One of the things I realized this Christmas is that I have a tremendous amount of luxury in my life now. Not just the luxury of a roof over my head, but the luxury of time to write, the luxury of sick days when I’m feeling like shit.

But the biggest luxury I have is that I am safe in my own home. Which is not to say that someone couldn’t break in and take things. But that’s still an invasion. What I mean is that, right now, the Butcher has some friends I don’t like. But if he called me up and said “Hey, I’m running late from work and so-and-so is already at the house, so don’t be surprised when you get home,” the only thing I’d think is “Oh, god, what am I going to talk about with that person until the Butcher gets here?” There’s not a single person the Butcher or I would have over at the house that I would think would be likely to steal from me or fuck my shit up for fun.

I no longer hide cash in my own home. If the Butcher is going to the store and I need him to buy me something, I leave $10 by his car keys and trust that the $10 will be there (or on the floor near there) when he looks for his keys. I don’t decline to buy the niftiest thing because I’m afraid I’ll lose it or it will get broken or destroyed.

I’ve arranged my life so that any asshole that would steal from me or break my stuff has to do so either by invading my home or betraying me.

And I hadn’t even realized I was doing it until this Christmas. And yet, I’ve clearly been changing my life in this way since I left my parents’ home.

The Professor asked me if I felt guilty, if that’s part of why this holiday has shaken me. And the truth is that I do feel guilty. Not because I have all this and my brother and sister-in-law and my nephews have so little. I feel terrible for my nephews, but my brother and sister-in-law are sleeping in beds they made. I have friends who I look at and I wonder how their lives are there and my life is here. But I don’t have that wonder about my family. I feel guilty because I am not going to help them. I’m not going to start talking to my sister-in-law again. I’m not sending my brother money. I’m not insisting anyone move in with me so that I can ensure they have a roof over their heads.

And I think that makes me a terrible person. But it makes me a terrible person who feels safe in her own home.

God, just the fact that I don’t have to play “Guess which bullshit is closest to the truth” on a regular basis is such a luxury. And there’s no way–simply none–once the wallet starts opening, to avoid that game. Let alone having folks here.

I choose doing what I know makes me happy over doing what might help my family. Mostly because I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t help. I think it would just be two branches of the family throwing their money away instead of one.

But man, it rubs me wrong. If there’s even a slight chance, you should take it, right?

And yet, they teach lifeguards how to keep from being dragged down by the people they’re trying to rescue.

I just hear this voice in my head saying “Oh, it’s so inconvenient for you, is it?” But being safe in your own home isn’t a convenience. Not having to take charge of the lives of other adults isn’t a matter of convenience.

I know I’m making the right decision, but it sits uneasily with me.

6 thoughts on “Inconvenience

  1. The cultural narrative that we should bend over backwards for family because…family, I’m sure doesn’t help with the guilt. I commend your healthy boundaries madam.

  2. Hang in there and fight the guilt. You’ve done all you could and then some.
    A good friend was once in this situation with her sister: I quoted a verse to her which helped a lot; may it do the same for you. “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they(swine) trample them under their feet, and (dogs) turn again and rend you.” Matt 5:7

  3. Human beings as a group have an enormous capacity for change. But, sadly, that doesn’t mean that every individual human being has that capacity, and even those who are born with it can lose it. If decades of observation of your brother’s behavior has taught you that he isn’t going to change, then his unchangingness is the sad truth. You don’t have to feel guilty about drawing that conclusion. And so long as you keep observing him to make sure that you’re not ignoring any renewed abilities to change, not getting caught in his games does not make you guilty. Just remind yourself that the idea that it could go differently is based on a fantasy.

  4. The issue is precisely boundaries. And I completely understand how being safe is related to setting good boundaries. Over Christmas, I had a similar circumstance with my sister and it left me feeling bad but knowing I was doing the right thing. Hang in there with your gut feelings and don’t leave room for guilt.

  5. I know exactly the guilt you mean, but I’ve had to pull back and accept that my power to help just wasn’t there. I didn’t have the power to make up for other people’s mistakes and issues, even for the sake of their kids. I really really wanted to, but that door was never open for me.

    You have every right to do what makes you safe in your own home. If you could help in a way that would not damage that safety (including your financial safety) and would be effective, you would, right? And if that option arrived, you would consider it. But at the moment, it’s not there.

  6. Refusing to be an enabler does not make someone a terrible person. Refusing to allow someone else to be a manipulator does not make someone a terrible person. There are things that would make someone a terrible person, but as everyone else has pointed out, setting and keeping boundaries is not one.

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