay in the circle of madness. I'm going to show him your post, if that's okay. Ultimately, as someone who stays in contact with them, I know he feels that cutting them off wouldn't make much of a difference - when people are that sick, the connection you seek was never there, and will never be there.


9:22 AM, December 22, 2006  
Blogger Parisjasmal said...

And you know what--it is even harder to be hated for attempting to be healthy.

I am happy to live far from my parents. It is healthier for me. Being away it is easier to forget, but when I go back home I sometimes have a melt down.

Thank God I have a wonderful Grandma. She is 92 years old and she was my safe place when I was growing up.

I have also mourned my mother. She has never been the mom I need.

(God, I typed Jugs at first by accident--that is almost as good as my Ben Kigsley is WONDERFUK comment that you and ChattyKathy NEVER teased me about forever--HA)

6:02 PM, December 22, 2006  
Blogger Bela said...

Sorry for this late answer, K: I was away, then busy with 'life'. You're absolutely right: I wasn't feeling the way I do now, when my mother was alive. At the time, I did what I had to do; there was nothing else I could have done. I know that. Sadly, it doesn't help much when I'm racked by remorse for not being there for people I remember getting on very well with before things went wrong. I chose guilt in the future for freedom in the present.

9:28 PM, December 22, 2006  
Blogger WinterWheat said...

Many heartfelt thanks to all of your for sharing your thoughts. J, you wrote:

I chose guilt in the future for freedom in the present.

I think you nailed it. I keep thinking that doing the right must come with no costs, but in reality, it doesn't. You lose either way; the question is, what are you more willing to lose? I'm sad for you but think you did the right thing.

11:47 AM, January 04, 2007  

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