In Minor Family Traumas

I told my parents I’m not going to Georgia for Christmas. It was not well met. They weren’t mad or anything. They just didn’t believe me. The Butcher says I’ll go.

Which, lord, is so fucked up. I mean, first of all, I highly doubt the Butcher told them I would go. I would bet all my money that the Butcher said I could ride with them if I was going.

But the part I love, the part that just gets me right in the chest, is this idea that there’s anyone else on this planet who knows me and what I’ll do better than I do and so whatever I say about my life can be overridden by that other person.

Let It Work

I went outside and laid in my back yard for a half an hour or so, in the dark, just staring up at the mostly light polluted sky, waiting, occasionally, for a star to wink at me or an airplane to fly over.

It’s hard to think about anything when you’re flat on your back on the ground, so I didn’t. I just cried a little bit and then I watched the black tree branches against the dark gray sky. And then I just laid there until I felt better.

I came back in the house and every time I started to feel anxious or sad, I just repeated to myself, “let it work.” Let the calm from laying on the ground looking at the dull sky do what it will do to me.

Eventually I went to bed. In the middle of the night, I woke up to this revelation. It may not be a revelation to those of you following along at home, but it was not something I had realized.

Every time something good happens to me, my family finds a way to ruin it, to knock me back down a peg or two. I don’t know if they do it consciously or not, but I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Hell Thanksgiving followed on the heels of my Best of Nashville stuff.

I’m afraid that, if they move here, they will ruin all my good stuff.

I think I would rather tank my whole life–ruin it myself before they can–than let them take this from me. And I had some pretty spectacular ideas about how to tank my life, ones that would have been deeply unfair to my coworkers. But things that would have taken me and this place off the table in terms of places they could go.

But, if they go to Georgia, they will suffer and they will have worse care than they would if they lived near me. I’m not trying to be a dick about my brother, but that’s just true. He won’t provide the level of care I’d provide.

Even if that level of care destroyed me emotionally.

Everyone knows it. My parents know it. My aunts and uncles know it. If you take my well-being out of the equation and you’re just looking at what’s best for my parents, obviously they should come here.

I’m not sure I’d survive that. Not mentally, anyway.

But the idea that I would encourage them to go where I know they’d get poorer care, where I know they would suffer some neglect, just because I want my good life? It feels so fucking selfish that I can’t stand it. It feels like my soul is being torn in two to even admit that out loud.

There’s a difference between making a lifeboat, putting the Butcher in it, and rowing with him away from the sinking ship and kicking your parents into the ocean so that you can stay in your lifeboat unbothered.

And when I try to weigh the right thing to do here, when I try to figure out what it is, exactly, I want to do, the thing I run straight into is that there are some very fundamental parts of myself that I don’t have good access to.

I have been trained since birth to be… I don’t even quite know how to put it into words… some kind of courtesan (?). It has been my job to be charming and cooperative and capable (but not so capable it makes men feel bad) and to make people like me. I’m witty. I’m fun to talk to. I know a lot of interesting things and can tell you about them in fun ways. I can keep a crowd occupied and delighted.

I find comfort in being able to do those things well. It feels familiar and I can just do it without having to think too hard about it. And I know if a lot of people like me, then I have a level of safety. And, I think, too, that I enjoy feeling like I have a huge web of people I can access if I need anything.

But do I like any of those things? Being in crowds that find me delightful? Charming people who otherwise would disregard me? Etc. Etc. Etc.

I don’t know.

In some ways, I suspect that I don’t. I mean, if you look at how I’ve arranged my life when I’m not thinking about it, it doesn’t look like it. I don’t like to have people over. I don’t seek out crowds. I prefer to spend a lot of time alone, because when I’m alone, I don’t have to be any way.

But my point is that all my training, the way I live my life around others, is to provide others comfort and delight. It makes me feel satisfied to be able to do that. I know it’s a skill and I take pride in being good at it.

But I don’t think I would have chosen for myself to have those skills. Or maybe I would have. I don’t know. You can’t run two versions of your life simultaneously to try to get a better feel for what’s some core you and what’s training. Nature vs. nurture. If science hasn’t figured it out, I’m not going to, you know?

But I suspect I would not have.

I am this way, at least in part, because my parents trained me to be, because my being like this was useful to them.

This feels like a lot of threads to try to pull together here at the end.

But, if my way of being with others was instilled in me by my parents because it was useful to them, then, obviously, some amount of distress I feel about not wanting to care for them even though I could and I would be the best choice, is distress they wanted me to feel in times like this.

I am supposed to put the family’s well-being ahead of my own. In fact, me being too well (or having too much well-being) is taken as proof that I am not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. If I’ve got this great life, it’s because I’m not spending the emotional capital I should on them. My great life is evidence of me cheating at my chores, so to speak.

But what if I am running both simulations? What if my good life here is one way my life could go and how I feel when I’m with them is another way my life could go? In both simulations, I do not want to give them any more access to the parts of myself I like–even if those parts are dramatically different sizes in either options.

I don’t think I can save myself from them and save them from themselves.

And I think I’m on the verge of betraying my whole upbringing and my aunts and uncles who want what’s best for my parents. And my parents. My family.

I think I’m on the verge of putting them in harm’s way to save myself.

And I feel like an obscenity, like a monster. Like what kind of person would do this?

Probably me. I think me.

Too Old to Self-Destruct

The doctor said this is the normal, sane reaction to the kind of Thanksgiving I had and that I shouldn’t expect to just bounce back. I have to allow time to process it.

I was on Xanax all week, but it made me weepy and, I think, gave me a weird headache, though maybe that was the weepies, so I stopped taking it. I’ve been sleeping weird since then. I tried to tire myself out completely on Friday by moving huge boxes of books around all afternoon, but I only lasted a couple of hours and I still stayed up kind of aimlessly just not feeling like going to bed.

Today I tried to get out of the house to improve my mood, but I just did all my errands feeling so super pissed. I wanted to get drunk or something, but then I didn’t want to spend all tomorrow feeling like shit.

So, here I am. Out of sorts. Trying to feel my way back without chemical help.

I Do Feel Like I'm Losing My Mind

I’m going to the doctor this morning. I’m going to try to get some of this shit settled out. I mean, my family is… well… them. But I’m not bouncing back. I’m sleeping weird. I’m in a raging jealousy that my coworker has a social life, for no good reason, when in real life I like him and I want him to be happy here. And I don’t want to hang out with him myself, because it seems like all he does is drink and stay up all night and I like to not drink and sleep a lot.

Maybe I’m jealous in part because he got a date just by walking into a place and being responsive to someone while a hungover grouchy mess and I have walked into many places in Nashville being vaguely responsive to someone while a grouchy mess and no one has ever asked me out in those circumstances.

The complicating thing is that I really like my life. But a question that sits on the back burner in my mind is “If I’m so great, why doesn’t anyone love me?”

The answers are that my family is right and that I’m not so great. I’m a sad sack of shit to be pitied. Or that I am so great and I have a hard time recognizing love that doesn’t hurt me, which…. god… is depressing.

But also, I like this life, how it is right now. And I want to feel good (even great) in it without needing the validation of someone loving me in order to feel it.

And I am loved, deeply loved, by my friends and intellectually I know it. I’ve never been any more lonely than I’ve wanted to be. I’m also very loved by my community, which is another amazing blessing. Not everyone gets public validation of how much people like them. I get it pretty regularly.

I’m so lucky. And yet I can’t bring my whole self along to believe it.

One Last Thing

I also deeply resent how much their behavior means I then spend all this time thinking about them–beforehand to try to steel myself to deal with them and then after where I try to process what the fuck just happened.

Last night I took another Xanax and tried to go to bed. After a while, I just started crying. But the really nice thing about it was that, because the Xanax had kicked in, I couldn’t really concentrate on what I was crying about.

Like, I was just sad. I didn’t/couldn’t think about it hard enough to decide if it was because I did truly suck or if it was because these people are so shitty to me and yet I still love them and want what’s best for them and still hope that we will spend good times together or whatever.

I was just sad.

And that felt like a relief.

Also, I just can’t see the stitches in this The Shining afghan to work on it at night. Either I need to get a much brighter light to work by or I just have to resign myself to working on it during the day.

So, instead, I started this shawl with the copper yarn I’ve been spinning. Granted, it doesn’t look very coppery yet. But it will.

A Pile of Flowers

I want to make an afghan that is a pile of flowers. Like this, but an actual afghan.

My idea is to put all the flowers on little hexagons. The hexagons would all be the same size, but that would make some larger than the flowers that sit on them and some smaller. So, when the hexagons are all put together, the flowers should all pile over them.

But I can’t find anyone who has already done this. And the thing about crocheting is that it’s very unlikely that you’re the first person to try something.

So, if no one has done it successfully, I worry it’s because it can’t be done successfully.

But as soon as I finish up The Shining afghan, I’m fixing to try it.

Pitiful Me

I think the thing that annoys me the most is that they seem to have this new weapon in their emotional arsenal–pity. Oh, poor Betsy, doesn’t have any kids. Lives so far away all alone. Isn’t it a wonder that she can even show up here looking like a person?

I mean, if you’re going to pity me, pity my fucked up anxiety brain.

But this idea that all this–my cool weird life–is something small and sad?

It makes me feel nuts, but it also makes me very angry. Even if my life was small and sad, it’s mine. Don’t look down on me.

Thank God I'm Home

I had a massive panic attack on my way to my parents, enough to make me still feel shitty and weird the next day.

It was fine. It was stupid. I got to the house and no one was there. I called my parents to tell them I’d arrived and my dad told me to put the porkchops that were on the counter in the fridge so that the dog wouldn’t eat them. I just moved them out of the reach of the dog. He’s not that bright.

When my dad got home, he was pissed at me for not putting the pork chops in the fridge because surely I could tell they were done thawing.

He also had a fight with his Bible app. The man lives in a home where you can reach out and touch a Bible anywhere in the house, but he’s fighting with an app and refusing to read his Bible verses because the app won’t work.

I am, as usual, bossy. I have made life hard for my brothers in ways I’m supposedly not aware of, because, I guess, as well as bossy, I’m thoughtless.

My cousins also made me feel like shit, so that was also fun. Not intentionally, mind you. But just in that I’m not married and don’t have kids so they either act like I can’t understand their lives or like I must be using the dog as some kind of child substitute.

And y’all know my feelings on “fur babies.” Rufus is not my son. The whole idea of it just grosses me out.

Probably I was the problem this time, because I was just all mushy headed from the panic attack. But I can’t stand how we’re all supposed to pretend like we have these great happy lives, when we’re all obviously miserable or on drugs or drinking.

And my cousins were massively upset and snide about there not being alcohol in my parents’ home–as if there has ever been alcohol in my parents’ home.

“But you and [the Butcher] drink!”

“Not here.”

I guess that was also somehow my fault, that I couldn’t convince my parents to let people have beer or wine in their house.

And I have been touched so fucking much that I truly don’t want another person to lay a hand on me for the rest of the year. It’s so invasive and it always feels like it’s some kind of bullying–to act as if I have no boundaries that matter.

And guess what! I don’t want people who hit me to ever touch me again. I don’t want people who stood by while I was hit to touch me.

I don’t know why that’s such a controversial position but it is.

And here’s the other thing that pisses me off. Let’s say everything they think about me is true. What am I supposed to do about it? This is the life I know how to lead. I can’t lead some other life that looks like they think it should look without… you know… putting them in charge of my life.

I genuinely don’t think that’s what many of them want. Or at least, I don’t think they’ve thought it through.

But abusers have patterns and the pattern is “what I say goes or else.” So, I’m not going down the “what I say goes” trail. Not with anyone. But specifically not with people I know hurt me.

So, that’s just the impasse. I can’t and don’t want to be the person they’d be more comfortable with me being. And we’re all miserable as a result.

And fuck it if I’m going to Georgia for Christmas when my other brother couldn’t be bothered to come up to this clusterfuck he instigated.

Color vs. Pattern

I have this theory–I can’t remember if we’ve talked about it before–that an afghan can either be really colorful or deeply patterned, but that your eye can only take in one bit of busy-ness at a time. Take this afghan I’m finishing up, which violates my rule. I really love the colors. I think it looks like a fall day and I’m really proud of the yarn, which I spun myself.

But go ahead and give that a good long stare. You notice anything? What if I told you that afghan is full of–in fact mostly made up of–lacy skulls?

This may change a little in the blocking, but because the yarn is so busy, it’s hard to see the shape of the pattern.

Marching to Zion

I guess if you sing about an odious task, it’s less odious? I don’t know. I’m working on making copper yarn for myself

I’m somewhat pleased with the result, but I think I want less patina.

Brief Butcher

The thing I miss the most about the Butcher being around is having someone who just intrinsically understands me.

I was talking about how I now, apparently, have this reputation for being an extrovert and he was like “But don’t they know that’s just training?” And I don’t know if I’ve ever articulated it that way to myself.

I’ve been trained to be this way. Deeply trained. Effectively trained. It’s muscle memory–here you are in the world; do the things you’re supposed to do. Look like you’re enjoying it. Put everyone at ease. Entertain them.

But, except for the satisfaction I often get from doing that shit effectively, I don’t enjoy it.

I do it because I’ve been trained to do it and I have no idea what I’d do in social situations otherwise.

The Shining Afghan

I took some time off this one to make the other one and now I’m back to this. It’s pretty fun to see it coming together, but it’s not quite as fast going as I’d like.

Live Through This

I’m starting to feel like the only way to deal with my life is to just listen to Hole very loudly and pretend I can’t hear anyone else.

I used to feel “go on, take everything, take everything, I dare you to” in my bones. Maybe I still do, in some ways. But I’m not strong enough to live through that. I wish I was. But you get older, you have to be more honest with yourself.

I’m Past the Point Where Folks Come Looking for Me

I have to find a way out of this hole, like immediately. I need to return emails and phone calls and direct messages. I have to be a person again in the world and I am not sure where the energy for that is supposed to come from.

Of course I had to endure a phone call from my parents explaining and excusing the change in Thanksgiving plans. Of course I had to endure yet another phone call from my brother doing the same.

I’m not the king of this family. I’m not the moral compass that decides if everything is okay. I can’t grant anyone absolution for being a doofus.

I’m just a tired, sad middle-aged woman whose dad, who she has very mixed feelings about, and a deep love for, is dying.

I made an afghan. It didn’t help me feel any better. Which is a shame because it’s very handsome.

Why Must I Leave Me Here All Alone?

I just, Jesus, where to even start?

My brother tried to cancel Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving he instigated up at my parents’ house that we’re all going to. Where we were all supposed to force my parents to talk about how they should be moving closer to one of us and where we’d talk frankly about whether they could afford to.

I’m upset that he’s backing out of going. TO THE THING HE ARRANGED. But I’m livid and pained by the fact that he tried to make it seem like the rest of us shouldn’t bother to go.

He’s not going because they might gossip about him at work. First, they’re plumbers. Is that a hotbed of gossip? Second, how is “Dude went to his parents for Thanksgiving” any kind of bad gossip?

Also my dad is dying. How many more Thanksgivings are we going to get all together?

And my plan had been to go to Arizona and have Thanksgiving with the Butcher, but we all rearranged out lives to be in Illinois.

And in spite of all this, I’m sure I’ll be subjected to 900 rounds of “Your brother is so great.”

I’m just tired.

The Butcher is coming next weekend. I need to get the house in some vague shape.

I also want to enjoy my time with him without spending all of it complaining about our other brother.

Whew, Lost the Thread There

Sometimes I wonder why I’m still blogging. My relationship to writing has changed, a lot. I don’t feel like writing shit down helps sort it out.

But also, I have a book coming out next year (?!) and I need a platform and… I don’t know.

I guess I’m just sorry I haven’t been around here much.

I’m listening to The Twisted Ones, which is a horror story with a dog hero, and working on two afghans.

I’m super busy at work. And I feel a little overwhelmed.

But things are good. I think. So, that’s what I know.

Nine

I’m up to my usual yearly woo and it’s been rough this year. I don’t know if I just am not in the right headspace or if the Universe isn’t in the right headspace or what.

But, weirdly, I have had a lot of non-woo conversations and such that have been deeply meaningful and insightful so maybe it’s not so much that I’m out of whack or the Universe is, but that where the interaction happens is different this year.

A Funk

I’ve been in a funk. Obviously. I just haven’t admitted it to myself. I’ve done the things one does to escape a funk–be funny, be delightful, be delighted in things, work on my hobbies, see my friends, etc.

But I’m just down. The world requires stuff of me that I don’t know how to give. Or it doesn’t want anything from me and my feelings are hurt about it.

The Shining Afghan

I’m at the point where I’m like “my god, will this never end?” I feel like I’ve been crocheting with this brown yarn forever. But I’m over half done with the brown part, which means I’m over half done with the afghan, which feels pretty good, considering I’ve been also running around and gallivanting.

Drifting Adrift

My parents don’t want to live with or near my brother. I think that’s obvious. And I can’t blame them. He’s short-tempered and wants to be treated better than how he treats people.

I don’t know if they have the money to move, anyway.

I miss the Butcher. I miss having another set of eyes on this situation. I miss his perspective. I miss the feeling of having a person who will support me and who will help with my parents, no matter what.

Which, I hope, doesn’t come across as a knock on my friends. I have really good friends. If I need help, I can count the fuck on them.

But there’s a constant weighing in my mind of how much I can do for myself vs. how embarrassed I would be for my dad to act how he does to people I care about.

Bad Things Next

My parents are driving down here–8 hours in the car–today so that I can drive them 4.5 hours to my brother’s house so that they can be there for my niece’s birthday.

They have been “cleared by the doctor.”

No one in our family under the age of 45 thinks this is wise, but fuck us, I guess.

A thing I really, deeply appreciate about my brothers is that when I talked to each of them last night and I admitted I didn’t know what to do or what the best thing was and I was just scared and sad, they both said that they also didn’t know what the fuck to do and that we probably were going to fuck this up, but we were doing the best we could.

Maybe they’ve talked about this between themselves?

But it made me feel better. It’s just hard to accept that I don’t really know what’s happening and I don’t know what to do about it and that it’s unresolveable by me, so I just have to live here in the not-knowing.

Today, Anyway

I had a long talk with my other brother and he kind of wants to be in charge of deciding what to do about Mom and Dad.

On the one hand, it’s going to be tough to let that happen because my aunts and uncles think he’s an incapable fuck-up.

Little do they know that, in this one regard, it is I who am the incapable fuck-up.

On the other hand, I absolutely do not want to have to manage this. I don’t think my other brother is a fuck-up. At least, he’s always had my back when I needed it. And, if he wants to do this for them, considering all they’ve done for him, shouldn’t he have the chance?

Here is the terrible thing, though. Even if he is an incapable fuck-up–which he’s not–I don’t care. He’s willing to move back to Illinois. He doesn’t see it as Hell. He wants to do this shit for them.

And I don’t.

So, even if I conceded that I would be “more capable,” whatever the fuck that means, why should that be the metric? Shouldn’t the person who wants to do it be the person who does it?