Releasing the past in order to find myself

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Celebration Memory

Several years ago, I was spending some holiday time with my in-laws.  We'd been together for several days. My family had decided to come down to this resort for a couple of days too to spend time with me.

My sister's birthday had been the day before.  My family had taken us all our to dinner to celebrate our birthdays, as our birthdays are one right after the other.

The next day, my family left.  NMIL decided she wanted to celebrate her son's birthday.  His birthday was a week away.  It was my actual birthday.  It was very clear at the dinner that the it was to celebrate BIL's birthday.  She ordered him a special dessert (oh, and get Jessie one too).  Sang Happy Birthday to him first (then they sang to me).  Made a big deal out of him.  And then tacked me on too.  And it was my actual birthday.

Birthdays are not a big deal to me (well, my birthday isn't.)  Having a sibling with a birthday so close to mine and being after the holiday season, my birthday has always kind of been just one more celebration.  NM was relatively good about trying to make it special for me.  But after everything else, my birthday was like trying to drink when you have a bad hang over.  Your heart's just not in it.  Plus, NSis and I had to share things a lot.  Sometimes, I got the second half of the cake.  A lot of the times, we got similar gifts.  So, I watched her open her (my) gifts, and then had to wait a day to open mine.  But I was used to it.

The dinner with NMIL really pushed me over the edge though.  With NSis, I was at least always treated as equal in the celebration.  Having NMIL make someone else MORE important than me, celebrating someone else, and begrudgingly celebrating me too ON MY ACTUAL BIRTHDAY made me feel like shit.

It's all those little things that just add up over the years.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas you all!  I hope you are having a wonderful holiday.  And that the narcs aren't hassling you!  Here's hoping Santa brings you everything you need in the New Year.

Love, Jessie

Friday, December 21, 2012

For my Peeps. Happy whatever makes you Happy.


“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross

Cleaning

My house is immaculate at the moment.  Perfectly clean.  My son vomited a ton on my living room floor the other night.  But my house smells like a rose.

SHE is coming tomorrow.  My MIL.  And I hate that I've made the house perfect.  That I can't stand to have a thing out of order.

She's not a clean freak.  In fact, she's a slob.  Sort of.  Maybe more of a semi-hoarder.  She cleaned her kitchen once after a remodel and declared it "organized".  Nope, it was clean.  It was nowhere near organized.  I have a favorite story of how I went to a her house one time.  My SIL had gone through her fridge and "cleaned it out".  Lord knows what she threw out.  But several hours later, I went to get some salad dressing.  I looked at the expiration dates.  They were SIX YEARS OLD (notice I said "they".  There was more than one).  No lie.  My husband was in high school when she bought these dressings, and we were our of college at this dinner.  Gross.  Like I said, I can only imagine what SIL threw out.

She stores stuff.  And keeps stuff.  And has piles of things.  She's not really messy.  She's pretty clean.  But she washes her bathmats with her bed sheets.  She is more interested in the "end" than the "process".   As long as it's done, it didn't matter how it got that way.  She washed my clothes (without my permission: no one washes my clothes) once.  Not only did shit shrink, but my BILs helped themselves to some of it.

So, this lady, a somewhat tidy, but not organized and clean person puts me on edge.  And it pisses me off.  I shouldn't care what she thinks of my home.  Her position of expertise is compromised to say the least.

Yet, she will come to my home and find fault.  When she came to my brand new, month old home, she noticed that the chandelier still had the stickers that told what light bulbs to buy.  I'm sure it's a federal law to remove these stickers, unless your a homeowner, and all she could notice was that they were still there.  In my new, beautiful home, that's what she saw.  Around the same time, one of the things she noticed is that I hadn't watered my plant.   The thing had just moved, was adapting, and was a bit droopy.  But she felt the need to notice.   A couple of months ago, I left a huge pile of clean, but not folded laundry on my dryer.  EFIL "noticed" that for me.  EVERY little fault they can find, they point out.  I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't.

When my son was born, her perfect, long-desired grandchild was born, she pointed out he had her MIL's "unfortunate nose".  How is a new mom supposed to take that?  She also pointed out he had his mother's "broad forehead".  DH didn't understand why that was rude.  I figured referring to anything about a woman as "broad" was rude.

My SIL, whom I'm working on a post for (wife of BIL, whom I recently glorified in blog form), is the same way.  If I don't have every damn thing in order, she has to point it out.  Several years ago, I'd come back from a three week trip in Europe (backpacking).  I was exhausted and piled all the souvenirs on the table.  SIL "dropped in" and sputtered about how I must be organizing...or something...because surely I wouldn't have such clutter in my home.  This is the same SIL who avoids inviting me over because she doesn't think her home is clean enough for me.  Can I say projection?

I don't want to appear perfect.  I do like my home to be clean and clutter free (in the public places, you should see the closets) when people come by.  I don't want towers of shit falling on them and I don't want them to feel like they need to disinfect themselves after using my bathroom.   And frankly, I'm not down with a ton of clutter.  But I'm not a nazi.  I'm not a clean freak.   But I feel if I falter at all, it'll be lauded as a weakness.

My MIL has "worried" over lots of things my SIL does.  She tells me (or DH) about how she had to clean SILs "whole house" when she had her baby.  Or how SIL has planters warts.  Or really, really intimate details about SILs labor and the....ummm..... "nature of the terrain".  Yuck.  She tells me how she doesn't like her stove or doesn't like how they parent (not that she would be "that MIL"-her words-and say something to them).  So, I know if I slip up, the whole damn family will know about it.

I'm trying not to care.  Trying. But sometimes it's fun to be "perfect" and fuck with her that way too.

Christmas Card

I got a Christmas card from my MIL last night.  And I was annoyed.  Big time.  It seems so stupid.  So insignificant.  I'll bet I'm reading into the thing too much.  But something about it just pissed me off.

It was a gold card.   Very "old ladyish".  Very religious. The kind with some artistic rendition of The Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus.   I think it was one of those cards, that when purchased, some money goes to some charity.

Inside, she included two pictures.  One of the family, posed for a "family reunion picture" at a family funeral.  Taking the picture was a minefield of chaos.  Lots of chickens with their heads cut off.  MIL shouting "just take the picture!  Keep snapping."  No one was arranged.  The lighting was horrible.  Plus, it was a really difficult day.  As they organized the photo, I was pounding a Chardonnay at the bar.   MIL's sister, the photographer, says, "don't you want to be in the photo?".   I knew there was tons of time to make it out, as the chickens hadn't run around enough yet to settle into picture mode.  In most of the pictures, me and my family are squished in the back.  You can hardly see us.  But MIL is grinning wildly in the front.  In a blazing white dress, surrounded by "her family."  The second photo is a shot of her and FIL, cuddled up.

Not an unusual card.  If it came from anyone else, I wouldn't think twice.  But the thing is, I recieved this Christmas card as a follow up.  As in, she received my card, complete with a bunch of pictures of the kids (I sent them to all the grandparents.  Few of them take pictures of my kids.).  So, she got my card, dug some card out and sent me a card with her pictures in it (she referenced my pictures in her card, so I know she got ours first).  It just felt phony.  And, hell, I don't know what the right word would be.  I just felt wrong.  She sent the card purely because I sent her a card.  For no other reason. She added the photos because she has to mimic me.  She's done this to me before.  It feels so "tit for tat".  OH, Jessie did this, maybe if I do it too, she'll look favorably on me.  She'll have to like me!  She'll think I'm nice/kind/thoughtful.  It didn't feel genuine or authentic or something she wanted to do.  Most years she states "Thanks for your card, Jessie!  I didn't send out cards.  I was busy.  I just didn't have time."   Which, as I write it doesn't sound bad, but is so classic her.  She can't give me a compliment without somehow also negating it or justifying and excusing herself.  Can't she just say "thanks for the Christmas card." and leave it at that?  Why does she have to be in every conversation?  (That's rhetorical, I know the answer).

It irritates me too that she can't just let anything be mine.  It's almost like when she quit trying to "convert" me to her, she changed tactics and thought she'd pretend to be me.   This mirroring and mimicking she does of me, drives me nuts.  I can't just have anything be mine.  If I send pictures, she sends pictures.  If I say I don't like to bake,  she suddenly remarks how she no longer bakes, sort of kind of.  I get lots of praise for how pretty my Christmas packages look, so she somehow figures out how to wrap a gift so it doesn't look like a monkey did it (I know it's petty, it's not about the gifts, it's about her suddenly changing to be more like me.  It's creepy to me.).   She changes her hobbies, eating style, extracurricular activities to "fit in".  And it annoys me that she thinks I'm so stupid that I'll think better of her because she wraps a few gifts (still not well, I might add, just to be bitchy because I'm feeling that way) or sends me a photo of her snuggled up to her husband in the picture perfect picture of "true love".

She wrote in the card how she "can't wait to see you!".  A visit she finagled (she can't manage to get us gifts during the TWO other times-sometimes three-that she sees us during the holidays.  She has to have a 'special time' to drop them off.)  She shows up tomorrow.  I'm trying to not be annoyed.  I wish I could change my attitude.  I wish I could be more gracious.  I wish I wasn't already dreading her.  But I am.  Fuck.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Phony

My BIL is the type of guy that everyone thinks is the "nice guy".  He graduated with a degree in religion, has a nice home, always seems like he is Mr. All American.

But I think it's all for show.  I think that the only things he does is to boost up his image of himself.  He's only interested in doing things that add to his image.   He fancies himself as easy going, generous, thoughtful, and kind.  But he always "gets something" out of the exchange.  He thinks that he is the very model of what a human being should be, and if you are somehow 'different' from him, than you are lesser.  He's not really cocky or egotistical, but he is completely self absorbed.

I've seen him take advantage of everything that comes his way.  I've seen him use people to make his own life easier.  His MIL has lived with him off and on for years, taking care of his kids, cleaning his home, yet he still bitches at times about her.  He will accept anything he can get from his own parents.  I guess yes, technically, they are offering, but he never thinks about what is really the best thing for everyone.  He's a people pleaser and will sell others out to look like a nice guy to someone else.  He's done this to me for years.  One night we invited him and his wife over for a BBQ.  As soon as dinner was done, he was trying to leave.  Because he got invited to another party and wanted to make an appearance.  To look good.  I was offended.  I cooked all this food, fed the ass, and then he was going to bolt because something better has come up.

He is MIL's favorite flying monkey.  When I first met DH, he was the one that attacked me (as I felt it to be) for not having similar religious views.  He was never interested in hearing how I felt.  He only told me over and over that I was wrong.  That I was going to hell because I didn't "believe".  He is a firm supporter of the family enmeshment.  He believes, and pushes, everyone to believe we all have no personal boundaries and it is all for the good of the family.  My home is expected to be open at all times to anyone else in the family.  He and DH got in a huge fight two years ago, because BIL called to chastise DH for not allowing their other brother to stay here (other brother called last minute, demanded to stay here, and was flat rude in my opinion).  It was NONE of BIL's business, but he felt the need tell DH he wasn't being a good family member.  BIL firmly believes that everything DH and I have should be up for the taking of others.  That as we are "better off" (read: work our asses off, never had family handouts, and budget our money) we should help the others.

BIL likes to be the "hub" of the family.  He likes to think of himself as the glue who holds everyone together.  He doles out advice to his little brothers, gets involved in their personal relationships and finances.  He spreads gossip...Oh, I'm sorry, he tells people things out of "concern" for them and because he feels others have a "right to know".  He preaches family unity and spending time together and chastises DH and I for not spending enough time with their parents.  It is clear to me that he blames ME for the lack of closeness between DH and his parents, that he feels I don't treat his parents how I should (which means, how HE treats his folks), and that I am a barrier to family unity.  He can not stand if we spend time a lone with my in-laws and calls and insists on being involved.  The irony of how he pushes us to spend time with them, but then tries to horn in on that time drives me insane.

He offers up his home for family to stay at and it really annoys me.  That sounds stupid even writing that.  And I had to think long and hard as to why that bothered me.  The thing is, he invites people to stay because he likes to look like the good guy.  It feels, to me, like he's trying to score a point.  Like BIL, one point for being a family team player, and Jessie loses a point for being a bitch and not being like me.  (And again, if I DO offer people to stay or do anything, he tries to horn in).  And while BIL has these guests in his home, he doesn't actually spend time with them.  With my in-laws, he often dumps off the kids and go has date night.  My MIL cooks and takes care of their kids and takes them out to eat.  There is BENEFIT to him to do it.  Today, he has invited over my younger BIL and his wife to stay.  But they don't spend time together.  BIL and his wife leave and do their own thing, leaving younger BIL alone at their house.  And BIL's MIL does all the cleaning before and after they stay.  And they don't feel obligated to cook or have meals for them.  See, for me, when I have guests, I like to spend time with them.  And I do all the cooking, and provide food, and I clean up before and after they come.  But I'm a horrible person.

BIL seems to forget that for the 10 years before he moved here and bought a home, my house was the "family hub".  That I threw birthday parties, and big dinners, and BBQs.  I had everyone stay at my house, set up Christmas gift exchanges, and was the family gathering spot.  He seems to forget that in the three years since I've lived in my new home (and when I started keeping track) he and his wife have been invited over to our home between 5-10 times for drinks, BBQs, sledding with the kids, and Christmas gift exchanges.  Guess how many times this ass has had me over to his new home?  Maybe 2.  Once for a BBQ with a ton of other people, and once for his kid's birthday.  I have not been invited to his home in almost THREE FUCKING YEARS.  Yet, I'm the bad guy.  He and his wife choose to go luggage shopping and then have a lovers' spat at my son's birthday party and so really didn't spend anytime with us.  They left their kids with the grandparents and took off, without saying a WORD to me.  Then, he ignored me for three months afterward.  Literally, ignored me every time he saw me.

When discussing an idea his mother had to own a family vacation home (ha!  that's a laugh.  No one has the money to have a second home), BIL has said numerous times that if it was "just the brothers" they could own a joint property no problem.  But with sister-in-laws involved, there would be problems.  When I've pressed him on what the hell he means by that, he says oh, you know, things just would get complicated.  And he doesn't get AT ALL that is an insulting, if not blaming, thing to say.  It's clear to me that "the sister-in-laws" in his mind, are outsiders and not invested in "family unity".

The guy just pisses me off.  He thinks because he is a "religious" man that he is above reproach.  That he leads a wonderfully example of life.   He thinks he is "all about family".   He takes tons of handouts from his parents, his grandparents and parents paid tons of money towards his college (much more than DH got for college), his parents pay for things for him STILL (like memberships to things), take him out to dinner, watch his kids all the time.  When we used to go on family trips, he and his wife mooched off my in-laws by driving with them and sleeping in their hotel room.  They were never expected to pay as much for these outings as DH and I were.  DH and I don't accept handouts, don't ask for anything, and don't expect anyone to take care of us, but us.  BIL still seems like a child, who can't take a shit without asking his mommy how to wipe his ass.

 I really could care less what he does.  The thing is, it feels what he does has a direct correlation on me.  Like, in order for him to look like the good guy, I some how have to look like the bad guy.  For him to score points for something he does, he has to point out all of us who don't do what he does.  He makes himself the gold standard, condemns others for not being more like him, but then sabotage you, should he feel threatened that he won't look like "the good one".  He has low self-esteem, and that he does have comes on the backs of others.   He has to be admired and appreciated and seen as righteous and kind and good.  And it has to be by comparison.  And I'm the person he compares against.  I'm the dark to his light.  It pisses me off that he feels he has just as much right to my home, my life, my things as I do.  That I, as DH's wife, and he, as DH's brother are of equal status.  That, because in his mind, my home, my possessions are DH's mostly, that he should be privileged to them as much as me.  He doesn't ask to borrow DH and my things.  He never thanks me.  Once, when DH and he were coming back from a trip, I invited him to stay for dinner. At the end of the meal, he thanked us both for it.  DH said "I didn't do anything.  It was all Jessie."  BIL responded "Yes, you did, you work and payed for it."  (I also worked outside the home at the time.)  DH said "No, actually this is meat that was given to Jessie.  She really did it all.  If you want to thank anyone, thank her."  BIL sputtered and argued and continued to insist that he needed to thank both of us.  I can't figure out if he just couldn't admit he was wrong, or if it just pained him too much to give me gratitude.  And it's not the thanks that bothers me, but the fact that he, under NO circumstances, was going to give the credit to me.  He's a phony.  He flashes cheesy grins in photos.  He always looks like a toothpaste ad.  He gets into shape to go on vacation.  He likes to be popular.  He likes people to admire him.  He hates to lose.  He'd rather not play the game, if he can't be the best.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lonely in a Crowded Room

I'm feeling desperately lonely and depressed lately.  I just can't seem to shake it.  I feel at any moment I could burst into tears.  So, I finally allowed myself a nice hot shower today, away from the kids, hoping to just wretch it all out.  But nothing came.  I feel blocked, or numb, or walled up.  I'm trying so hard to figure out what in the hell I'm feeling, but I can't even stumble on what to call it.

It's interfering with my life.  I've been an awful, irritable wife lately.  I'm crabby and bitchy.  One of my fleas, given to me by my mother, is that I can be critical.  For no reason at all.  Just spit out snarky comments, finding negative things to say about my DH.  Most of the time, I've reigned them in, managed to keep them in my head and not spit them out.  But a few have escaped.  And then I feel even more awful.  Because I don't mean any of them.

I'm short with my children.  They can feel my grouchiness and fatigue and stress.  It shows up most with my oldest son.  And he mirrors it back to me with his own grouchiness and short temper.  I wake up with desperate anxiety that they are growing too fast, that I'm missing out on creating memories, that I am being swallowed up by time.  And when I waste precious moments with sadness and temper, I hate myself.

I have told two of my close friends that I am struggling.  One ignored me.  The other sad, oh, that's too bad, hopefully we can get together after the holidays.   My husband tells me that lots of people care for me.  I think they enjoy having me in their corner, playing their cheerleader, being their in a pinch, supporting them, being an armchair therapist and sounding board.  But when I turn around, not one of them is in my corner.  I'm a bucket with a hole in the bottom.  And no fresh water to fill me up.

Another friend stopped by recently.  He talked to me and my husband about how two of our other friends are struggling.  How he hoped we could reach out.  Help push one friend into therapy.  I was a bit amazed.  How he could so easily see these other people's pain, yet as I sat in front of him, he saw nothing.

Few people do.  Maybe I'm just that good at hiding it.  Maybe they don't want to see it.  I think it's a little of both.  

We weren't invited to a friend's Christmas party the other day.  DH had been excited about it, and I think it upset him when I pointed out that we weren't invited.  He (and another friend) were sure that there was a mistake, but as it dawned on him that we were probably left out, I felt he was sad.  Although he's not blaming me, I'm sure that he can't help but wonder what it is that got us left of the guest list.  I can't help but think it's me.  The hostess doesn't care for me too much.  To be honest, I don't care for her much either.  She "offered" up her opinions of me and my MIL's relationship one time, based purely on second hand facts and offered me up an scolding in the end.  Without ever ONCE learning about my side of the story.  Not that I would've told her anyway.  It was none of her business.  Anyway,  I find her constant pushy opinions off putting.  Regardless, they like my DH (and we are all technically family), so I was saddened by it all.  I sometimes feel like an anchor weighing my husband down.

He's a social butterfly.  He loves people and going out and talking to others.  I'm a bit more reserved.  And I know that my recent concentration on expecting others to treat us well has pointed out some huge gaps in our friendships.   I know that sometimes he gets angry at the messenger, instead of the assholes that haven't been real friends this whole time.

I worry that I will fail my kids, not teaching them how to have good friendships.  I worry that they will be lonely too.  That my recent crusade is keeping them from other friends and family and isolating us.

I want so desperately to enjoy this time of year.  My kids are so excited.  I actually completed a lot of my holiday prep.  So, I'm just left to sit around and think.  And it's not been too good for me lately.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chaps my Ass

Sometimes NM can really just get on my nerves.  It's not because she is hurting me or being a vindictive or vengeful.  It's because she's been so fucking annoying.

I just got a forwarded email from her.  It was clearly sent to me and my sister.  Normally, I delete these forwards.  They are most often those "wisdom for those who have none" quotes or save-your-soul symbolic analogies.  You know, deep thoughts for the not-so-deep narc type things.  Or, during the political season, they were often offensive trash.

So, anyway, against my better judgement I opened it up.  It was a passage from a book describing family Christmas traditions and how this particular family's favorite tradition is handwritten "love letters" to each other that they open on Christmas morning.  Lovely.  How nice for them.  I'm sure that for these people, these thoughtful, hand written expressions of love are meaningful and held dear.

But what the fuck am I suppose to get out of this forward.  What is her subversive little point?  That all she wants for Christmas is some letter of "love" from me.  Some written expression of how much I love her and think she's fabulous.  What a joke.   Let's not even go into the fact that I actually USED to do this.  That I've written many a hand written letter, short stories about and dedicated to her as a child, poems, thoughtful messages in cards.   All seemed to go unnoticed at best and were criticized or minimized at best (you told other people these things about me, she said once when I'd written a more public version professing my admiration of her).  Or maybe the hours I've spent hand making gifts or putting thought and time into constructing gifts with my son for her weren't enough "expressions of love".   I suppose I am clearly a daughter who has missed the point, the "true meaning" of Christmas, who really only needs to express my "true love" for my family at this sacred time.

My other thought is that she is trying to play the "bigger person"  and resolve the differences between me and my sister.  Trying to look like the long suffering mother, pained by the estrangement between her daughters, only wishing they could put down their petty grudges, if only for the holiday season.  This pisses me off on so many fronts.  I mean, lets all pretend that, before this, everything was perfect and we were all happy and close.  Yup, sounds good.  Or how about we allow mommy to be the healer and bring us "back together".  And really why does mommy want us back together?  To relieve some of the stress off mommy?  To give her a "break" from the chaos that is my sister?  To give my sister her cheerleader, rescuer, and coach back?  It sure as hell isn't for my benefit.

The sanctimonious nature of this forward makes my skin crawl.  The presumptions,  looking-down-on-us-sinners attitude, the pitying nature of it all makes me want to wretch.  Thanks for the reminder NM about the true nature of Christmas.  About how I'm suppose to make LOVE the center of it all.  How I'm supposed to be reminded that family is the most important thing.  That expressing our love and caring for each other is important.  This little fucking email has TOTALLY changed me mind, slapped me upside the head with it's obviousness, and allowed my heart to grow three sizes today!!

I suppose this could all be just an email.  Just another one of those wisdom bearing emails NM seems to love.  But I doubt it.  Two months ago, she started in on me about giving ideas for my kids.  We emailed back and forth.  I got an email late last week.  The subject line read "Panic".  For fuck's sake.  Dramatic much?  The panic was because she "all of a sudden" realized she needed to order gifts and didn't know what to get.

Seems 'tis the season to amp up the drama.  And send letters of love.  Geesh.