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I know, I know....

It's been a long time since I've been here. In all honesty, life has been busy at best, crushingly so at worst. And I've found myself in this wordless place--probably because I've found myself in a place that has had life and circumstances swirling so madly around me that there has been no space to think a thought, let alone craft a sentence worthy of anything but a Facebook status update.

It's been awful, frankly--and something that I've come to realize I can't continue, because without contemplation, without awareness, without making space, there is no real life.

Not one that I'm particularly interested in living, anyway.

....which is one of the many reasons I called the EAP and set up five more sessions with Frank. Because I need a quiet room where I can go and just BE--where I can go to try to sort out the mess that is my mind.

The most difficult thing, I think, is that life had been pretty wonderful for several years--and then a lot happened that was so excruciatingly NOT wonderful that I had gotten out of practice as to how to handle the not-wonderfulness. I tried a lot of my new-found weapons against the suck in order to overcome it--optimism, fortitude, forgiveness, positive thinking...and those things did indeed ward off the worst of it, so that I didn't drop as low as I could have, considering the tsunami of horror in which I found myself. But not entirely--not as much as I was hoping for. There were times when, in my secret heart, I indulged in a despair so complete and so overwhelming that all I wanted to do was hop into my bed and stay there for several years--when I almost HOPED that my brain would visibly snap right in half and the decision to either stay in the real world or be shipped off to some tiny theraputic island somewhere to lounge on a beach and sip prescription cocktails would be taken out of my hands...

Of course, there was my mother's sickness and death to cope with, and all the myriad sediment that kicked up in my mind. One of the more disturbing aspects of that was stirred up when people would come to me and, with all kindness and sympathy, tell me what a sweet woman my mother was--how wonderful she had always been to them. Which should have been comforting, right? Which should have brought back good memories of the wonderful things she had done for me, right? But all it managed--and manages even now--to do is make me think about all the strangers that my mother was wonderful to at the very same times that she was being a pure-d bitch to me. How she managed to pull together a modicum of kindness and sympathy for people who, in the grander scheme, really didn't matter, when she was incapable of doing the same thing for her firstborn. And the longer this went on, the angrier and more bitter I became.

These people smiling at me and telling me that she was wonderful, while at the same time I was remembering that her last semi-lucid words to me were, "You're a LIAR!", when I tried to calm her and tell her that the doctors were trying to help her.

Then there was that whole Aunt Clara thing to cope with, too.

After awhile, my father's condition deteriorated to the point that he stopped eating and stopped taking his medicine, and he would call me at 6 in the morning to tell me he had shit the bed because he just didn't feel like getting up to go to the bathroom, and he needed me to come and clean him and everything else up in the aftermath...

There was one night, I had a car accident--a stupid accident where some asshat woman hit me from behind as I sat at a red light. It was just one more thing, yanno? So while I'm standing in the Wawa parking lot, trying to sort things with the cop, my cell phone rings and it's my Dad. I tell him what happened and that I would call him back. After the administrative sorting with the police and a trip to the doctor's office, I call him back. And he wants me to come over. Going on 8:30, with no dinner in my belly, I ask him what he needs, and he says, "Nothing. I'd just like to see you."

And so, like an idiot, I go. And he spends most of the visit watching the television and not letting me fix him anything to eat.

And not once did he ask me anything about the accident, or if I'm OK.

This went on and on--and most days, I found myself waiting for a phone call, with my Dad on the other end, telling me what was the next thing he needed me to do for him, and to let me know that whatever it was, it wasn't nearly enough. I got the distinct impression that nothing would be good enough, short of my quitting my job and leaving my husband and my home and coming in to take over where my mother left off.

Christmas was coming. My house was full--Jobe and Leahanne are still here, waiting on the bureaucracy. Work was still demanding more and more attention, wrapped in the stress of impending layoffs and the disaster that such a thing happening to ME would entail. And on top of all the things I needed to do, there was a building resentment over the fact that everything that needed to be done was eating away more and more of what I wanted to do. And I'm not talking about frivolities here--I'm talking about things like spending time with my husband and taking care of my own house and my own friends and the people who were important to me. My personal priorities were completely overthrown, devoured by the imaginary needs of an old man who had lost every sense of decency and kindness and who became a giant sucking ball of willing and stubborn dependence, enslaving a person he couldn't see as a human being, let alone an adult child that he cared about.

My own life diminished to Facebook status updates, because I didn't have enough time for anything more than 140 characters.

And this all kind of backed up on me one afternoon, when I found myself unable to stop crying.

My first call was to the EAP, where I scared the shit out of some poor shmoo who answered the phone and heard me say, "I just want it to end. I just want it to STOP."

And the next call was to my father's doctor, to let him know, "I need help. I need it NOW."

And the next call was to my father, to tell him to get his ass out of bed and get ready to go to the doctor, because he was going RIGHT NOW.

He went to the doctor. The doctor sent him to the emergency room, with malnutrition, dehydration and a fecal impaction that was likely MONTHS old. ALL of which, I can tell you now, were direct results of his own stubbornness and his own insistence that he was going to become as ill as mother had been, so that he would get that same level of attention.

I'm not being mean here--he has said those things himself. He was manipulating me and life itself to get attention paid to him, and he didn't care what he had to do to get it. He didn't take care of himself because he didn't WANT to--he has said as much. And he got rewarded for that with getting my attention, no matter what it cost me.

He went to the hospital for a week, where it took TWO rounds of Go-Lytely to get the impaction cleared, and where the poor nurses were the ones who had to clean him up as he lay in bed and shit himself, and now he's at Manor Care, where he's getting attention paid, but where he still asks me, every day, when next I am coming up to see him.

And I had my first talk with Frank on Thursday.

And when I told him all of this--the stuff that happened when mother died, the stuff that Aunt Clara said, the stuff that my Dad has been doing--he said, "You have grown up, all your life, in an environment of conditional love. And it's clear you have spent a good chunk of the last six months, if not your whole life, struggling to get the love you DESERVE, but in the only way you know these people will even think about giving it to you--on the basis of what you do for them. But in the end, you have worked this hard, and you still haven't gotten it--because you are NOT a Christian, and you cannot BE who they want you to be, for all that you DO. And so it isn't good enough." He paused. "But it's only not good enough in their eyes, because they are the ones who don't know how to love you. That's not your fault. But what is your fault is depleting yourself in your delusion that one day, you will be good enough for them to love."

And the penny dropped.

It is my delusional idea that someday it's going to dawn on them that maybe I'm deserving of their love, if I dance fast enough. But the thing is, there is nothing that I can do that is more important than the fact that I cannot--I CANNOT--be a Christian. It isn't even a question of will anymore--it's just something that I cannot do. It is easier to think about their rejection of me than it would be to give in and play the game and sit my ass in church every Sunday and pretend.

But that doesn't mean that the rejection isn't excruciating, on so many levels.

It's excruciating because it causes them to treat me this way--but it's also excruciating to think of what it does to THEM. It's excruciating to see them so wounded and so crippled up by this virulent and hateful belief in the bleedin' freakin' Jesus. It is excruciating to see that this belief--this hateful, horrible belief--twists and bends and crushes every human relationship they have, including the ones they have with their children, who they're supposed to love. And THEN they're told to "be fruitful and multiply", so that the damage spreads far and wide, and infects more and more children with this absolutely killing and painful attitude that they are always, ALWAYS deficient, unless they completely subvert everything they are and submit to the system.

And you know, I can't remember one single verse in the Bible that commands parents to love their children--only that children are commanded to honor their parents. Which means that every child born into this sickness is born into slavery. And that is a horror to me, because what I know--I KNOW--in my heart is that this is the exact opposite of how things are supposed to be.

So the deal is that I've spent all this time trying to function within this sick paradigm by my own rules--the rules that tell me, in my own logic and in my own system of ethics, that you treat people well and as lovingly as you can, and you can open up a love in their hearts, not just for you, but for everyone.

But those rules don't apply when Jesus gets dragged into the picture.

Jesus tells them that they are right to shun and hate the very people who love them, so long as they don't toe the line and submit to The Book, which is what is to be loved above all else--even your own blood.

And the longer this goes on, the angrier I get.

So Frank says that my assignment for the week is to do as much good for myself as I can, and to love and defend myself the way I would love and defend a friend who is in the same position. To give myself the kind of advice as I would give them.

It's harder than you think.

Because, you see, I have been very carefully taught.


Jan. 9th, 2010 08:36 pm (UTC)
Maybe because what I feel for them is not as "unconditional" as I think it is. It is still wrapped up in expectations--and even if the expectations are reasonable (the expectation that a parent love a child is not too much to ask, I don't think), the expectation is still there.

I'm actually glad you said this, because that's something of a revelation. The only way that I can truly love them unconditionally is when I reach a point where I can love them with no expectations of getting their approval or love in return. And the only way I can do that is to establish boundaries regarding how much power they have over my life.

It's hard, though--because I really do believe that children come into the world wanting to please their parents. But at the same time, a child also struggles to become independent of its parents--because that's the natural order of things. So if independence is something a parent can't approve of, then a child is continually punished for doing precisely what is in its nature to do--which is the RIGHT thing for it to do.

So...to love them unconditionally, guilt has to go out the window. Boundaries have to be clearly established, within myself, regarding what the family will and will not be allowed to do. Control has to be taken back. And the way to take control back IS to love them unconditionally--without expecting approval or love that they are clearly incapable of giving.

Very interesting.

I thought I was demonstrating unconditional love by simply doing what I was told--but that's not it at all. The way to do it is to BE who I really am, without expecting them to accept it, and loving them anyway.
Jan. 9th, 2010 09:28 pm (UTC)
There is a constant continuous struggle with boundaries. I think many of us instinctively know this.
Dave and I managed to establish a very large one by moving 400 miles away and only seeing our parents 3 or 4 times a year. Even then, by the 3rd day, there was always a predictable difference of opinion and a massive argument *every time*. By the time my parents had to move here because they could not cope without help, I had some hope that if we could see each other frequently on a more casual basis, we might have a less stressed relationship. No such luck.

It got to the point that they came right out and told me that I, as a child, owed them my loyalty and obedience over everyone else, including Dave! They were a bit taken aback when I actually laughed at such an outrageous declaration and told them that that was easy for them to say since they hadn't even lived on the same *continent* as their parents for most of their lives.

Kind of hard to love people who deliberately try to inflict such pain. Is it too much to expect someone I love not to abuse me?
Jan. 9th, 2010 09:36 pm (UTC)
Not logically, no. But the thing is, love is a choice. And because it's a choice, you get to choose who you love and who you don't, and how you're going to love them. That's part of the boundaries thing, I think--as well as the expectations thing.

There are people that I love who are very hard to love, and people that I love who are remarkably easy to love. If I choose to love them, I choose to love them no matter if they are easy or difficult. I choose to love what it is in them that I love, in spite of some quirks of personality that sometimes makes that difficult.

This is easier to do with our friends than it is to do with our parents, because, as I said before, I don't think it's unreasonable for a child to expect their parents to love them. But sometimes we find that this is too huge an expectation--at least, it is to expect them to love us in a way that we'd like to be loved. At that crossroads, we make our choices again--do we choose to love them? And if we do, do we choose to love them as they are, or do we choose to love them with the hope that they will be different from what they are?

Once again, I don't think that love should ever be given out of obligation or duty. But at the same time, if we choose to love them, then we, if we are to do the right thing for US, is to love them as they are...and to draw boundaries within ourselves regarding what abuse will be tolerated and what won't.

I may print out this whole thread and take it to Frank next week! ;-)

Edited at 2010-01-09 09:41 pm (UTC)
Jan. 9th, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC)
Sorry Belle, I can't agree with this, that love is a "choice". Love is no more a choice than is Belief, IMO. The only choice we have is what we do about it.

"I may print out this whole thread and take it to Frank next week!"

*smiles* I'd be curious to know what he says.
Maybe we can arrange an on-line group counseling session? {;>D
Jan. 9th, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
Let me re-phrase--with an anecdote...

When Paul and I got married, we discussed this (in the context of marriage, of course). And one of the things we talked about was the commitment that was expected of those who were entering into marriage--that "sickness and health, better and worse" clause. And the thing is, I know that there have been times when one or the other of us could have made our lives very much easier by splitting--at least, I certainly know that there have been times when I wouldn't have blamed HIM in the least if he had packed a duffle and shuffled on me. But the thing is...that's not the way it works. When you love someone, then there are certain choices that you make surrounding that love. Some of them have to do with commitment, some of them have to do with boundaries, and some of them have to do with behaviors. The choice, then, may not be about the emotion so much as how that emotion is going to compel you to behave. And no matter what your emotions are, the behaviors are most definitely a choice. So yeah--you love who you love, emotionally, but if that love is going to be somehow meaningful, and certainly if the relationship is going to last, then the emotion gives rise to and lends motivation to loving behaviors, even when the emotion isn't readily evident.

There are times when it's very, very difficult to feel love, even for a person that you do love. In those times, love still exists--in the way you behave in spite of how you're feeling. And the way you behave is most definitely a choice.

I wouldn't expect Paul to feel the same things for me when I'm being horrible as he does when I'm being a good wife--but he always, ALWAYS behaves as if he does. Because that is his choice.
Jan. 10th, 2010 02:49 am (UTC)
Chiming in here to ask: Why are you raiding my thoughts on the subject and phrasing them more succinctly than I can? I have had this selfsame discussion with the other half of my self (not sordak, but the other half of my own id - I am a very strange person at times). I always seem to come up with a variation of your answer, but something that is true to the core of it.

Um, I could probably say more on this, but I would just be re-phrasing what you said here.
Jan. 9th, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC)
And if that is the case...

Then I have not been guilty of loving them conditionally, because I have never zoomed on any of their asses--not even once.

So even with my expectations in place, the behavior has always exhibited unconditional love.

Which means that the expectations are an issue that I have to resolve for me more than for them--because they have benefitted from demonstrations of unconditional love, even when that is not what I have felt.

Huh--this is untangling in a very interesting way...



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