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.

7 thoughts on “Let It Work

  1. A whole lot of random thoughts: It’s called self-preservation. You’ve learned more about yourself and progressed and they haven’t. Likely, they won’t at this stage. You are your own person, based on what they helped create, but you have made your self as an adult. You don’t want to lose yourself now, so fight to keep your self. If that means they drown in the ocean, well. . . tough shit for them. It’s part of the abuse that you feel guilty for doing what is best for you instead of them. Don’t fall for it. You are responsible for you and they are responsible for themselves. What about that “other daughter” you mentioned some time back – can’t she take care of them? (Or has she figured out what’s going on and fled?) If your brother wants them to come live near him, maybe they deserve each other. (And, if you ever come to AZ, I’d love to meet you!)

  2. I’m reading your blog for some time now. This one Thanksgiving brought complete havoc in your emotional and mental well being. What will happen if they come to live nearby? I will tell you : you will get destroyed.
    Visibly you were psychologically abused and manipulated when a child, therefore you owe them nothing, because it took years to rebuild and take your life and self confidence back. It was fucking hard work.
    And now what? because you are biologically related you would have to sacrifice yourself? Really?
    Plus your brother wants them to come live near him…Let them do that, you already paid your price.
    Stay strong and even if it is completely counter intuitive because of your upbringing, place your well-being first. It will be hard, and it will come with feelings of betrayal and monster-like sensations, you will see in time, it was your best decision.

  3. THEY created this equation. THEY created this awful choice, this trap. They CREATED this. Not you. Not you.

  4. Bless you dear. Your conditioning makes it hard to make “selfish” choices but thank goodness you have grown up to understand that you get to make different choices than your conditioning. To give love and caring requires you to live within your best self.

  5. I’ve been reading your blog for about four years. It’s taken me to some great places on the internet – the Cragfont ghost tour you did that featured on a podcast, and from this on to other history podcasts – and I love reading about adventures with the dog and cats.

    I want to say this because I can’t let this go by without saying it.
    Your responsibility is to take care of yourself.
    You put your own oxygen mask on before you even think of helping anyone else.

    What is being done to you is so so similar to what happened to my mother that I just *can’t* with your family anymore.

    Let them make their own decisions.
    (And trust me, I can give you a whole parallel lifetime of reasons why you have to start letting them make their own decisions and not beat yourself up about this.)

    You come first.
    You know all of this already but I’m hoping that our echoes back to you here remind you why you can’t let them change your mind.

    The best thing you can do for yourself right now is to make peace with yourself and take care of yourself.

  6. Something that occurred to me– maybe you could ask, would it make them happy to be near you? Really happy? I think maybe it would be one thing to sacrifice yourself if it means they’ll likely have a genuinely happy rest of their lives…but if they’ll just be some variation of discontented regardless of where they are, does it make sense that you ‘owe’ it to them to be unhappy along with them? I mean, in the messed-up unwritten rules you’re dealing with, probably yes it does–but does that actually increase the total of good in the world?

  7. You mentioned the metaphor of throwing your parents into the ocean. When actually they keep throwing themselves into the ocean, and expecting you to pull them out, even if you might drown too.

    And you letting them pull you under won’t save them. It won’t change the choices they have made or their self-inflicted misery.

    You also have nieces and nephews you love. You don’t want to show them that love is annihilation of self.

    I feel so much for you and I’m pulling for you. This is so hard. All your programming is telling you to let yourself be erased. Please, please don’t.

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