b a r e

writing is healing. ask me anything.

Tag: hate

What is your birth position in your family? Does it impact your mental health? Why?

So, as the story goes, when my little sister was born I tried to climb into her crib to kill her. I was one month shy of 2 years old. Of course I have no memory of this. But it was enthusiastically rolled out at social events by my mom. I can always count on her for embarrassing stories. Is that who we become when we get old? Just a collection of stories?

I was always faster and stronger and smarter growing up. I felt good about that. But it wouldn’t be a competition if there wasn’t more than one person. And competition definitely took place. Scholastic success was always easy for me. I don’t remember if she struggled. I was articulate and enunciated perfectly, she smeared her words. I was always taller. Even now, when we’re both adults, I’m 3 1/2 inches taller. And I loved it. She won in other areas, she hit puberty first. And she loved to rub that in my face. Boy we were mean to each other. She would claim to have a better voice, a soprano to my second alto. I have better nails, she was a nail biter for so long that her nails are wide and squat. I was proud of that. We both talk incredibly fast. In fact, if you don’t know us well, you’d be hard pressed to determine which of us was talking to you over the phone. We actually tricked a friend once, on purpose. She was prettier, but I was smarter. And did I mention I’m taller.

I don’t have many memories of our early years. But when I’ve babysat young sisters close in age and I watch the way the older one treats the younger one, I feel shame. Something inside me tells me I did that. And even though it’s clearly human nature, I still feel guilt. We tormented each other, but I was perhaps a little better at it. She was definitely more sensitive, the wounds I inflicted years ago are still festering. That’s her choice, she loves to hold onto pain and wave it around like a flag of glory. I won’t take responsibility for her pain. And she hates me for that.

It’s been over 4 years since we stopped talking. 2 weeks after my daughter was born. Our “on again” lapse was tenuous at best. Basically a reconciliation about a year earlier for my wedding, heavily driven by my mom’s desire to live in an alternate reality where we’re a tight-knit loving family.

Well thanks to my dad’s death, and my sister’s need for a new drama/stressful project, plus her poverty/debt/greed, we’re back in communication. The estate lawyer, and more importantly, my husband, said to “walk away” from dealing with the mysterious trustee, who my sister now says should never have gotten any of his money. She’s on a mission, filing criminal charges. Let her have her crusade. I’d never be able to talk her out of it. No one could. She keeps texting me, updates and steps she’s taking, but also how stressed and anxious she is. Oh woe is her, look how she’s suffering. When my mom called me up to tell me what my sister was going to do, she was all riled up. I had to talk her off the ledge, I said to her, “he’s dead, why do you want to dig him back up?” I mean really, why waste another second on him. Let him fade away till even his memory is vague. Indifference is what he deserves. He’s gone, he no longer exists, it’s glorious. Why bring him back?? One of today’s texts from my sister says, “Hate that it came to this. That even after death he makes me sick.” Oh what a victim she is! How about instead you take responsibility for the choices you are making. Up to and including how you think and feel about what’s going on. Not everything needs to be a nuclear meltdown.

But maybe she needs that. I remember when I needed intensity all the time. It made me feel alive. I invited all sorts of brilliant but toxic/destructive people into my life. I enjoyed them thoroughly. The stings didn’t warn me to run, they were familiar and comfortable and understandable, and they produced endorphins. Yes, I got high off of cruelty, both giving and receiving. Somehow I justified it, believed I had it all under control. Do I miss it? Only theoretically. I don’t have the time or energy for drama anymore. What little energy I can scrape together is for myself, and my family (husband and daughter).

I feel like I haven’t really answered the question. Yes, birth order matters. I was looked up to (literally), copied, followed around. And it made me proud (and sometimes pridefully annoyed). And when my sister finally found her own power, was she embarrassed of the esteem she had had of me, and was she resentful of my position. I’m sure of it. Into our young adult years I was our mom’s favorite. I’m sure she knew it. And my damaged mom, overflowing with guilt for decisions she’s made and our resulting childhood, clings now to the only daughter that will throw her crumbs. Hint, that’s not me.

It’s complicated, but also simple. We all just want to feel important. We want to be listened to. Why couldn’t we be kind to each other – our parents didn’t model that behavior. Even after years and years of therapy, it took my auto-immune disease to humble me, and my teaching experience to learn to understand and love all kinds of personalities, and then, most importantly, my husband’s sweetness and honesty, to melt my ice fortress.

And now, it’s my daughter’s temper and impatience and stubbornness that is teaching me just how hard it is to break old behavior patterns. But that story is for another post…

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Dead.

Finally. Fully. Completely.

My heart raced as I read the email, “I regret to inform you your father is dead.” Just a few minutes ago, I told a longtime friend that I just had to accept that you would never die. You’d cling to life with your fingernails, being around to scare us forever. And then, just like that, you expired. I was elated. I called my mom and we shouted and laughed. The world outside seemed brighter, the leaves greener, everything was sharper and in focus. I went with another friend to the coroner’s office to pick up your keys. She said you had died the morning before, around 11:30 AM. I liked to imagine you woke up early, like you always do, and lay there suffering, paralyzed, until your shriveled, black heart finally gave up hours later. I want to imagine that I gave a speech at your funeral where I told everyone the ugly truth about you. I like to plan going to your grave and pouring urine over it. But this isn’t making me feel the justified anger and superiority it used to. I don’t feel good about these thoughts. I just feel sick to my stomach, nauseated. And I didn’t just cry. I sobbed. I sat there in my car after leaving your apartment and I sobbed and my shoulders heaved and I screamed. I felt like a crazy woman. And as I sobbed I’d start smiling, and then my heart was filled with so much pain that I screamed again.

You’d love to know your trustee and full beneficiary showed up. She gave you an honored man’s burial, whereas I’d have had you cremated and flushed you, or unceremoniously dumped you in the trash (which is where I put your 30-day memorial candle, by the way). I don’t care that she gets all your crap. I cut ties with you long ago. That Will I found where you said I get “NOTHING!” I laughed. Of course. But her stories about how wonderful you were made me want to vomit. That’s what made me sick. You loved her children in the non-violent ways you never loved us. I wanted to yell at her to shut up. I wanted to tell her my stories. How you told me every night that if we ever tried to leave you’d chop off our heads and burn down the house. And then finally, during those 4 torturous hours at the mortuary, she finally let me tell her. I didn’t see her face, I was so lost in my pain.

I did a releasing meditation. The first step was to imagine the situation(s) that brought me pain. I was lost in the primal child’s experience of “please don’t hurt me” and “I’m so afraid.” Then the second step was to confront you, and boy I let you have it. Then, during the third step, I pushed you off my cloud and cut the rope and said, “I forgive you. I release you. I let go.” But it was too late. That box, those boxes, that I had shelved long ago, that I had built justified anger around, they tumbled off the shelf and it all spilled out. An ocean of pain. Every last drop. And I sobbed. I sobbed till I was wrung out, like a towel, dry and twisted.

And when I stopped, I started to be filled again, slowly at first, then so fast I was completely soaked with joy and gratitude. My life, my husband, my daughter, my friends who are my family – they love me so much. They would do anything for me. They are healthy (oh yes you are!) and positive and caring and so, so loving. And I am so lucky, so blessed, so grateful that this is my life now. So relieved and thankful of the decisions and choices I have made, not despite his torture, but because of it. This day and every day is so bright and beautiful because we can and will continue to bring in love and laughter to our lives. And we never have to live as he did or torture as he did or suffer as he did.

I can move forward now, untethered.

I leave the past behind me. And I walk forward with strength and gratitude and a new love for life.

Rage.

I am so angry. Fire pours out of my eyes and mouth and I roar so loud glass breaks for miles around. My anger burns hotter than the core of the planet and spreads farther than the known universe. It is all consuming. I hate it. I reject it. I judge it. I suppress it. And in return, it gets bigger and hotter and more painful. Anger. It was my father’s tool to inflict fear and pain, so much pain. Pain of the flesh yes, but much worse was pain of the mind. Ripping away your sense of security, of self. Humiliation. Horror. No exit. No escape. My anger is my father living inside me. When I scream at my daughter, it is his voice that comes out. I will not hit her, I will not. But oh how I want to. And that, right there, is disgusting, and fills me with self-loathing. Because she is so young and so innocent and so oblivious. She can’t know the depths of the anger she triggers with her attitude and screaming and hitting, yes, hitting. I want to yell at her, “don’t you understand how lucky you are to not get hit!” But she doesn’t understand, and that’s a good thing, and that’s the whole point of this second version of my child-parent experience. She pushes and pushes and pushes. She uses tones of voice she can’t possibly understand yet that are condescending and mean. She mirrors me, when I start yelling, she starts yelling over me. And I can feel my anger, rising up behind my eyes, to a level of total irrationality. And so I pull the shut off valve. Everything shuts down. I am emotionless. I do not care about anything anymore, including her. It’s safer this way. I am done. Done trying to communicate with her. Done arguing. Done being around her. I am shut down. I am still. And I flee. Gotta get away. Don’t want her to find an override button somewhere and reactivate my anger. Run!

But last night I didn’t run. I went back into her room and held her and rocked her. And as I comforted her and loved her, I was comforting and loving my inner child too. “You are loved, you are loved, you are loved,” I silently told her. We rocked and rocked. We both needed this. We desperately needed to feel close.

Dear Mother In Law

I hate you. But I know we are so much alike, that the hatred is really for myself. When I fell apart, when I wasn’t present, in the very beginning, you were here loving my daughter with all your heart, taking sleep shifts with my husband, preparing food, cleaning, and you know, running my household. Well I’m not broken anymore, may I please have my household back? My feelings of gratitude for what you did are tangled up with my guilt and shame and self-hatred. You are good at what you do, running everything. I remember the first time I went to visit for Xmas, you had so many events well-coordinated, herding everyone from one place to another, probably like you ran your classrooms when you used to teach. I was impressed. Now that you’re retired and an empty-nester, I do understand that the skills and desire to organize and control others still exists, worse, is building under the surface like a volcano. But please don’t reorganize my daughter’s clothes. I especially didn’t enjoy that you hid the clothes you didn’t like, which I only came across long after when looking for something else. I’m really trying to run my own home. And when you come and take over, I have to wrestle all over again with my feelings of inadequacy as a mother and a wife. I know you think you’re helping, but you’re actually not. When you first started visiting every 2 months, I let you do your thing. It’s only 4 days, I told myself, as I’d bite my tongue. I especially didn’t appreciate when you’d tell strangers that you were the mom, not I. Oh, ha ha. I get it, my daughter, with her red hair and blue eyes, doesn’t look like me. I get it, okay. And it hurts every time you point it out. Because it grinds into a scabby, leaky part of my underbelly that remembers that I didn’t want her and didn’t love her, for which I will always feel so much shame and guilt. So, again, I respectfully ask, can you just please stop? I know that you love her very much, and that you feel like in your short visits you have to squeeze in as much happy memories as possible. But when my daughter hears that you’re visiting, all she wants to know is what did you buy her. I wish you would think about the values you are teaching her, rather than settling for the short term gratification.

And one more thing, the most important, stop feeding my daughter CRAP.

I get it, you were raised eating a certain way. But that way doesn’t work for my daughter. Every time after you leave, she deals with very painful constipation. Both my husband and I have tried being nice about it, but to be honest, we haven’t been the least effective. At first, we didn’t tell you. Maybe twice, three times, was an anomaly. Well now, after your visits, and even on weeks like this when you haven’t visited, my daughter will decide she that pooping hurts and refuse to do so, for days. Well as you can imagine, this exacerbates the problem. And now, instead of just a physical issue, it’s a psychological one. Think about it, for the last couple years, every two months pooping becomes extremely painful for her.  And it’s my fault. I didn’t have the guts to stand up to you. I was afraid of making you mad. And I am so angry at myself. This is my child, I should be able to protect her no matter what. But I didn’t. And now I’m paying the price…no, she is. If this was as simple as abuse, I would have no problem risking my safety to protect her. But too much ice cream and crackers? How do I make you understand just how much damage you do by changing my daughter’s diet? How can I get you to listen to me?? You argue with me about every decision I make every step of the way, and you always have an answer for every thing I tell you. You are arriving in 6 days. I’m ready to be the bad guy. You can hate me all you want. You can tell all your friends about what an awful daughter in law I am. But I am not leaving you alone with my child. I won’t let you hurt her anymore.

Dear Mom, I hate you.

Where do I even begin. Your choice of husband, so you could escape your family. He beat his daughter and you thought, “he’ll never hurt my children.” You were wrong. He tortured you for 17 1/2 years, 12 of mine, and then finally you decided to leave. At least you did that. Then you decided it was your “turn to be selfish.” We were still just children. And you rotated men through our home. (Um, awkward!) At the time I lived in denial. He (dad) was the bad guy, that made you the good guy. How was I supposed to know what was normal. You dated your boss – a gross piece of ****- who gave you sexually transmitted diseases he got from other women. How exactly is that a show of self-respect? To stay with someone like that?? And when he hit my sister that one Thanksgiving, and we begged you to leave him, you said, “and start over with nothing? No way!” You devastated us. Chose that ***hole over us, your own flesh and blood?! I was not sad when he died. But I was sad about how distraught you were. No one should have someone die literally on top of them. I can’t imagine how that felt. But it’s a good thing he’s gone. He would never have married you. He would never have been faithful. I understand there’s more cultural leniency elsewhere. But you showed me that sex was more important than self-esteem. And for that you should feel ashamed. But do you? I doubt it. You feel like since my sister and I turned out ok, than the choices you made were fine. But the damage you have caused, and continue to cause, is all the proof I need to keep you away from my family. That’s right, if I were still single, I would probably still expose myself to your toxicity. But there’s no way I want your immoral, unethical, manipulative, neglectful, and feigned innocent degradation anywhere near my child. You disgust me. People love you. But I know you. You are a dancing shell, I don’t even know what you have on the inside. Is there anything of substance? You are so irresponsible, so nonplussed about crossing boundaries and leaving tracks of mud all over my face and heart. You act like you don’t really notice or know the consequences of your behavior. I don’t know what’s worse, if you don’t really know, or if you do. All I wanted was to be close. And oh how I tried, again and again. And I always felt like you and I were on different planets, even when for a moment you’d say something that had to do with me. Then a second later, I could tell, you were actually millions of miles away, and what you were really talking about was yourself. You hadn’t heard a thing I said at all. Or if you had, you summarily dismissed any value. Again. Hope. I kept (keep?) hoping you’ll listen to me. But time and time again, my hope was crushed. I’m “grown up” now, do I keep trying? Do I give up on you? I want my mom!!! But the truth is I never had you, I will never have you, not as the mother I always wanted. You are, and will always be, broken. It breaks me to try and connect, to someone impossible to connect with. It is irresponsible for me to try and hug splintered glass. I stand there bleeding, surprised (but not really). And then what, turn to my own family and need to disconnect to heal. I can’t allow that. I won’t allow that. So then what, is this it? I don’t know. All I do know is that my love for you burns me inside, blistery and violently painful. I hope one day to accept you as you are, so that I can stop hurting.