I swear one day I'll get around to sharing snippets of our trip to Europe here. I want to vent, hope you don't mind.
A few days after we got back, Lad shared with us that he'd tried to get together with Ann's son, my nephew 'Reg' while we were away.
*Ann didn't speak to me for a year after I had my Reg, because she had a 9 year old named Reg. Well, it was my favorite name FOREVER, which was no secret, and this was my 4th son and our kids have different last names. My maiden name is also a popular boys' first name. Ann used our surname for her first born son and forbid me from using it. What on earth? In case you missed the memo, Ann is VERY controlling.
Cousin Reg, or 'CR', just moved to Indianapolis a few months ago. He's a year older than Lad and just landed his first job after college.
Lad said CR wanted to bring his mom's dog over to hang out with he and Finn. Ann said no, because . . . wait for it . . . she's too mad at me, as is Marie, as is our mom, etc. "Because of some story your mom wrote."
Well. I sensed Ann was angry with me back in Feb when she came to one of Reg's b-ball games. She wouldn't speak to me, only sneered. I wondered if she didn't like Driving with Bird Girl, (link to my published story in question) or maybe she was upset that my kids weren't cooperating fast enough with her request to send her notes about why they love Nana so she could include them in a photo book she was compiling.
I called her the next day and asked her what was up. She ignored my first 3 calls, then finally picked up and sneered at me again, but refused to divulge what her issue was.
OK, you're mad. At least be adult enough to articulate why.
I thought I'd nipped jetlag in the bud, but I started getting up really early. I was upset. Here's why: We were raised to have a thick skin. I have often been the butt of the joke in the family. I told a light hearted, hilarious story from over 35 years ago and suddenly no one has a sense of humor. Plus, why not speak up if you have a problem?
Take the tone from Ross on Friends: 'WE WERE ON A BREAK' and insert 'IT WAS FUNNY!'
I'd sensed that something was up. None of my siblings or my parents commented, congratulated, or reached out in anyway about my published story. I don't need their praise - it would be nice though, enough people told me how much they enjoyed the story. But, really their lack of response made me sad.
My youngest brother's wife texted me the day after I sent the link. She found it hilarious. Loved it. Asked if I was writing other things, etc. Aunt Leprechaun texted to say congrats on doing what I love, but either hadn't read it at that point or had read it and didn't comment on the 'controversial' subject matter. Maybe my brothers didn't read it?
The morning after Lad told me about this fallout I called Marie. Honestly, I don't talk to my sisters much. I used to. In recent years, I've found that they tend to be narrowminded, whiney, judgmental, and they act twice their age. They talk to one another a ton. I used to try to spend time with them, but we aren't really on the same page.
Ann doesn't like me, it's just that simple. She tells me to stop talking if I tell a story with energy. She criticizes things that I do, or how I do them. Once when my kids were young and I mentioned how I did such and such (no clue what, but I believe it had something to do with a playdate gone bad), she literally said THAT'S NOT WHAT YOU DO. Huh? Just because that's not what YOU would do, doesn't mean it isn't what I would do. Being upfront is not their default mode. So, they gravitate towards each other. I find their gripe sessions epic.
My mother joins them for lunch or weekends away, and I'm not included. They think nothing of this. I live walking distance to my mom's house. Since Ann got divorced the family has adopted a 'POOR ANN' mentality and they tiptoe around her to make her happy. My presence isn't part of that equation, so I'm out.
Do I enjoy my sisters' company? No, quite honestly I find them to be stuffy and irritating. Does it still hurt that I'm always excluded? Yep. Perhaps mostly that is because my mom is part of their circle. I used to do a ton with my mom. Not anymore. Marie calls her daily at 5:00 and if I happen to try to call my mom at that time, she will not click over from the other line.
When I called Marie, I said: SO YOU NEVER TOLD ME WHAT YOU THOUGHT OF BIRD GIRL?
Marie: I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT ME TO SAY?
Me: SAY CONGRATS, IT WAS FUNNY.
Marie: PARTS OF IT WERE FUNNY AND PARTS WERE REALLY MEAN.
Me: WHAT? ARE YOU STILL THAT HURT ABOUT A HAIRCUT FROM 3O SOME YEARS AGO?
Marie: I'M AT WORK. I CAN'T DO THIS RIGHT NOW.
Me: OK. WHEN DO YOU WANT (click - she hung up) TO DO 'THIS' BECAUSE IT WAS PUBLISHED TWO MONTHS AGO AND YOU'VE SAID NOTHING. WHEN IS A GOOD TIME?
A few days later my mom came out of her house when she saw me on my walk. She wanted to give me an envelope for Mini's bday. After we chatted, I told her that I was hurt that no one could say anything about my story. (when prompted my mom had eventually said: IT WAS VERY INFORMATIVE, as if I'd written a piece about he migration of birds, a moment later Reg burst in the house saying he needed me to drive him back to school because he forgot he had practice and that conversation ended).
Me: WHEN DID WE BECOME A HUMORLESS PEOPLE? I KNOW MY SISTERS HAVE LITTLE GRIPE SESSIONS WITH YOU. I'VE ASKED ANN WHY SHE ISN'T TALKING TO ME. SHE WON'T TELL ME. SHE TREATS PEOPLE SO POORLY AND NO ONE HOLDS HER ACCOUNTABLE. I'M HURT AND I DON'T KNOW WHERE TO GO FROM HERE.
Mom: WELL, I DON'T TALK TO THEM ABOUT THAT STUFF. (no way is that true) I DON'T EVEN KNOW IF DAD READ IT.
Hold the phone, this is NOT helping. It actually makes matters worse. He didn't bother to read it? The man that loves to read?
Ann posted this pic. Happy family appearance upheld?
Than the other day Ann posted a photo of the 5 of us on her FB page to celebrate national sibling day. Why? This boiled my blood. She cares too much about appearances to NOT post something. She's a robot, if she did it before, she must do it again.
I want to post a photo of me, alone, and thank my siblings for making me who I am: independent, genuine, engaging, open minded, and strong.
Then Marie texted Mini and I to say that she had a gift to drop off for Mini's bday. No mention of finishing the conversation and about how she hung up on me. So that's what we're doing? Just pretending this didn't happen?
We are supposed to go to the Lake hotel thing for to celebrate my mom's 80th. I honestly don't know if I want to go anymore. It might be torture. My parents are the hub of this wheel. They drive a lot of the behavior and the way people treat one another.
OK, friend. What would you do?
Oh, Ernie. Honestly, I would go to the birthday but if I were you, I would consider cutting them out of my life for good. Their behaviour is hurtful and toxic and you don't need that in your life. Now, I know that it will be tricky, because I know you don't want to cut your parents out and they are all intertwined, but at some point I think your siblings add nothing but pain to your life, and if they aren't talking to you? Well, bonus! Then you don't have to talk to them. I know it's not as simple as that, but ugh, I really feel for you. They sound dreadful.
Your sister withheld a doggie playdate because her feelings were hurt. What in the actual hell?
There is something wrong with them if they can laugh at you, but not at themselves. I think you'll eventually have to just cut ties and let it all go. I know easier said than done, but they're not good for you.
I have a feeling that the birthday trip (unless people/sisters/mom start talking now) isn't going to be good for your family and you'll be miserable.
I wanted to reread the essay and see if there was any chance that you could have really hurt someone,(when reading it the first time, I was thinking FUNNY as. hell!) but I can't get yours to come up. I was able to open others around it, but not yours.
Do you think they made some calls to have it taken down?
Nicole - Toxic is definitely the word that applies here. It irks me that they like to brag to people that we are a tight-knit family. Huh? My kids have 16 cousins on my side. They like about half of them, a lot. That is part of the struggle. But on top of my exclusions, I've seen my kids excluded over the years. More when they were younger and adults organized stuff, now that they mostly drive and communicate - that isn't really a challenge. Oh, goodness the hurt the two sisters have caused though over the years, and they would be shocked to think anyone thought this. I don't mind distancing myself even further from my sisters, but my folks - well, that's hard. My folks are already in my sisters' 'camp' so to speak. They are entrenched there, so even if I try to continue to be in part of the family for their sake, I don't trust what's being said and I'm just tired of it all. My kids are super frustrated with it as well. They, or a handful of them, want to go to the birthday thing because of cousins. Why so complicated? Why such butt heads? Sigh.
Suz - Shoot, I wonder if my story 'expired' after awhile. It sort of makes sense, but I never thought about it. I emailed the Dead Mule people to ask.
My sister withholding a doggie playdate is nuts, but par for the course. Unfortunately.
So Marie, is 'TALKING' to me - if you count texting me to say she wanted to drop off a gift for Mini's bday (she's her godmother). When we landed in Florida last night, we were starving. Marie called while we were in the midst of a very hilarious drive thru episode (would've been funnier if we would've been close to our place and less famished. Anyway Marie called in the middle of it and I handed the phone to Mini thinking she wanted to say happy birthday to Mini. Then Mini gave me the phone a minute later saying she wanted to talk to me. She needed me to look up the cost basis of a stock that my dad gifted us for Christmas. I was like, oops we're in Florida. She was somewhat taken aback that I don't know how to sign into my 'stock' account. Now she gets to report that faux pas back to my folks and gripe that she has to make a call to the investment place because I'm clueless, etc. Is that talking? If it is, I'd prefer to become nonverbal.
I've never had siblings but I'd suggest you think of them in terms of friendship. That is, at this point in your life you know who is your friend and has your back-- and who doesn't. If these sisters aren't there for you they aren't your friends. Therefore they need to be downgraded to acquaintances, people who you know but aren't part of your inner circle of friends. Be polite, but emotionally detach from them.
I live by this "rule":
If you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, then do what is right for you.
I would encourage you to stop looking at them for approval or acknowledgement. that's not going to change. They will not see what you want them to see. You cannot change how they present themselves. You can only control your actions and reactions. You just be honest and upfront. Do what's best for your kids and yourself. Go to the party with limited expectations, and hang out with friends instead.
I'm sorry your family does not seem to value you as you would like, but you have a lot of strangers on the internet who love your writing. I hope that helps.
Oh Ernie, this is all so hurtful. You PUBLISHED a STORY. They should congratulate you on that AT LEAST!!! What is WRONG with them?! Seriously. Nothing but ALL CAPS exasperation from me about how they act. I'm so sorry you have to deal with these JERKS.
I think you should skip the 80th party. But... I also know that's much easier said than done! It is so hard to escape these toxic family relationships.
Thinking of you. And hoping that you get LOTS MORE writing material from them since you aren't getting any support. :(
My extended family does not discuss my blog, book, or anything else I write, so I understand how you feel about that. But I also don't bring it up. This aspect of my life is compartmentalized for me. So, if this is something you want to accomplish with your life, I suggest you do it with your writing. Otherwise, this blog will become less of a safe space for you.
I agree with the rest of the comments above, particularly those who believe that you should treat them as acquaintances rather than as family. Are you afraid of letting go of these "relationships?" Maybe ask yourself why. Because it's toxic to you, my friend. You are deserving of so much better.
I'd go to the party, but have a code word set up, so you can bail and your family knows ahead of time. Like "the avocado is ripe" is code for "we're leaving in 15 minutes."
You need to grey rock your family members. This is a coping mechanism for dealing with people who are emotionally abusive, but for various reasons, you can't 100% cut them from your life. You become as boring as a grey rock around them. You don't engage, make eye contact or offer any information beyond the barest of facts.
This makes me so sad. I'm so sorry your family is a mess. Definitely go to the birthday party. I don't know how many more times I would try to get Ann to talk about it though. She will never want to talk about it. She will never see that she is being ridiculous and she will always play the victim. She's never going to change.
"You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better."
I saved the above quote some days past and cannot find the original source to give them the credit. Hoping if they see it, they will step up to claim it. Meanwhile, how perfect is it for you? And sadly for untold, uncounted others!
I was the caregiver for a family member who treated me like dirt. My daughter asked why I tolerated it, as we both knew I wouldn't have put up with that kind of treatment from anyone else. My take on it was that I was not going to be able to make the other person see how hurtful their comments/actions were. Meanwhile, I needed to be able to look myself in the eye in the mirror. I determined that for me, getting down in the mud, albeit justified and oh, so tempting, was not who I wanted to be.
Honestly, I'm beginning to wonder if we are somehow related because my mom's family acts exactly the same. They cut ties with me because I was being neutral in their squabbles (it was a "if you can't pick a side then you've picked a side" kind of situation). I tried for years to reach out. Finally, I said enough. They can find me if they so desire. So far, they haven't.
I would never presume to tell you what to do but, if it were me, I would go (I assume there will be other people there that you would like to see?) simply to not give them any more ammunition. But, I sure as hell would not engage.
I hate this for you. No-win situation regarding the party, so I guess my suggestion is think about going, think about not going, and whichever way makes you feel less awful, do that. But it sucks and they suck and I’m sorry.
Ally- This is good solid advice. I feel like I do treat them like acquaintances, more or less, but I struggle with the emotional disengaging. Maybe because I feel like they interfere with my relationship with my parents.
Timberdawn- makes sense. If it were just me, I would skip the party. But my kids will enjoy their cousin time.
Mbmom11- That does help. Thank you. You are very kind. Between my friends here and the group I share my writing with at my writing group,give me great feedback about my writing.
I think your perspective is very wise. I think it will help if I don't expect or crave their approval or interest in what I do. I can continue to be the fun aunt.
I would gladly hang with friends during the weekend at the Lake resort for my mom's birthday . . . But it is only family. Maybe I should bring Delilah to be my buddy. ;) Or make friends with other hotel guests. When we did a drive by party for my Dad's 80th during covid, I chatted in the yard with neighbors. Same thing at my folks' 50th about 6 years ago . . . I gravitated towards non family guests. Coach will be there and he and I can stick together.
Ali- I am grateful that I have a small crowd of my own people. This whole thing boils their blood, because they are my biggest cheerleaders. I've distanced myself from my family in the past but i always end up getting sucked back in to some extent. They all live so close and our kids are involved with cousins, etc. Then there are my parents. I know they love me, but their favoritism interferes and makes me feel lousy regularly. It is tough to escape feeling like crap. My folks won't be around forever and I struggle with how I will feel when they are gone.
Suzanne- I appreciate your use of ALL CAPS. They sure are infuriating. I am in my 50s. I would so like to put this behind me . . . I need to. It would impact my kids. I do think distancing myself further would help. I need to adjust my mindset. Might be easier said than done. As far as material, that's the funny thing . . . there are stories that are much harsher.
Kari- Thanks. I do think I deserve better. I think for a long time i assumed it was JUST ME . . . like they all think we are tight, what am I missing? I now see that we don't all share the same experience even though we grew up together.
My family knows nothing about my writing. Not my blog or anything. I truly thought they would be happy for me. So silly.
Kara- I like this. From 'the avocado is ripe' to the gray rock treatment. Very useful. This resort in Wisconsin has multiple pools. My sisters do not gravitate towards the sun but I do. I can avoid them, somewhat. My kids will gladly gather around me at set intervals to show their support. I am far from a gray rock but I will have to brush up on that mode.
This is really horrible behaviour exhibited by your siblings and your parents seem to enable it. I know you’ve worked at letting go of how much it hurts, but it must be so tough. I’d hate to see you miss the party, s yes just hang with coach! I’m so sorry you have to keep going through this garbage.
Beth- Thanks. I think it is sad too. We only get one chance at life. My parents have encouraged the behavior. I will probably go to the weekend. I hate to spend the $ on the hotel when I would rather not be there.
I won't ask Ann again why she refuses to articulate her anger towards me. I'm having a harder time with Marie. She acts like nothing has happened since she hung up on me. Our girls will be at Notre Dame together in the fall.
Anonymous- When this all started, I worried that I would have to stop writing my memoir. I looked up info about writing memoirs with challenging family members. I learned a few things. I came across this quote. I love it. Exactly my thoughts.
Sorry that you were mistreated by someone you were good enough to care for. How rotten.
Gigi- Interesting that we are long lost cousins. Expected to pick sides? Whats wring with neutral? Goodness.
I wish there were other guests at the weekend away with my family. I have been known to make friends, so I can hope to make friends at the hotel. Or I rely on my offspring and Coach to converse with.
Ccr- It is a no win. I am grateful to have my immediate family. They know what's what. I will seek out a lawn chair with a good book. They can fawn all over each other . . . in the shade. ;)
Pat- Thanks. Well said. Enabling. Yes that is exactly what my parents do. They enable the behavior. My sisters are in their camp. And my parents like to surround themselves with those who share their mindset. They were controlling before Ann became the ultimate controller. I'm honestly glad I don't still drink the Kool Aid but it is hard to avoid feeling hurt by the exclusion. Coach will be happy to hang with me at the weekend celebration. His family has scheduled a weekend at the same resort in August. If Coach wants me to be well behaved at their shit show, he better be at my back and call in late June when we have to hang with my family. Imagine the post I will get to write afterwards. Ugh.
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