Starting to look forward to returning up north to my apartment and cat and relatively simple life. Not that I don’t love visiting my family, but there’s a limit. Apparently 5 weeks proves to be the max. That was the case in 2007 and is again this time around. Just a major adjustment to move in with someone when I’m used to living alone, not having much real privacy to speak of since she has a tendency to barge on in unannounced whenever. That being a trifling concern, yes. But I don’t know people around these parts anymore outside of a few family members — whatever friends I knew here long ago have since moved away or I have no clue how to reach them. Did pal around on a couple occasions with a new buddy an hour away and visited a cousin a couple times, but other than that there’s been no real interaction with anyone near my age this month. And that’s fine too. Hell, I’d have probably been pleased as punch to have just rented a tiny cabin somewhere and holed up all by myself since then maybe I would’ve gotten more reading done and actually painted some and actually decompressed as hoped.
But none of that’s important. Small gripes. The bigger issue is how it’s been dawning on me that the pretense I came down here under turns out to not be the real calling. There I was thinking I needed time off from work (which I did, having not vacationed since 2013) and out of that state (which has also been appreciated), away from certain people whom I was having problems with. But then there turns out to be something else to it. Like maybe I needed to be here during this “mirror phase” (as I refer to it as) to see my people and their dynamics for what they are, pedestals be gone. Yeah, we’re all humans, which is to say we’re all screwed up in whatever ways. But…there’s some part of me that’s been stuck here, unable to move on and let go. Feeling really guilty about living my own life 900 miles away, like I was abandoning responsibilities down here or something. Almost like I’m obligated to give up that life and return down here to help because I feel like I owe my life to my Grandparents, therefore it is not my own. And that’s false. That’s actually a very unhealthy mindset to be stuck in, though I see more clearly how it became embedded.
Not interested in casting anymore blame. There’s enough blame being tossed around here to keep these folks occupied for the rest of their lives. Just feeling the need to shed this skin, so to speak, in hope of living a more full life going forward. Not talking about cutting ties or attachments or any of that. I do love these family members, much as they may irritate me at times (and lord knows they irritate one another). But I just get to thinking how indebted I always feel, like I must prove something, share what resources come my way in order to make amends somehow. But that debt never seems to lessen, no matter what I’ve tried over the years.
It’s a trap, as so much tends to be in this life. These family members are bound to the South by choice and seem to think we all should be. This being “God’s Country,” don’t ya know? But more than that, we have an aging family member to think about and everyone’s nervous about the future care situation, as has been expressed in recent years. This one said “she can’t come live with me,” and that one said “ya’ll are gonna leave me to care for her myself!” Ouch. Damn. And she is aware of what they have said…
Was talking to my former companion on the phone tonight on this topic and he shared his perspective on the matter. Thinks I’m being encouraged (to put it nicely) to return here to ease their potential future burden, and the sad thing is I don’t completely doubt it. Because if I did move back here I’ll likely be the primary one to tend to her, which she herself has stated she’d prefer. That all might be understandable, but you have to grasp the amount of guilt being used to try to sway me. Ugh…it gets to me, time and time again. Never leaves me. Hear it when I’m up north, hear it louder still when I return down here for visits. And frankly it seriously twists my emotions and gets me feeling a bit imprisoned by this scenario, nevermind that I’m not happy here and have made a life in the Midwest for the last 14 years. And nevermind how I’m the only grandchild being put in this position by virtue of having a mother who opted out long ago. Nobody calls her to try to breathe down her neck about her responsibilities, mind you. No one even tries and haven’t since 1992.
But it’s more tangled than that. Difficult to describe the simmering animosity between some of these folks down here. Resentment. Unfulfilled sense of entitlement in some cases. Lots of anger. Very passive-aggressive until it boils over into outright aggression. And I’m already emotionally warped by being raised up right in the middle of all this shit. True story.
Every family has its shadows, and ours is no different. But there is love here too, that’s undeniable. At least between some folks. I feel guilty for seeing this situation as a bit toxic and nerve-wracking, but that cannot be helped — it is what it is. And I have not one clue on how to fix it.
Since Papa got cancer and later died I haven’t been myself. Just changed me, and not necessarily for the better, unless plunging into a labyrinth of memories and self-destructive behaviors and excavating this whole damned situation to see it for what it is turns out to have positive benefits in the long run. It’s still tough to listen to them talk him down, complaining about how he didn’t do this or kept so-and-so from doing that or how he acted prior to 1990 when he used to drink. It’s a sensitive topic for me, not because I don’t see him for who he was but precisely because I do and still love him regardless. And it slices to my core to hear the disparaging remarks go on and on, like now that he’s dead it’s a free for all. Ugh. Fucking can’t stand trying to keep my mouth shut in the face of that, trying to calm myself into accepting that they each had their own individual relationships with him and thereby have a right to vent it out. Yes they do, but to ME?? Of all people? Why? I sympathize but damn. We all experienced his bad side at times, and we all also reaped the benefits for all the good things he did do for us. Ungrateful motherfuckers. I’m sorry, but damn. I’m apparently the wrong person to keep bringing that to, and sometimes I do attempt to shut it down, but such talk just resumes on some future date.
Look, my relationship with him was super complicated on a few fronts. I’m still twisted by some of the rumors my mother started long ago, having had to grow up hearing about that shit when I was far too young and it scared the hell out of me. Only to have to hear her claim nowadays that she never said any of that — a flat-out lie. And these other family members have their own gripes, I get it, and they experienced abuse, yes…I’ve heard, again and again and again my whole life. What do you want me to do? Why wasn’t this issue addressed to the man they were upset with during his nearly 72 years of living? Because I cannot undo the past in any way whatsoever, yet I feel saddled with all this shit because I am very sensitive and just keep absorbing it like a sponge, and it’s made me sick in the spirit. BUT, if I bring up their claims of abuse, a couple of these people will then flip out on me! Not allowed to ask questions. Just gotta sit there and listen to it when they feel like sharing, soak it in, and apparently say nothing at all. Year after year. No discussion is possible — this is strictly a one-way street.
Do you get an idea of what I’m trying to illuminate here? It’s kind of a mind-fuck that began so long ago that it would probably feel normal to me had I remained living here all these years. But I departed and lowered my exposure outside of phone calls to where when I return the negativity just kinda hangs in the air and feels so stifling and obvious.
An older male relative kinda jumped on me verbally today for reasons I wasn’t entirely clear on. Don’t think it was actually about the subject at hand, considering what we’ve discussed in past phone conversations, he being someone I haven’t been very close to until he began reaching out after Papa’s passing in 2011. Was just kinda weird, uncomfortable. Like he was questioning my motives on something and then flipping the script in a way so as to try to shine the light on my financial situation. And I have an idea as to why. Thanks to another family member, he was informed years ago about me working as an escort back in my 20s. Does that relate to his attitude flip today? I don’t know. Kinda seemed like he was driving somewhere near there in his comments. I normally work very hard to try not to share much of myself with him since I am aware how judgmental and angry he can get without much provocation. But this was a bit off-putting — I’m here trying to get along, was making a pretty mild joke at the time, though would’ve appreciated his help in persuading our aging matriarch to save and use her money wisely considering the number of years remaining where she’ll be able to work are limited. And I apparently stepped right in it and messed up. Didn’t mean to. Tried to explain what I meant, but it was of no use. Just turned into a somewhat tense situation where I had no clue what to do or how to respond. Felt like a little kid being scolded by an elder and tried not to let that show. Did try to just keep calm and not react, and basically succeeded after attempting conversation that went nowhere productive and then led right back to me in a way that didn’t make much sense. Maybe I am reading too much into it, but it was embarrassing. So I quietly left the room and retreated to my computer for the rest of the afternoon. Didn’t want to show anger in return since that was guaranteed to escalate the situation, which shouldn’t have been a situation to begin with. Was such a mild comment at the start. And she, our matriarch, just sat there silently, kinda smiling throughout. That hurt my feelings. I do not understand people apparently.
An hour later when he took off for a little while she came into my room to say she was sorry and to try to hug me, but I told her this is all so messed up. We talked and I was upfront with her about the guilt I keep experiencing in relation to our family, how I can’t comprehend what all is going on here on any given day. Told her that she can go about her life here as she sees fit, that’s fine, but when she asks me to move back down here and contribute income to the household while at the same time also letting me know she’s going to do everything her way regardless of what I or anybody else thinks or says — no, I’m not on board with that, and why would I be? Told her she can do that, it’s cool, and I am going to go back up north where I can resume living my life as I see fit. We discussed her financial situation (which was the original deal that led to all of this today) and I pointed out matters I didn’t feel were right to mention in front of our male relative, where she knew I had contributed and tried to help her out over the years, yet she just sat there and kinda smiled and let that go on without a word. There’s no defense here unless I launch it myself, and these folks are much older and feel like they can throw their weight around in ways that they will not accept me doing in kind, and she acknowledged that. She knows my hands are tied here. But then she went on to talk about how if it comes down to it she’ll just go to a nursing home, which we all know she’s terrified of, and that hopefully the Lord will take her before then. Because she knows those others won’t take care of her or won’t do it in the way she wants. *sigh* Do you see what I’m pointing at here? I pray this makes some sort of sense to others. Basically if not me then she’s going to wind up in a nursing home because they don’t actually care enough despite their superficial talk — that’s her position.
Had to tell her that I can’t keep living under this guilt that tells me my own life should be subjugated to her interests. That’s not fair. This is my own life to live. Which even Papa agreed with years ago and gave me his blessing on.
All the back-biting and talking behind one another’s backs — it’s maddening. Yet there is no way to bring these people to the table to have an honest and direct discussion with one another. Won’t ever happen. And I can’t stand being put in the middle of it. When I was listening to my uncle speak tonight I kept thinking to myself: Hell, I am 34 years old, yet I get to feeling like I’m a teen being chastised all over again. That’s a weird feeling. How does a person grow when that’s what they remain shackled to? Riddle me that.
Apparently the answer is to remove the shackle and to set better boundaries. Like my former companion stated tonight, I can live up in the Midwest and in the event that our aging female relative gets down and needs help I can return for visits when time and work permits so as to lessen their burden. They are her own children. She actually flat-out stated to me tonight that her children are “selfish,” and I’m sorry, but inside I got to thinking that their parenting may have something to do with that. But I said nothing and, of course, she immediately blamed it on Papa. I don’t even know what to say to any of this anymore. And people wonder why I wind up in screwy romantic relationships — ha! Stick a fork in me, I’m done, folks. No fucking clue how to reason with all of this.
Love her very, very much. Always have and always will. Always. But damn. Our family has some issues. Everybody knows it, yet no one seems willing to frankly address them though. I try to but am restricted to mostly talking with Grandma since she has patience and we have a strong enough connection that we can be pretty real with one another. Though, again, she will blame Papa for everything if she can get away with it. I have called her out on that before, but the next week it’s like I never said a thing and she’s right back it. Did she love him? In a way. She depended on him mostly, and she resented him for not providing their family with more. Life in a trailer apparently wasn’t up to her standards. But why must an aluminum home be considered so substandard? This I will never understand. They didn’t have much, no, but they both brought to the table quite a lot in their own ways, different as they are and much as they seemed to resent one another. And I, for one, am grateful for having had them and their love in my life. BUT this family drama continuing on, year after year, is beyond old and useless. People need to speak their piece and just get it over with. Toting all that aggravation around for a lifetime is helping none of us.
So anyway, yeah, it appears I was beckoned here to reckon with this shit, first and foremost, nevermind what my original intentions were. Like I told her today, I gotta find a way to drop this guilt because it’s fucking me up, on and on. Can’t keep living like this. Just too much of it from too many different directions. Making me useless to all others, including my own self by this point. Hence why I arrived here in the first place, and apparently there’s a lesson to glean this time around to take back up north on the return trip.