What was said; What I heard

I read something that had a pretty big impact on me at a pretty important time which has led to the inspiration for this post. I have not spoken to my mother in a week. This would not generally be note worthy but this time it is. The last time we spoke ended badly and the space I thought I needed to take care for myself expanded from a half hour to multiple days to now a week.

During this week my Dad showed up in his normal role in our family: peace maker/mother fixer. My Dad picks up the messes of others so everything can stay neat and tidy and we can all pretend there is no mess. Dad also takes care of Mom, Mom comes first. Always.

The space has been painful. I feel like a terrible daughter, I feel like I am the problem, I feel like I am breaking my mother’s heart, I feel guilt, I feel shame, I feel like I will be a terrible mother. I feel self-doubt. I worry that my actions are manipulative, I am constantly second guessing myself. I feel unstable, out of control.

As the space has gotten bigger so has my truth; I feel rejected. I feel used. I feel blamed like a scapegoat. I feel resentment. I feel more stable. I am starting to gain clarity. I am starting to truly understand how much bigger than me this is. I am learning how to care for myself since the focus is not constantly on caring for her. My heart is aching. I feel let down.

Yesterday or the day before, I honestly cannot remember now, I was reading a blog that I have been following for a long time. It is a blog similar to my own; personal, searching, honest. I appreciate the honest part most. I admire and appreciate people who are willing to say out loud that life is hard, families are hard, relationships are hard. I see enough posed photos with perfect smiles, sometimes I need the honesty of how devastating losing a pet can be. This blogger shows up in her truth.

So I was reading this post that true to form was painfully honest and I definitely identified with parts of it. My truth is different from hers but I saw myself, my childhood self, in some of her writing.

I wasn’t sure I had the courage to be so honest but right now seems like the time. The only way for things to be different is to do things differently. That means honesty and stepping out from the shadow of denial. Last week my mother and I broke another vase, metaphorically speaking, and despite all his efforts my father was not able to sweep these pieces under the rug like so many broken pieces before it. So now I am going to stand here in the mess I helped make and accept Alma’s invitation to be seen in my truth.

What was said and What I heard:

Calm down: You are acting crazy. You are crazy.
This isn’t going to work: You can’t do this. You made a mistake. You did this wrong.
Your mother is really upset: Your mother is really upset and it is your fault. You need to apologize to your mother. Please fix this for me. I am scared.
Your brother _____________: I love him more. Your accomplishments, life, words, ideas, problems, are less important than his.
Mother-daughter relationships are hard: This is what it is, get used to it. Stop trying to change things. Stop upsetting the apple cart.
What is most important is that we love each other: Do you still love us? Are we good parents? Please don’t leave us. Family comes before everything, including your emotional well-being.
*Silence*: Fuck you. You are the worst. I will not bend. You will give me what I want. Who do you think you are? You owe me this. You are not stronger than me. Don’t make me angry. How dare you. I do not love you.

What I needed to hear:

This started long before you.
This is not your fault.
I own my part.
Take all the time you need, I will be here.
I am ready to really work on this.
The truth, the real honest truth.

 

There are a lot of ANDs that exist in this space of pain but this time I am going to keep my ANDs to myself. I know what they are and that is what matters. I do not feel compelled to make this mess pretty to make myself or anyone else more comfortable. Not this time.

mom

I Need Some Time to Take Care of Myself

I said this to my mother today after she said something to me that was an instant trigger. My mother knows how to push my buttons. Of course she does, she created them!

The moment I felt myself losing control I showed up for myself: I need to get off the phone. I am upset and I need some time to take care of myself. I love you, I am not mad at you but I am upset and I need to not be on the phone right now. We can talk later.

It was important to me that I spoke my truth and got off the phone as soon as possible. I did not want to be pulled back in, my mother often tries to pull me back in.

Mom: Well I don’t know how to respond to that.

Me: Yes, I understand this might be confusing for you and I am sorry about that but right now this is what I need. I have to get off the phone, we can talk later.

……Silence……

Me: Mom. I really need to do this for myself right now but it is important to me that I am not hanging up on you so can you please let me know that you are okay so I can go?

I look down at my phone. She had already hung up on me.

Jokes on you kiddo.

I stood there in my fury and rejection and cried. Here I was needing to take care of myself but still putting her first. I was afraid of how my just hanging up the phone would make her feel while the whole time she had already it done it me. I was trying to mother my mother who was not mothering me. The only person I needed to be mothering was myself. And that is just what I did.

A half hour later my dad was calling. This is typical. This is one of our patterns. Mom and I fight, Mom tells Dad, Dad smooths it over. Nothing is resolved, just ignored. Dad is the reset button.

No thank you.

I turned off my phone and spent the rest of the hour taking care of me and mothering my inner child that felt completely rejected and destroyed by her mother.

I do not know how I have the clarity of mind to even write this right now. My mother is tornado, her path of destruction is wide and I am often left in utter shock and confusion in the emotional wake of it all.

I still do feel a bit shell shocked but I this time I showed up for me and that made a difference.

inner child

Rose Petals and Pixie Dust

pixie-dust1

During all the truth speaking that was taking place last week something was said that I had multiple reactions to. One of my relatives made a reference to my truth that I has shared and referred to it as rose petals and pixie dust. I believe this reference was intended to add impact to their truth, not take away or diminish my own.

If there was a second hashtag that could have been added to the events of last week it would have #rosepetalsandpixiedust. That definitely became a thing after he made the reference.

Here is my truth about rose petals and pixie dust:

Truth 1: That is me. I am absolutely rose petals and pixie dust. When I caught wind of that statement my first thought was to laugh and say, Yep he has me pegged. Rose petals and pixie dust is not a reference I mind people linking to me.

Truth 2: The reference he made, whether intended or not, did attempt to minimize my message based on his tone. He took my truth and essentially called it frilly and nonsensical as a way to underscore his own message. His message came from a very masculine energy place, mine came from a very feminine energy place, both of our messages were valid and worth the same weight. Masculinity is not > femininity. In short, I am sorry to say but in my opinion his message had seriously sexist undertones. Truth speaking is not about being right or wrong, it is not about making judgement.

Although there are pieces of me that completely identified with the reference and other pieces of me that think the reference is funny, there are also pieces of me that wish that my relative would have just spoken his own truth without needing to use my truth as a boost.

I do not have hard feelings about this but there was a realization that took place here and it needed a voice. I am a magical woman, rose petals and pixie dust are part of my magic. My magic (love, creativity, authenticity) is what makes me special, it is not a flaw or weakness and it certainly does not make me any less worthy of taking up space in this world. That is my truth.

Truth Speaking

truth-speaking

If my family had a a hashtag right now, it would be #truthspeaking. The best part is I did that. Me. The girl with a thousand secrets, the girl with the constant shadow. I brought truth speaking home.

After the ordeal that took place in my family early last week I spoke my truth via email to my relative and then emailed the rest of my extended family to offer love and support as well as encourage each of them to speak their own truth in this moment. The title of the initial email sent was The Truth, it felt very ominous. This relative shared their truth and although I think they believe it to be objective truth I know that is not how truth works. So I took this as an invitation to share my own truth which I did. Now what I did not share with most of my family is that the truth I chose to share was just one piece. I have many truths about what is taking place in my family right now, I chose to share the truth that I thought would do the most good and bring the most healing which is what I believe is needed right now.

As a result of my emails some of my family members did choose to speak their truths as well. Their truths did not look like my truth and that is okay, their truths belong to them and mine belong to me.

After all was said and done the situation is no closer to being resolved but maybe it is on a path towards healing. You can heal without resolution, that is another one of my truths. Truth speaking breaks down barriers that keep us from healing. Once those walls come down it often becomes less about “fixing the problem” and more about healing the hurt.

So as I family I think the focus now is supporting one another as we apply ointment to the emotional wounds that were inflicted from this fire. I am sending each person in my family light and love as they take care of themselves during this time. I hope that as a family we are able to move forward in our collective and individual truths and feel connection and love as a result.

Sometimes it takes hearing someone else’s truth that is not our own to wake us up to what our truth is. I think my relative did that for my family last week. By speaking his truth he allowed each person the opportunity to wake up to their own truth in that moment and speak it.

Emotional Arsonist

emotional-arsonist

I was weary and ready for sleep tonight when it was time for lights out. I did not write yesterday because the words had not yet come to me. Then magically they appeared in the middle of the night as they sometimes do like a song stuck in my head. The longer I lay there trying to ignore them, trying to wait til the morning, the louder the song grew. Until there was only one choice to make, it is time to write.

I woke initially with a pain in my shoulder which makes sense because I am carrying a burden. A burden that weighs heavy on my heart and heavier on my soul.

Before I go further I would like to offer background for this post:
The Unraveling of a Family Tie
and
Boundaries are Hard in Families
will give some context to this post for anyone that wants it.

Out of respect for my family I have been doing what I consider shadow writing on topics related to family issues up to this point. For now I plan to continue to write in the shadows, I may feel differently about this as time goes on, that is yet to be seen.

So in these previous posts I have mentioned a long brewing issue that one family member is at the center of. In recent months another family member has become involved and when this took place a small flame was lit. A flame of negativity and malice, of confusion and mistrust. This small flame has resulted in a raging fire of destruction and disconnection that threatens to engulf my family.

Previously I mentioned that I am not the fire department and I hold no power to extinguish this blaze; that is still my truth. I am one person with a bucket though and today was the day I decided it was time to pick up my one bucket and use it before it was too late.

Up to this point this flame has been somewhat contained. There are two family members who started it and they have been trying to add small pieces of kindling but the fire has burned away from most of the rest of the family so we have been able to remain uninvolved with collective hope that this fire would burn out on its own given enough time. Today a flame from that fire licked my face and that was too close to comfort. It was time to set a hard boundary.

What took place was that my relative who is one of the fire starters emailed the entire family to speak their truth about another family member who they have a waged character war against. This was done as a way to further discredit this person and lambast their integrity. On this issue I remain neutral, this is not my quarrel. What I will not do however is accept any kind of correspondence that will cause further injury to my family. I did not read more than the first line of this person’s email, that was enough for me. From there I took a breath and decided to respond. My response was as follows:

_________________ ,

Please know that as I write this email I bear you no ill will. I believe that you feel that you are doing what you think is right.

With that said, I did not read your email and I will not read any further correspondence that means to further injure our family. When I say family, that includes everyone. You, ______, and _______ will always be part of my family and I will always have compassion for all of you, as I do everyone in the family.

I feel as though you have lost your way and I send you light and love during this difficult time.

As forĀ  __________, there is nothing that anyone could ever say that would convince me that he is anything less than good hearted.

I hope we are able to heal as a family. The disconnection we are experiencing is hurtful and it does not have to be.

I am sending you love and forgiveness.

 

This was my bucket of water. This was my offering and my hope is that the healing energy of love and compassion would act as water to the flame. If not, I have at least set the boundary in an assertive way to let them know I will not accept this kind of correspondence going forward.

This person’s email was entitled “The Truth” and they spoke their truth. I took this as an invitation for the rest of us to speak ours.

I have remained silent and neutral up to this point, as the rest of my extended family has, for reasons I have listed before: hopefully this will blow over, it is none of my business, etc.

This is not blowing over, the flames are growing larger and the moment my relative sent that email to the entire extended family this situation went from being none of my/our business to this person making it our business.
There is a time for silence and a time for action and for me the time for silence ended the moment this person hit the “send” button and spewed this venom on the family.

I still remain neutral on the overarching issue because I do not believe it is my place to pass judgement on who is right or wrong. I might have my private feelings about that but I do not have the authority or the right to pass that judgement openly. I also do not believe that doing so will help me meet my ultimate goal for an outcome which is the healing and preservation of my entire family.

Judgement and anger and other negative emotions would only further insight this fire. To put out a fire you have to introduce a new element: sand, water, etc. Love is my water. Unconditional forgivenessĀ  and compassion are my water. An invitation to heal is my water.

When I sent my response I replied all. No one else in my family had responded to this relative, this is still true. My hope is that I was able to set an example of love, an example that my family will have the courage to follow. My hope is that my family will see me here with bucket and join me with buckets of their own healing truth to share with this family member in an effort to extinguish this flame.

In the end we cannot control this person or their reactions. We are not the fire department and we may not be able to put out this inferno. I will not stand by with my bucket and feel useless though. I will not watch my family burn and do nothing when I have a bucket I can offer. My family may be doomed to burn either way but at least I know I did my part.

Tonight I send out love and light to everyone in my family, we all are hurting in the wake of this crisis. My hope and intention is the light I am sending out be the light that guides my family back to a path of love and connection. We have to come back to each other in love and connection to heal and be whole again.

 

An aside: When I got out of bed to come and write I did what I normally do when I write in the middle of the night. I lit my candles to bring light and love to darkness, I lit my salt lamp with the same intention, and I made myself a cup of tea. Then I took my tea and nested in blankets on the couch for comfort. The tea I often make for middle of the night writing is a brand that has what I think of as “love notes” on the tag. When I looked at the love note on my tea it was as though the Universe knew what I am trying to do with my healing bucket of water and was sending me support and assurance in its own way.

cosmic-support

 

Festivals and Vegetables

indie-fest

Friday my in-laws arrived and as expected Dad and I immediately fell into conversation. The suitcases weren’t even unpacked and there we were at the kitchen table deep in discussion.

Dad had a minor health issue at the beginning of the year which came as a shock to all of us, Dad included, because he is one of the healthiest men I know. Dad plays basketball with men half his age at the Y nearly everyday, he lifts weights, he runs the treadmill, and he eats better than most Americans. What we learned from this incident of his is that you cannot escape your genes. He is predisposed to heart issues and eventually that predisposition caught up with him. It was a warning call to hubs and I, we have already formed healthier habits than both of our families in terms of food but we could stand to be more active. Hub’s genes are now on our radar so we are making this a priority.

So when hub’s parents arrived Dad informed us that he is trying out a vegan lifestyle for a while. This was great news for hubs and I because that is how we eat 90% of the time anyway and usually when his parents visit I do not cook because our food is too bland and healthy for most palates. This time Dad was picking my brain to learn my recipes. We also talked about the documentary Forks Over Knives which he just watched, I saw that one some time ago. He was quite impacted by it.

I am glad to see anyone in our family makes healthy adjustments in their life, I am especially happy when it means I can cook and eat the way I normally would.

Saturday was the Indie-Folk Festival near our home. This has become a tradition for hubs and I, we have been going every year since we moved in together. Last year his parents were in town so we went together, this year they came along again. Lucy came for the first time this year as well. Lucy had a blast. We set up our blanket under one of the Live Oaks near the lake and Lucy’s admirers practically formed a line.

First it was the 6-8 year old boy who literally laid on top of her while he loved on her. Then the two little girls. Then there was a stream of men and women. Finally Lucy was asked to be a model for one of the nearby vendors. We were set up near a booth selling floral crowns and hanging plants; the owner came over with a small doggy sized floral wreath/crown made of eucalyptus and lavender and asked if Lucy would model it for her so she could take photos. Lucy gladly obliged and looked lovely doing so.

Hubs and Dad went and got us cold pressed juice and we spent the afternoon drinking kale and beet juice in the shade of an oak tree listening to soul and folk music.

When we were leaving hubs and I took his parents over to the Live Oak where we had many of our engagement photos done. I was sitting on a low branch while they walked around and Lucy hopped up next to me. I swear she is half cat sometimes.

Yesterday we went to some open houses hubs and I were interested in nearby. We are talking more and more about our forever home now that I am close to graduating/earning an income again. Hubs had a long conversation with someone in the business and it is clear now is a good time to buy with rents being so high and interest rates being reasonable.

Today hubs is working with Dad on a DIY home project for me. We have never used our fireplace because it is not cold here long enough to warrant the up keep of hiring a chimney sweep so hubs is instead making me a decorative candle display to have in the fire place. I enjoy having a fireplace because I think it makes a house feel more homey but the reality is in Florida it is really just for show.

So quick update on job prospects.. I was just made aware of another position that is likely going to be coming available soon that is heavy on the clinical side. That would be ideal if it worked out, I would really like to continue to build on the skills I have been practicing. I would also like the opportunity to practice new skills I learn from certification trainings and that would be harder to do if I am not in a clinical position. Last week I finished a certification training, I am excited to keep learning and growing and hope to land a position that allows for this.

 

Boundaries are Hard in Families

The title of this post are words taken from my mother’s mouth. This is what she said to me tonight while we were speaking by phone, and she is right.

I am tired. I stayed up later than intended watching Project Runway and I am ready to crawl into bed. My babies are in bed waiting for me to join them and almost every piece of my being is dying to go fall into my husband’s arms. When I got up and started turning off lights and locking up one piece of me rose to the surface and started getting really noisy. She needs a voice and it cannot wait for tomorrow.

I have mentioned before how some stories prefer to be told in the darkness, I think that is why some of us lay awake at night troubled with deep thoughts. Dark pieces, shadow pieces, feel safest in the dark AKA night time.

I mentioned that over the holiday there was family drama that hubs and I have not engaged in.. I have not decided how much I am willing to share yet.. I am processing while I write..

What I can say is that a few years ago I made the decision that there was an extended family member I needed distance from. Every time we (hubs and I) were around this person at family gatherings they made us uncomfortable. It was really more than that though, I cannot put my finger on it, it was something I felt on a intuitive level, there was bad energy coming off of this person, I felt bad and negative when I had to be around them.

Hubs and I made ourselves scarce for a while. We did not attend as many family gatherings with extended family and were choosy about how we engaged with the extended family (specifically who we spent time with and when).

At first my mother attempted to lay a massive guilt trip on me about this but I (we) were stead fast. I have said for a long time that I do not believe in forced anything, including obligatory familial relationships. I have written about this in the past. Well after about 6 months or so this person was at the center of an enormous family controversy and most of the rest of my extended family began distancing themselves as well.

Suddenly no one was giving hubs and I shit for our decision to create this physical boundary we had created. Go figure.

As time has gone on it seems this person has either consciously or unconsciously made more and more decisions that would result in their further isolation from the family, not my concern honestly.

The extended family has up to this point been patient with this person, polite (in most cases), and towed the line. This I believe has mostly been in the interest of not upsetting my aging grandmother who loves her family and would be hurt by any fracture within the family system. So the ever growing crack has been ignored, until now.

Something happened this week and this person has very openly waged war against another family member. Our once dysfunctional but connected family has now been ripped in half and everyone is scrambling to pick a side. It is hysteria. The emotional fallout for some is extreme. Family members are feeling pressure to choose between their relationship with their siblings and their sons/daughters, or their son and grandson, or their niece and nephew.

My extended family, like many, has always experienced a level of dysfunction but it has been manageable up to this point. The pressure of the obligatory relationship, the guilt of disappointing the matriarch (my grandmother), plus religion and familial bonds have kept the family together up to this point. It appears all this has dissolved leaving nothing but confusion, pain, and a massive power struggle.

My parents are caught smack in the middle of the mess. Hubs and I immediately stepped back as a way to preserve our relationship and sanity, this is not ours to deal with. My parents could do the same, it is not theirs either technically, but I know they will not. Doing so would mean they would have to “abandon” family members and I know they will not do it. I put quotations around the word abandon because I want to highlight that it is what I believe their perception is but maybe not necessarily what is objectively true.

Hubs and I have offered emotional support via phone to my parents. I am not willing to get any closer to the eye of this storm than that right now. We have changed our New Years Eve plans and will not be with family now. It is not that I do not love and support my family, I am just not willing to insert myself into a situation that is a raging emotional disaster and none of my business.

This will blow over in time, or it won’t. Either way hubs and I will make decisions over time about what our boundaries will look like as things progress. Our boundaries on this have allowed us to continue to enjoy our time off together even as this fire rages on. I am not the fire department, I cannot extinguish this flame, and I cannot save anyone who does not want to be saved.

I feel good about how hubs and I have been able to offer help, and how I personally have been able to support my parents emotionally. Tonight we talked for a while and I felt good about the conversation, I tried to help them step back from the situation and see it from different angles. At the end of the conversation my mother mentioned how they really need me around right now. This was in reference to me letting them know earlier in the day that we have decided not to come over on New Years Eve. When I originally told her we would not be coming I explained it was because we had made other plans, which is true. When she brought it up again I explained about the boundaries we have set for ourselves right now and that we would more than likely be observing these boundaries until the situation is under better control. We are not willing to get sucked in and this is undoubtedly the only thing my family will be talking about on New Years Eve. We are not interested in starting our New Year in that energy.

I invited my parents over for dinner at our house, and told them we could make other plans with just them but that we would not be spending time with the rest of the family while this situation is fresh.

I could tell be her tone that my mother was disappointed. After years of setting and maintaining healthy boundaries in that relationship though she has learned I cannot be swayed once I have made up my mind.

I love my family very much. It hurts my heart that we are experiencing a fracture on this level. For me there is no love lost on the individual that in my eyes has created this fracture, it does not make the situation any less sad though. This person is experiencing disconnection and has been for such a long time and it has now led to this. Hurt people hurt people, that is what taking place in my family right now. I hope in time this wound is able to be healed, for some if not all of my family members. I am hopeful, I know many do not share my optimism. It will be up to each person to decide how they are going to show up in this moment of time in our family’s history. Personally I am thinking of my grandfather, the patriarch that passed away years ago. I think it would hurt his heart as well to see his family in this state. I believe individually we are all better than this and are capable of the kind of love that heals deep hurts. I hope that collectively we can get there.