You can build a mansion but you just can’t live in
You’re the fastest runner but you’re not allowed to win
Some break the rules
And live to count the cost
The insecurity is the thing that won’t get lost
~ No One Is To Blame, Howard Jones
I want/need to talk about family, but i have to do it cautiously. As i’ve stated before, identifying certain people who are still living might seem like an invitation to share their thoughts and feelings. They might feel justified or even obligated to share their opinions about me, with me. I’m not interested and they are not welcome here, and so i tread with care.
They’re sick with secrets, tainted with criminals who’ve not been held to account. Their crimes have been covered up and excused by those around them, with not even an apology to those they’ve harmed, because their god forgives them.
It can take me a while to get there, but once i’m done, no one cuts dead weight like a dissociative. I still have deep love for some of them, but it’s not my job to reach/fix them. It’s my educated guess that they don’t think they need any anyway, and if they did, they certainly wouldn’t be coming to me. You see:
I asked for what i got.
I made a big deal out of nothing.
[The abusers] have been through a lot – what about them?
[Other victims] have gotten past it. Just let it go – get over it already!
Everyone knows i’m a liar.
I’m not even really related.
I thought i’d found acceptance there, and it did start out being an experience of family that i was desperately missing. It wasn’t long though, before the cracks started showing, and the sick bled through onto me. I was already up to my eyeballs in abuse, so i didn’t recognise it as bad, it was just the way things were. If i was looking for confirmation that my upbringing was normal (i was fully indoctrinated, so i wasn’t), the way this family worked confirmed it all.
My connection to this family is truly sick and twisted, as my mother played the long game with them when they were children. She reconnected with them years later, tapping into the power she’d wielded over them then to revictimise those of her choosing when they were almost and barely adults. She scooped one out of the nest and made babies with him.
She lost all her remaining friends when she did, and spent the rest of her years eating herself up to super-morbid obesity and cranking out children. Her mask had slipped and so she became mostly a shut-in. She sat down in front of the television around 1980, and rarely got up to do much of anything except beat us and get more food, until her death less than a decade later. The house was a pigsty, the children that came after me were skeletally thin, and she just kept getting fatter.
I tried my best to help the others, but i was ill-equipped and dealing with my own abuse. When i finally got out on my own, i didn’t give them much thought. I didn’t give anything much thought, as i didn’t know how to think. I didn’t know i was abused, and i didn’t understand that my siblings were still stuck there, living in trauma. I didn’t know that subconsciously, i was relieved to be away. I didn’t mark the lessening of stress and anxiety, i didn’t feel the softening in my guts, and i didn’t notice that i never went home or called or wrote.
Years later, when i’d awakened to the truth of how i was raised, i convicted myself of the crime of abandoning my siblings. I beat myself with guilt while drowning in shame. I tried to help but i still didn’t know how. I didn’t have enough information; i lacked the emotional connection necessary to reach them, and i think they did, too. We’d been raised with the divide-and-conquer mentality. We’d been taught to scapegoat. And they’d been filled with stories of my blacksheepness, probably from the moment i left home.
I had children and got married and began the agonising process of falling completely and utterly apart. We were all so broken and so much damage had been done. We all coped in our own ways with varying levels of success, but the scapegoating remained. My parents had always visited the harshest abuse upon the oldest child. When i left, it fell to the next. The trend continued after my mother’s death; as each one of us ran, the rage and the blame would be visited on the oldest of those who remained, until there was only one.
In my mind, things were going to be fine because my mother was dead, but they weren’t. And i tried to help, but providing food and shelter wasn’t enough. I was spiraling down, and i didn’t give much thought to them or what they needed. I often used them as babysitters and housekeepers, to my shame. I thought i was doing well because i wasn’t beating them, but i was still using them, as my mother had modeled so well for me. They were breaking down as well, filled with anger and pain and so many unmet needs.
Despite being more than a decade older, i wasn’t parent material. I could barely care for my own children, and my siblings were high needs.
As i became less and less functional, it became easier to scapegoat me – and they most certainly did.
Eventually, i gained enough insight, inner strength, and self-love to walk away. I did my best and it wasn’t enough, but it wasn’t for lack of caring or trying. I’d been a child then too, and there came a point where i had enough of being treated like just another parent who’d failed them. That point came when it was made clear to me that i was only a half-sister. Then i was told not to speak ill of my mother. My gears started cranking hard, and i brought it to my therapist.
As we picked over it all, i gleaned some shiny nuggets that i put in my pocket for later.
Like, i’d never been thanked for any of my efforts. Like, i only ever heard about the ways i’d done them wrong. Like, i wouldn’t be invited to certain family events.
One day i was taken aside and told my kids were awful people.
Shortly after that i learned that my husband and i were terrible parents.
So i decided to stop trying to win acceptance and approval. I stopped calling and inviting. We all did. There was never any big blow up, or serious discussion. No one threw down a gauntlet or made any grand pronouncement or even slammed a door on their way out. I was just done, and i guess they were, too. It’s sad, and it still hurts when i think about it, but the relief was immediate. The pressure release inside me was palpable. I will never not love them, but i won’t participate in my own scapegoating any longer. I won’t pretend everything’s fine and i won’t keep family secrets. I won’t be an emotional punching bag.
The line of responsibility is difficult to draw, so i don’t bother. I blame them and i don’t. They’re grownups but they were kids. It’s their business to deal with their shit or not, as they will. It’s not my job to fix them, or mend fences. It would be terribly unwise for me to expose my soft underbelly, because they will kick a dog when it’s down.
It’s prudent for me to love and want the best for them from over here.
It’s easier and safer.
I don’t know what kind of shit this may stir up, if any. They may never give me a second thought. I’ve been estranged from them for so long now that i’m completely out of touch. And i’m at peace with that.
What i know is that i must clear away the wreckage of my past, to make room for potentially better things. I must deal with the pain of my old family relationships, so that i might better show up for the family i’m building today.
I need to make space for more.
I’m clearing a path to my door, and laying out the welcome mat.
Hello, won’t you come in and sit a spell.
Tell me who you are and i’ll believe you.
No one, no one, no one ever is to blame
No one ever is to blame
No one ever is to blame