My aunt called me last night.
"Eden. I'm going to ask you something and I just want to ask, so just listen for a minute and I'm just asking."
That sentence structure right there was a big fat warning that I wasn't going to like whatever she was about to "just ask me."
".........uh.......oooooooooookkkkkaaaaayyyyyy" was what slowly and cautiously crept out of my mouth.
"I was thinking you should drop the kids off at my house so that your parents can see them. It would be a safe and neutral location where I would be supervising them and you wouldn't even have to see your parents."
I know it was just an honest question but even hearing those words enraged me to a point where I was actually gripping the side of my counter top in an effort to not turn around and run my head into a wall.
She just doesn't get it!
There was a long pause. A pause so long that after what honestly must have been a full minute or two she finally got up the nerve to ask me a question that she already knew the answer to. "Eden, did you hear me?"
YES I DID HEAR YOU. I'M JUST THINKING ABOUT HOW I CAN WORD ALL OF THIS ANGER INTO SOMETHING APPROPRIATE AND GROWN-UP LIKE THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
Ok, I, didn't actually say that, but that is exactly what I was thinking, loud angry words and all.
"No. No I cannot drop them off, no, my parents cannot see them" was what I eventually spoke in nothing short of a business-professional tone.
"But if you drop them off here, you won't have to see your parents at all" she stated rather matter-of-fact.
I once again took a deep breath and tried to calm down before beginning to speak. "This is not me throwing a temper tantrum and holding my kids hostage. This is me separating myself from a lifetime of dysfunction and I will not, cannot, allow my kids to be subjected to something that I'm not even willing to put myself through anymore."
"But Eden" she said, sounding annoyed but with a hint of pleading, "when are you going to let them see them? Hasn't this gone on long enough?"
I really just wanted to growl into the phone right now and hang up. This was a conversation that I have alread had probably 25 times or so already with her and yet two years later and she still doesn't get the point.
"Aunt, this was a well calculated and thought out decision that I made long enough ago that I have had time to let the reality of my choice sink in. Do you think it's easy for me to be on my own? Do you think it's easy for me knowing that the family I was born into is moving on without me? Do you think I like missing all the holidays with Grandma? Of course not, it hurts like hell but I understand what it means to not have parents at this point and despite everything that I hate it's still better. Can't you see that my life now versus two years ago is so much better than it was?"
She then told me that saying I was better off without my parents was a mean thing to say.
Remember the conversation that I had where I all but flipped out on my ex's mother? Well that was pretty much what happened next except that I wasn't directing my anger at her and I wasn't yelling. (seriously, can we take a moment to be proud of me for not yelling because I'm sort of feeling
"Do you know what's mean?" I asked her before I launched into a breathless tangent.
"What's mean is treating your daughter like shit. It's mean to make her stay married when you know full well that her husband is cheating on her with multiple women. It's mean to make her stay married to a guy who not only hit her, but hit her baby as well. Mean is watching your daughter (me) cry and beg to move in with you (them) and telling her that you will never support her in a divorce. Mean is watching her fall apart until the guy finally leaves her and mean is then giving her the final kick by telling her it's her fault. That's mean. Did you know any of that even happened? Did you have any idea? Did my dad tell you about the vacation where my ex got so high that we had to drag his passed out ass back to the hotel room where he peed on everything and then we had to babysit him all night? Did he tell you my ex stole $23,000 from the family business and they knew about it? Did my dad tell you that he refused to pay for a divorce but said he would pay for marriage counseling? Did he tell you that we went to a family session with out xxx (my then still husband) and that counselor told him that I needed to leave my ex and that my dad was throwing me under the bus? Did he tell you any of that? You were shocked as hell when my ex left and do you know why that is? Because you never saw it coming. You never saw it coming because this family never talks about anything. People don't just disappear, there is a lot that leads up to that point. I screwed up by marrying that guy but then they helped him glue my coffin shut. When he finally left me, according to them it was all my fault. Well you know what? It's not my fault. It's not my fault and I refuse to continue to interact with people that think everything is my fault and I REFUSE to let my children interact with people who have no respect for their mother. I refuse to continue to allow them to steer me in the wrong direction and I refuse to allow them to continue to aide me in the bad choices I make. I need you to trust that I know what I'm doing and that I'm making the best choice I can in a really bad situation. So no, I will not drop them off at your house so that my parents can see them and I would appreciate it if you would stop asking me that."
So basically I've become a real bitch these days.
"Ok, I get it. I won't ask again and I'm sorry" she replied in a much quieter tone.
"I'm not mad at you" I said, my own heart softening. "I'm just so frustrated. No one in this family talks about anything. All these huge things happen and we just shove everything under the rug. My ex abandoned me and no one was there for me because that's 'not what we do.' You never knew any of this, because we never talk. I never told you because I wasn't sure how well it would be received. But no, I can't have my parents see the kids, ever."
She said ok, told me she would call me again soon, and then hung up.
I feel bad, really bad. I wish I hadn't been so harsh with her but I am trying to understand that I only said what I needed to not just hear, but really understand, and every other way that I had tried to tell her was simply not working.
It's hard sometimes to remember that feelings and reality are not always the same thing.
I feel like I did something wrong. I feel really bad that I hurt her. I feel awful that I spoke to her in the way that I did. The reality though is that I said what needed to be said. I defended myself in an appropriate manner and I didn't do anything wrong.
I just wish it didn't feel as if I had.
Sometimes life just keeps throwing the same situation at you over and over again, not to piss you off, but so that you have the opportunity to finally make the right choice. The fact that this has been a repeated conversation obviously means that what I was doing before wasn't working.
This isn't uncommon for children of dysfunctional families. We spent our entire lives being told what to think and say, never being taught to trust ourselves, but rather to conform ourselves to suit another. When we are confronted with an issue that requires honest communication we oftentimes don't know how to effectively stand up for ourselves and therefore our true feelings and intentions are not accurately expressed.
I'm trying now to stand up for myself, but at this age it isn't an easy thing to learn. For the most part I've been doing really well handling things as they come. Yet when it comes to dealing with issues of my past, everything is so pent up that when I'm confronted with an issue that I was not prepared to deal with, all that comes out is a bunch of word vomit that I probably could have been handled in a better fashion.
I know from reading all your emails that many of you are struggling with the same things. For those of you that are still within your dysfunctional family units you are probably struggling to find your footing when it comes to standing up for yourselves. For those of you who have left your families you are many of you are probably dealing with some of the issues that I am currently dealing with; the family that is trying to draw you back in.
It's not easy and while I wish that I had some great grand advice to give you right now, I don't because I'm struggling with this myself. I don't know how to handle a past that I still very much don't understand. I often don't know what the appropriate thing is to say or do.
The only thing I know is that when push comes to shove I make a decision based on which answer provides me with the environment I need for the life that I want.
Sounds selfish doesn't it?
I am by nature a people pleaser. I like to make people happy, I want everyone to be ok, I am truly sad when others are sad and it really hurts me when others are hurting.
When dealing with a dysfunctional family you cannot let their feelings effect you. That was a hard concept for me to grasp because it goes against everything that we are taught about decent human values, it goes against everything that I feel is right.
"I'm sorry, but I cannot allow myself to care how you feel about this."
I don't like the way that sounds when it echoes in my head but it is a phrase that I find myself repeating often when dealing with my family.
Please note the wording though; "I'm sorry but I cannot allow myself to care how you feel about this."
It's not that I don't want to care, it's that I cannot allow myself to care.
Remember the metaphors I used in the post about "Some People Have To Learn The Hard Way," where I talked about how it will always be easier for someone to pull you down then for you to pull them up? I've come to realize that it's not that I don't want to care, it's that I cannot allow myself to care and that is a big distinction.
If I allow them to my family will kill me. I (hopefully) don't mean literally, but they are going to kill me in one way or another. They had broken me down so far that I was barely even human anymore. I was making the wrong choices left and right and my bad decisions were spilling over into the lives of my kids and the people that I interacted with and that was the breaking point for me; the time to get out.
I know it hurt my parents (in ways that I actually don't understand), but I know it hurt them and I truly do feel bad about that. Despite my past, I didn't want to hurt them. Hurting them was never and is still not my intention, I simply realized that the environment they provided was not conducive in ways that I needed to grow, to live.
The only things that grow in the desert are defensive and hostile. They are prickly and sharp because they need to defend themselves from the environment that they are growing in.
I didn't want to be defensive and hostile. I didn't want to be prickly and sharp because of where I grew. I knew that if I wanted to grow differently, that I needed to grow elsewhere.
I realized that I could not allow myself to care about how they felt because their feelings were taking away everything that I needed to live.
So Aunt, it's not that I don't care, it's that I cannot allow myself to care. I cannot live in an environment that is completely devoid of anything needed for my survival.
It's not that I don't care, it's simply that I cannot grow here.
It's not that I don't want to care, it's simply that I cannot allow myself to.