Releasing the past in order to find myself

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Be the Bigger Person

"Somebody who can reckon with the past, who can live with the past in the present, and move towards the future - that's fabulous"
Bruce Springsteen

NM posted this on her FB page a few days ago (I turned off her feed and now, only check it when I'm feeling up to it.  No surprises.)

I actually think it's a good sentiment and I love me some Bruce.  But, I know that NM isn't reading this quote in the same way I am (she has a tendency to be very literal.  She's not very good about understanding underlying meanings in things).

I'm almost certain this quote is directed at me.  I try not to personalize FB posts and take them as directed at me, but I'm REALLY good at reading NM.  And she's fairly obvious. 

And it also fits right along with her motto "You've got to be the bigger person."  She's constantly saying this to me.  That so-and-so needed to be the bigger person.  That she was the bigger person.  That so-and-so needs to "get over it" and "be the bigger person". 

As an example, several years ago when my grandfather turned 80, she wanted to have a party for him.  She expected everyone else to feel the same.  My grandfather, while mellowed, is a pompous, loud, alcoholic.  He has no boundaries and is poor at reading other people's feelings.  Since my grandmother died, he has imposed himself on his youngest daughter to be his social life.  He goes out to her home once a week and gets good and drunk.  And when he's drunk, he's often belligerent.  He was NOT a good father.  He often left his kids in the truck while he'd go in the bar and drink.  His family was always struggling.  He allowed my mother to help pay the bills when she became a teenager.  He doesn't have many friends (if any).  He wasn't an involved grandfather and I was often scared of him.  He does have a few good points (and he's been kind to me in recent years, sending cards for my birthday. )  I do think he has some kernels of empathy and kindness.  He's not a complete ass.  But he's not someone you'd think of "celebrating".  My mother's family has lots of issues and dysfunction (imagine that!) and even though they live close, they struggle to be in each other's lives.  Generally, they just sort of stay out of each other's way. 

So, when no one wanted to go to the party, NM got all on her moral high-horse.  Preaching about "letting go" of the past and "getting over their issues for an our to honor grandpa".  NM loves to be on her moral high-horse.  It's a great pastime for her and she loves to lord over people how thoughtful, considerate, generous, and kind she thinks she is.

Ironically, NM loves to take care of her father and parent him.  When my grandmother died, NM was the one taking charge, involved with the doctors, fixing financial messes.  She LOVES to parent.  Well, she loves to play at parenting.  See, for her, she thinks because she floats the old man some money every few months, buys him nice gifts, and takes him to lunch once and awhile, she's the better person.   She's "let go" of the past and is doing what she feels so should do for a parent.  I don't think I need to point out that gifts, money, and occasional attention does not a parent make.  But there's NM for you.

Whatever,  despite all of this, she still is horribly dysfunctional.  She isn't past her past, but rather pretending it didn't exist.  She didn't work through any of it.  I doubt she's truly forgiven her father.  And further, by now acting as if he is some great guy, I believe she's only doing herself a disservice. 

But that's her.  I'm done with all that "let bygones be bygones" shit.  The quote above was a not-so-subtle reminder than I'm being resentful towards my sister.  That I need to just forgive her and move on.  That I am being unkind, mean, and petty.  That the whole situation would be resolved if I'd just forgive my sister.

What NM can't realize is that I have forgiven my sister (more on forgiveness in a minute).  I don't harbor anger or resentment towards her.  I spent years forgiving my sister.  I forgave her stealing my friends, sleeping with my boyfriends, stealing my cloths, letting her friends steal from me, upstaging me at my wedding, upstaging me at every other big event in my life, causing drama and chaos and stress in my life, screaming at me, yelling at me, beating me up physically.  All this, and SO much more, I forgave in my sister.  Time and time again.  And it never made a damn bit of difference. 

Because, see, NM doesn't want forgiveness, she wants you to FORGET.  And then allow the same old crap to happen over and over.  She wants me to allow my sister to continue to treat me in the same old ways she always has.

Besides the fact that my sister has never actually apologized to me (she doesn't think she did anything wrong, ever), my sister does not change.  It's not that she tries and then makes mistakes (I can move past mistakes).  It's that she is stuck in the same old patterns and she wants me to play my part.  And because I am refusing to have the same relationship, she and my sister think I'm mean.

I've spent so much of my life wanting to be good.  Not just to have people like me.  But having integrity, kindness, generosity of spirit are important characteristics to me.  I wanted to be forgiving.  I wanted to make allowances and be non-judgmental.  And NM knew this.  So whenever she wanted me to do something, she'd pull out the "your not being kind, Jessie" card.  She'd accuse me of being mean, spiteful, bitter, and resentful.  Of holding grudges (pure projection on NM's part, as she is the Queen of Grudges).  I don't hold things against people.  I understand people make mistakes.  But NM was forever telling me I was harsh, mean, and unkind (as was MIL and any of their minions who felt I wasn't doing enough).  And it was an arrow through my heart.

One of the most important steps I took to move past this is that I quite allowing THEM to determine if I was, in fact, kind, good, and living with integrity.  In my last post, I discussed how I was never good enough.  That the "trying" was slowly killing me.   I finally had to start getting some of my ego back.  Some of my self-esteem (something which was hard for me.  Because GOD FORBID I ever be one of the Ns, who had such self-esteem and ego were through the roof.)  Because I was so afraid of being them, I was afraid of allowing myself any ego.  Any belief in myself.

So, I worked on that.  A lot.  I asked myself (and DH and a few friends), am I a good daughter?  Of course, it helped to have validation, but the biggest key was learning to define what a "good daughter" looked like to ME.  What being a good DIL looked like.  And the more I looked, the more I realized, HELL, I AM A GOOD DAUGHTER.  I quit allowing them to define me.  I quit allowing them to tell me I wasn't good enough.

I am not a perfect daughter.  I'm sure I could be better.  But I don't do anything for them out of fear, obligation, or guilt.  I'm working on not refusing things, just because I'm angry with them.  I'm sure my idea of "daughter" and theirs is different, because their definition of good equals 'no boundaries, no needs".  Well, too bad.  I get to have a say in the relationship too.  I'm still working on all of this, but things have become so much easier when I did what I felt I should do for my family.  What was an appropriate obligation (I do think there is some obligation that is appropriate) and what was out of bounds.  And I try to go with my gut. 

I also spent a lot of time working on what forgiveness meant.  So many bloggers write (and theologians) that forgiveness doesn't require giving in, having a relationship, or excusing someone's bad behavior.  That it's about letting go of the anger and resentment.  For me, this also included quitting taking everything they did so personally.  It wasn't about me.  They were jerks because THEY had issues.  And as an adult (more on that in future posts), I could choose to walk away and not allow them to treat me that way anymore.  I had to quit taking in personally (meaning I deserved their nasty treatment; that I'd done something that made them act that way towards me).  And when I felt  I had some control over the situation (let's face it, with Ns, they'll fight you to the death for control, so having a balance of control will never happen), some of the anger and resentment slipped away.

I'm not particularly religious, but I also looked at how forgiveness should effect a future relationship.  Articles I looked at (I wish I had exact links, but I'm not sure if I do) often pointed out that God doesn't just "forget" our sins.  That God expects repentance and change.  That if you keep doing the same thing over and over, that those behaviors are not in the past, but still something you are actively doing in the present.   How can you "forgive" someone who is continuing to behave in the way he says he's sorry for?  How can you "move past" that which is actively occurring?  Fact is, you can't. 

And even if God does forgive, it's not like he just whitewashes it away.  He stores that information in his mind (I assume, not to speak for God), and looks at people as a WHOLE.  Defined by a sum of behaviors.   I believe he looks at if you've made any effort to change or make up for your sins.  

By my thinking if  someone continues to (mostly) treat me poorly, moving away from you is not resentment, bitterness, or anger on my part.  It's accepting them for who they are.  Dangerous people who will hurt me with the right opportunities.  I'm not judging you, I'm just believe you when you show me who you are.    And if God only forgives sins once they've been atoned for, why do I have to be any different?

I began to think that continuing to forgive (ignore the obvious) was only hurting me in my relationships.  I was being bullied and pushed into believing that I was a bad person for not accepting their piss-poor apologies and just moving on.  I had to look at the fact that, despite forgiving people over and over and over, they continued to hurt me. 

I've decided to start defining these terms for myself.  Letting me decide what is kindness, forgiveness, generosity, and good.  Really looking into MYSELF and trying to be the best that I think I can be, instead of always allowing others to determine this for me.  And really, why am I allowing the most emotionally challenged around me define what "healthy, normal, moral" behavior looks like?  I'm not anymore. 

A few last thoughts:

“Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person's throat......Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established.........Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation.........Forgiveness does not excuse anything.........You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness......” Paul Young

Monday, July 21, 2014


I wish it could've been different.  I really didn't want to be the one to see it.  No one wanted to be "family" more than me. 

I remember being very devoted to my family as a kid.  Passing up outside opportunities to hang out with them.  I (felt I) loved being with them.  I can now see I was unhealthily enmeshed in my family.

I really, really wanted to like my in-laws.  I remember them being the big, boisterous, fun, loving family I had hoped for.   I wanted to fit in, wanted to belong.  I tried, so, damn hard.

I'm sure that might sound trite.  We can all say we are trying, but we know a lot of people don't mean that.  But I really feel like I tried my ass off.  For God's sake, I went on a 7 hour (round trip! 14 hours total!) road trip, just me and MIL, in a Ford FIESTA!  You ever see a Ford Fiesta?  It's a shoebox on wheels.  I willingly went and  tried to love that woman. 

But what it boiled down to was summed up, here by Anna V on her blog:

"The child is confused and despairing because the more they try to be what they thought was expected of them, the more they are devalued and despised. It is a horrifying experience for a child and probably has caused more than one suicide."  -Anna V

This is the place I was at with both families in my life (although I was technically not a child, I still filled the role of "child" in these families).  No matter how hard I tried, it didn't matter.  In fact, I was hated for trying.  Trying to be honest, trying to deal with things, trying to love them.  Trying to be what they told me I was supposed to be.

But I couldn't ignore, for one more second, the craziness in front of me.  I couldn't pretend one more minute that if I just tried harder it would be better. 

I remember, so vividly, sitting at the dinner with my in-laws.  The dinner that was the ricochet point, at which, my life changed course.  It was sunny, a beautiful day, and I was a barely-contained, simmering pot of anger, anxiety, and stress.

And then my MIL, whom had just rearranged my son's meal onto other people's plate, completely ignoring that the kids had sat for TWO hours waiting to eat, bribing my son with toys so that he will sit by her, chastised my "son" (me) saying "we share in this family" when I put down a boundary about hoarding other people's food, specifically a CHILD's. 

On the way home, I was shaking I was so angry.  DH said "You hate my parents.  Don't you?  You can't hate my parents."  There was a beautiful sunset, my kiddos in the backseat, and I couldn't imagine how I was going to go on in a life where I was the bad guy for "not going along" with craziness.  If I would have to remain muzzled and controlled and jailed for the rest of my life in the prison someone else designed for me. 

I was done. I was ready to "fix" everyone's problem by killing myself.  Clearly, being "perfect" had not done anyone any good.

DH talked me out of it that night.  But in the next few days, during one of my lowest points, a random reference about a narcissistic spouse, on FB (which she later deleted, can't imagine why), by a distant friend, I decided to google "narcissistic".  And the 25 Characteristics of Narcissitic Mother popped up. 

I like to recall this moment as a sort of "tent pole" in my life.  I could never "unsee" from that point on.  I'm not anywhere near where I want to be.  I still suffer a lot of hard days.  But I have hope.  On lots of days. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Checking In

A couple of months ago, my youngest son decided he wasn't going to nap.  At all.  No quiet time, nothing.  So, there went my blogging time.  That and summer's gotten busy, and I've just had not time to check in.

But, I've been overwhelmed, depressed and thought it a good time to process a few things.  I had been feeling a lot better.  I had been gaining big strides, making lots of progress.  I was experiencing much less anxiety.  I felt stronger and happier than I had in a long time (still not strong, or really all that happy, but I felt better.  I was working hard to remember that I wouldn't be "there" immediately in this process.  )

And then I got tired of dealing with it all.  Some inkling of realization that "this is reality.  They really are these difficult people and I'm really going to have to deal with them, like this, every day forever.  There will be no change, no progress, no "relationship" with them.  Because they are incapable of it.  So, I will now only be "managing" them."  That was a hard thing to come to terms with.  Since the "record plea for peace" NM has been keeping her distance.  Mostly.  That means weekly, sometimes daily, emails or texts.  Often several texts in one day (think like 10).  But mostly she's been quiet.  She did "perk up" when we went on vacation.  I avoided telling her before we left that we were going.  She found out when we were in the middle of it.  Then I got "text me when you get home" and emails about her latest argument with her husband and bugging me to let her know "how things went" and "how is the driving going".  Leave me alone. 

She's been bringing up my sister when she gets a chance.  Just throwing her in.  "Oh, you saw that.  NSIS said this about it."  Or "Oh, you're on vacation?  I just booked tickets to visit (the city Nsis lives in)." (It was a tad more subtle than this, because she linked something we were doing on vacation, to something she will also do in NSIS's town.  None the less, it was pretty obvious her point.) 

My step sister (I have two SS and two SB's -plus spouses- on my mother's side.  We have never had a relationship.  They never really cared to include us - we were on their "turf" as NM tried to "assimilate" us into their life, not vice versa.  They weren't mean, just completely ignored me and NSIS.  This got worse when NSis started acting out in high school and all family members were greatly impacted, including them.) had decided she wanted to do a "family photo shoot" HAHAHAH.  I haven't seen some of these people in YEARS and only communicate through the family Christmas card exchange, despite all living relatively close and having opportunities to see each other.  Once, this particular step sister drove across the state to attend a business conference at the resort I worked at.  It's not a big place and I was easy to find, but she never made it down the staircase to the restaurant to find me.  Anyway, she wanted a family photo shoot to "celebrate" our "parent's marriage".  Again, HAHAHA.  Not only would I have had to take vacation time to accommodate their Sunday afternoon time slot (they all live close and can travel home and back in one day), we would've had to drive 6 hours, each way, and.....BE IN A PICTURE WITH NSIS AND HER SCUZZY BOYFRIEND.  Um, no. 

Why in the world Nm even fantasized this would happen, I don't know.  I haven't spoken to NSIS in two years.  What, would we just show up and throw our arm's around each other?  The ultimate "pretend" game?  I'm sure NM thought....hoped... that we would be the reason to "finally come together" and she could take credit for the reconciliation.  But, at the same time, NM kept saying how ridiculous she thought the photo was (she dislikes SS and was angry that SS didn't think about "her children" when planning the photo.  That it's "all about SS".)

Anyway, I refused to go.  I was very proud of myself, as I didn't JADE (much).  In any course, I stayed emotionally neutral.  Even when NM pointed out that "NSIS's boyfriend is insisting they come.  He thinks it's important to support me."  HAHAHAHAH!  Oh yeah, the physically abusive, freaky boyfriend, wants to support you?  Good for you.  (And for the record, NM booked her vacation to see NSIS the weekend before the shoot was supposed to happen.  So, I know they are not going.  I'm not surprised.  NSIS hasn't been back to my mother's home in 6- SIX- years.)

So, that was that.  All this came up at my youngest son's birthday.  On that note, the party went well.  I invited people OUTSIDE of the family, and what do you know, it was mostly pleasant ;).

NM did try some of her bullshit.  We had an incident in February, in which she watched my sons for a half hour while I went out for a walk.  Later that night, NM laughingly told me, "Don't tell OS, but he knocked over  a lamp today.  I accidently showed him some of your gifts for him when getting a new light bulb for the lamp.  I told him, if he didn't tell on me to you, I wouldn't tell on him."  She told me this laughingly and thought it was hysterical.  I was sickened.  That she would BLACK MAIL my son, and then make him think he was doing a favor was disgusting.  That she would convince him that lying to me - and lying in general - was OK, as long as you don't get caught, is so messed up.  I told her in no uncertain terms that she couldn't pull that bullshit with my kid.  There was of course, retaliation for that for me, but that's another story.

Anyway, she told me "I'll babysit, and I promise, we won't have a lamp incident."  I didn't think it was funny.

She took my MIL's side several times when I was discussing some of the things that MIL had been doing to me.  She even made sure to spend extra time "bonding" (her word) with MIL and discussing getting together to "hang out" for the weekend.  Clearly, she's trying to hurt my feelings.  Completely dismissing what I've said about MIL and believing MIL is a "good person". (also despite what she's said and seen of MIL in the past.  She's only a fan of MIL when she's angry with me.)

She was OK with the kids.  She wasn't too obnoxious, except for a DAYS long pat on the back for putting my son to bed.  Making sure to retell all of the wonderful things she did to get him to sleep.  (The implication is that she was a hero for doing something I couldn't or wouldn't do.  Or that she was "saving me" from doing.)  I ignored this.

She did pick a huge political argument, although she let step father do most of the actually arguing.  She just sat, kicking my stepfather under the table and rolling her eyes whenever I was speaking (I was turned away from her, DH told me about this later.)  She's just brimming under her cool, controlled, icy exterior to get at me, it seems.  Wanting so badly to put me in my place, but being unable to and not wanting to blow her cover. 

So, aside from that, it's been quiet around her when it comes to her.  Aside from that.  It's kind of crazy to write all of that down and then think about how this is her, on "mellow".  That she's often been a lot worse (or maybe I've handled it a lot more poorly?)

SIL and BIL haven't been around much.  They're busy crafting a new personality (new looks, new attitudes, new friends.  Aside from narcissism, they seem to be having a mid-life crisis).    Even friends of their's have been complaining about them to DH about how they've just "dumped" everyone and moved on.  BUT, at least they are out of my hair for awhile.

No news on the NSIS front.  She occasional leaves a comment on my FB photos.  Or likes random comments I put up.  I'm guessing that's more to keep me on my toes.  There is no rhyme or reason.  Or maybe that's how I "appear" in her mind; random notes that float in and out of her consciousness.  I doubt she thinks about me and our situation nearly as much as I think about her.

The in-laws.   Well, I haven't seen them a lot.  That helps.  I did have an incident that triggered a bunch of feelings that  I will write about in my next post.  I've really been able to clarify my understanding of the dynamics in DH's family.  Not that the understanding helps much.  Sometimes I feel still stuck in the same trap of dysfunction with them.  No matter how much progress I make.  DH can SEE everything, but hasn't bothered to fully un-enmesh with them.  He keeps saying "yes, I see how they are, but they are family and we have to be around the."  I'm trying to get him to see that being around them doesn't mean putting up with their bullshit.  Peace at all cost.  I feel like, if I say I don't like something and they can't handle it and blow up at me, that's on THEM.  He seems to feel the opposite. 

In addition, here are a few highlights:

MIL planned a birthday party for FIL.  She is notoriously horrible at this stuff (she CAN NOT communicate with vendors and always has issues. )  She is scattered and disorganized (at a party, serving alcohol, she had NO water for people.  And nothing other than soda for the kids - she knows my kids don't drink soda, it's actually DH's rule).  She attempted several times to get DH to take over.  Thankfully, he wiggled out.  The party was OK (she avoided me) but the next day we got a lot of pressure to stop by.  When we did (I knew we were going, but DH kept telling me we weren't....and then that morning breakfast plans got cancelled and we had to go over there), I refused to go in the house because of the dog.  It was a chilly day, but not horrible, but FIL kept complaining he had to come outside (the kids were playing outside too, but he didn't care). 

At the party, my MIL got all three kids cake, except my youngest (he wasn't right by them, but close.  And she's always pushing food on the other kids.  And there was only four kids, her grandkids, so it was odd she left him out.)  She also gave the three other kids the sportsball magnets off the cake and left out my son (he's the littlest, but only by six months than his cousin.)  Again, he wasn't right there, but I think it's unfair to give all the kids one, and not him just because he wasn't standing there.  (I'd say it was coincidence too, but last summer, she gave a NEW toy to my OS - her golden boy- and nothing to my younger son - who was 2, small, but not small enough to be excluded.)

The day after the party, MIL shoved a bag of clothes she had bought for my sons (and not at HER son, who was beside her.  I'm guessing I was supposed to be thankful and give her a "point.")  True to form, most of it was unattractive.  But the kicker was that the stuff for my son was for an infant.  He was a month from THREE at the time.  But she'd bought him 12-18 months cloths.  As she shoved them at me, she told me how "cute they were"  and "such a good deal".  Way to toot your own horn MIL.

As I've written before, BIL and SIL planned a "family vacation" with MIL and FIL over the weekend of my younger son's birthday.  Nobody bothered to tell us (we all know when the parties will be each year and MIL and FIL make a big deal about being invited).    DH found out by accident.  MIL called weeks before the party, in a panic (we had purposely not told her when we scheduled it, by misfortunate, it had to be the day after they got back and they would be able to attend.) saying they would "change their flights".  Yeah, right.  Such a martyr move (I'll change my flight to come!!!!  How about just offering up a fucking apology, lady?)  She then asks DH for ideas for gifts, and is taken a back when we say we've given out all of our ideas already.

The day of the party, MIL and FIL are FORTY-FIVE MINUTES LATE.  I can't help but notice there absence.  And I must say I was a bit gleeful.  Finally, the f-ers were getting CAUGHT.   MIL spoke little to me but, hoofed off (she waddles like one of those "Weeble-Waddle" people when she walksand bustles past people a lot.  Huge boobs out, charging forward.) Later, as I drove home with NM, she commented on MIL being late and explained that MIL had been lost.  LIE!  MIL had just been to the party place a few months before.  It's not hard to find and it's a small area between three major roads.  So, she had to call BIL to "give her directions" (she is such a child, that she often expects her son's to help her figure out how to get places.)  And besides, 45 minutes for lost?  I live in a fairly small town, which MIL comes to about 20 weekends a year.  Anyway, MIL does not speak to me the entire time.  She continues to waddle-bustle past me, always in a "hurry".  The gift she brings for my SON, is wrapped in girly-pink wrapping paper (not that I'm all about gender appropriate, but it just so clearly showed how little she gives a shit about my son.)  DH later told me that she had explained to him that, not only were they lost, but that FIL had so busy setting up the camp trailer (they had decided to camp outside my town.) that they lost track of time.  I'm not sure wtf she was doing that impaired her from telling time, but it was all FIL's fault.  So, she LIED to my mother, covered her ass and blamed FIL (with a shifty explanation in my book) , and actually admitted, that yes, they were late due to their own poor planning.  And I didn't get an apology or an explanation at all.

She also gave both my kids money for their piggy bank.  The older son, whose not even the birthday boy, got MORE.

The next day, she and FIL come to my kids game (which the "luckily" could come to when we told them about it last minute.  They'd had the schedule of all the other games, but couldn't make those.  Not coincidentally, it was also DH's birthday.  I'm sure I was expected to invite them over afterwards, but I'd had my fill.  This is when NM decide to swoop in and "bond" with MIL, ignoring my kids' pleas to come home and play, and instead hanging out with MIL in the parking lot for half an hour.)  FIL, who is a mostly nice guy, guffawed and made jokes about the kids (5 year olds.).  It wasn't wholly in appropriate (not man jokes) but I still thought not OK.    MIL didn't talk to me the whole game, not say hi.  (I'm guessing she felt shame for not showing up at the party on time.  So, instead of apologizing and move on, she decides to be nervous and tense and act weird.)  She did manage to yell "TAG YOUR BASE" at my son (none of yell at the kids.  They are little, very little.)  I was glad they were away from me.

So, that was months ago, and I've had some peace and quiet.  After next weekend, I'll have a few more weeks of peace.  However, some issues have really clarified in my mind about my in-laws and I'll explore them in my next post.