Releasing the past in order to find myself

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Family Trip

We recently went to visit the city in which my sister lives.  DH and I both LOVE this city and haven't been there for four years.  It's been three years since I stopped having a relationship with my sister.

Ironically, I had encouraged my sister to move to this city.  It's a lot closer to our home than the other city she lived in.  She was in the same town as my father, but that wasn't healthy for either of them.  She was in an abusive relationship, wasn't thriving, and I thought that if she moved to a new town, a town that seemed more in sync with her personality, she could finally break free from her self destruction.  I'm sure no one will be surprised to learn that the move didn't fix much.

We had gone to this town several times over the years.   The last time, I took my newborn over to visit her.  Yup, that's how our relationship worked.  She didn't come to meet her new nephew, but I took him over there.  She had offered to come and help me during the birth.  But when I suggested that bringing her new (and abusive) boyfriend to meet me at the same time as I was recovering from a C-section and had a newborn was not a good idea, she suddenly chose not to come.

We had to keep the vacation a secret up until the last minute.  I did not want my NM to know that we went.  She would have laid on a ton of guilt.  She was here the weekend before we left and it was exhausting.  Not that there was anything really "bad" that happened, but it was constant ducking and weaving to avoid falling into her traps.

I was anxious going to the city.  It's a big city, but I was worried I would accidentally run into her.  I know that seems paranoid, but I just couldn't imagine what I would do if I did happen upon her.   DH asked what I would do.  Anxiety and fear popped up.  I imagined that it would not go well.  She would expect me to have a reaction (happy to see her), I imagine, that I knew I wouldn't have.  I feared that if I did see her, N-rage would come out and she would yell, curse, maybe even hit me if she saw me in person.  She has no self control with her emotions and lashes out and fearing her attacking me in front of my kids was not far fetched.  She cares not at all about the feelings and thoughts of my kids.

During the trip, I would relax when we were some place that I knew she would clearly not be.  But I kept scanning the crowd anytime we were in a more public area or in a neighborhood near where she lives.  I was afraid of pulling up next to her at a stop light.

Memories of our last trip over to see her contrasted sharply with this visit.  Before I even went the last time, I tried to establish some boundaries.   Our family was going for a vacation, not just to visit my sister.  We were happy to have her join us, but I didn't want to have things revolved around her.  I didn't want to pay for her for everything (she's in her 30s and capable of paying for things herself.)  When I tried to explain to my NM that we were going to do things outside of seeing my sister, she became upset, telling me that I needed to make sure my sister's feelings were at the forefront.  The fact that DH and I were taking our family, wanting to do some other things (that my sister wouldn't like), that I couldn't afford to pay for my sister to join us on our more "touristy" activities didn't matter to NM.

When we arrived in town, we headed for the beach.  It took my sister over an hour to meet up with us (I had a toddler and a newborn, but we worked on HER schedule) because she was at the courthouse.  Her boyfriend had struck her, been arrested by the police, and she was at the courthouse worried that he'd get sent to jail for it.  That was her primary concern, not that we had driven 8 hours to meet up with her.

The next day, we went out for dinner by ourselves, only because it was our anniversary.  Normal sisters would have offered to watch the kids so her sister could have a nice dinner.  But not my sister.  Not that I would have left my kids with her anyway.

We took the kids to the zoo.  My sister showed up in a crop top and daisy dukes.  And thin, flimsy flip flops.  An hour into the day, she was complaining about her feet hurting.  When we went to get the tickets to go in, she just stood back and let my husband pay for her's.  She didn't ask, but didn't offer at all.  She has this way of projecting entitlement: if she's going to "honor" you with her presence of coming (which I had tried to tell her she didn't have to come), you have to pay for that.  She would never spend HER money on something SHE didn't want to do in the first place.  She was doing us a "favor".   As I was used to taken care of her and NM often made me feel I had to pay for my sister, I did it.  At lunch, NSIS complained about the prices of the food.  Again, she could afford it (she showed up the day before in $200 boots), but she felt she shouldn't HAVE to pay for something that we wanted to do.  Despite the fact that I had told her many, many times that I knew it would be expensive for her and she didn't have to join us, she came anyway.  And made us pay for it.  Towards the end of the day she became really testy.  She gets irritable easily. I again encouraged her to go home, that we were perfectly fine with that.  But nope.  She stayed.  And made us miserable.

Later that day, we met her for dinner (at a place she chose).  By now the novelty of the kids had warn off.  The way she seemed so disconnected from them seemed odd.  I often got the feeling that she was always annoyed with my husband because he got too much of my attention.  She seemed the same way with the kids.  Like they were an inconvenience to her getting attention.  She started in on a diatribe about herself, her friends, her life.  She started ordering whiskey on the rocks with a beer.  Every round.  And she had a few.  And then, not surprisingly, she didn't even move when the bill came.  I always felt so badly when my husband had to pick up the check for her.  This wasn't the first time, and in fact, whenever we were around her, she just felt my husband should pay (I don't think she really connects that HIS money is my money.  It's like she feels she can take advantage of him, that he "has" money and so he "should" pay for her.  Thinking about the fact that we were paying a pretty penny to visit the city in the first place was not even on her radar.)  She grew bored with "family time" and went out to drink with her boyfriend for the evening.

Luckily, the next day we went and visited some tourist attractions, which is beneath her, and so we were spared from spending the time with her.  She came one more time to say goodbye.

The contrast between that last trip stood in such opposition to this trip.  Despite the anxiety of seeing her, I was much more relaxed.  I didn't feel torn between avoiding her rages and keeping her happy, and sacrificing my family's enjoyment and money and respect.  I didn't have to worry about her being snippy to my husband.  I could work around what my KIDS wanted to do, instead of what she wanted to do.  I didn't have to worry about her sharing things that were inappropriate for kids or swearing and cursing (her creepy boyfriend has a weird internet site that has a very vulgar cartoon image of a woman in outline.  She had a sticker of this on her vehicle.  I couldn't imagine having to explain that to my kids now.....and I wondered at the time how other people parked behind her at stop lights appreciated that image).    I didn't have to work around the creepy boyfriend or make small talk with someone who is a complete self absorbed schmuck.  I didn't have to explain why she chain smokes to my kids or worry about the example she would set by drinking so much.  We could go do "touristy" or just things we wanted to do while in the town without worrying about working around her.  I didn't have to worry about what she was going to tell my NM when we left (about how horrible I was, how my husband wasn't nice to her, blah, blah.)  I didn't have to worry about NM lecturing me about making sure my sister was OK and her feelings were foremost and her needs were met during the visit.  I didn't have to worry about her relegating my husband to "scenery" while she dominated all my attention and the conversation at the table.

I didn't miss her.  I didn't feel sad that I didn't see her.  I wasn't upset that I was so close to her and didn't visit.  At all.  It makes me sad that this is what it's come too, but looking back at the toxicity, the stress, the craziness that used to involve any visit with her, and I don't miss it at all.  I just don't see how I could ever go back to a relationship like that.