Releasing the past in order to find myself

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Don't Stand So Close......

My relationship with my NMIL has never been easy.  While I don't think she's malignant, like my mother, she has caused conflict in my marriage, tainted all important events, and generally makes me miserable.
She is a woman with a very fragile ego and demands constant stroking from her sons and her husband.  She likes to be adored, likes to be "the best", and likes to be told she's above all others.  She likes to be admired and likes to be in control.  Having four sons whom she groomed to cater to her, she has been very successful in maintaining her control over her sons and the family.  She created an environment in which everyone was to believe the same things, think the same things, like the same things, and behave the same way.  Individuality was offensive.
Along I came.  I was young and fresh off of dealing with the after effects of my parents divorce and coming to realize something was really "off" with my own NM.  I admired the closeness of my (now) husband's family.  They were big, boisterous and "complete".
However, I soon came to realize that, in order to fit in, I had to give up all my individuality and confirm.  I had to accept I no longer had boundaries and control over my own life.  I didn't recognize it as that at the time.  I was just trying to be liked and fit in.  I was very in love with my husband.
At the very beginning, NMIL told me she was afraid of losing her boys to future DILs.  DH and I had barely been dating and I'd given her no reason to believe I would "take" her sons from her.  From that point on, she seemed to be determined to control me so that she wouldn't lose her son.  She worked through him, manipulating him, gas lighting him, and convincing him to do what she wanted/when she wanted.  If I objected, I was being difficult.  She tried to control everything from where we lived, how we lived, to what we ate and how we spent our money.  She very covertly shamed, blamed, and undermined whenever someone didn't do what she wanted.  She used the family to bully people into submission (if someone didn't do what she wanted, she would send someone else in to "convince" them).  But it was all very under the radar.  My BILs still don't seem to see how much she controls them.  (When they go on vacations with her, MIL plans them with her son.  The DILs are left out.  MIL is consulted for all major decisions.  MIL takes on co-parenting duties with my niece and nephew....and in fact, sees her self as the sole guiding force of the kids.)
As you can imagine, this didn't sit with me well.  I spent a lot of time feeling bullied and controlled.  And I felt helpless.  My husband would become angry if I wanted to do something different.  We spent a lot of time working on it.  Finally, he started to wake up and see the truth (that something was off with his mother) but he still believes that it is something "fixable" and "we" (she and I) can work it out.  However, he did start setting boundaries and we went LC.  Particularly when he started to see how she was with the kids (and the influence she had on my niece and nephew and their perceptions of life) he put up boundaries.  She is not a loving or sweet grandmother, nor is she particularly safe with the children (she tends to take the easy way out on things and does not supervise well).  She does not make emotional connections with the kids.  Rather, she has a superficial and shallow transactional relationship (she actually told me once she was bribing my child to get him to pay attention to her) and she uses them for narcissistic supply (among other things).  She does not know the kids as individuals at all.  (In fact, she doesn't even ever ask questions to them to learn about them.  She just makes statements "at" them.)
When she started to see she was losing control of me (and my husband), she took another tactic.  She started in with phony flattery (especially to my husband).   She thought by showering me with compliments, I would suddenly like her.  But she still tried to be controlling, still felt entitled to us and our time, still tried to force us into her box.  I actually preferred her to be more overtly bossy, as opposed to this fake nice lady who was all over me.  Around this time, she also started to physically follow me around.
It started by eaves dropping and hanging on the fringe of groups of people I was talking to when we were in public.  She'd suddenly butt in and I'd turn, shocked to see she'd been standing there (she had plenty of other people to talk to).  She was often listening in when I'd talk to my husband.  She couldn't stand to be "left out" of anything and inserted herself into my proximity.  She definitely lacks some social awareness, but she's not stupid.  She's awkward, but behaves well enough that most people think she's a nice, normal lady.  So these odd behaviors towards me really struck me.
When we would take the kids to visit, she'd say hello and then latch on to me.  I had expected her to spend time with the kids, but nope, she would sit next to me.  And follow me around.  And distance I tried to put between us, she'd squash.  I used to be closer to my SIL and we would arrange all visits so that she and my BIL would also be there.  It gave me an alternative outlet.  NMIL told SIL that I "acted weird" towards her when SIL was around and so asked SIL to see her separately from us.  SIL agreed (which began the down fall of our shaky relationship).  MIL had me isolated again.
She would offer up trite and ridiculous compliments to me ("I like your toenail polish"  "you grew lots of vegetables in your garden"  really stupid stuff that was not really a compliment.  She never complimented anything of substance, lest I be perceived as "better" than her.)  But to my husband, she would call up saying she wanted to spend more time with us and hadn't been the best MIL.  She wanted to know what she could do.  She claimed I was "the coolest person" she knew. And she wanted to hang out with m. (blech).  She even HIM.... for her behavior (I heard none of this).  He asked her to back off and give me space and respect our boundaries.  She backed off, but only a bit.  She continued to demand to drop by, demand us to fit into their plans (instead of coordinating things WITH us), demand we give into her "want" of spending time with us.
But whenever she was around us, she'd hound me.  If I went into another room, she followed me.  If I went outside, she followed me.  She ignored the kids to try and make (lame and shallow) conversation with me (again, more like statements she would make AT me, instead of showing genuine friendliness and interest).  One time, we were sitting across from each other on opposite sofas.  She slowly slid off her's to the floor.  Then, she inched closer and closer until she was at my feet.  I felt backed into a corner.  Another time, I moved chairs no less than four times in a room.  She followed me every damn time.  It was unnerving.   At this point, I expressed to DH that I'd only like to meet them in public and that we had to coordinate were we sat so he buffered her (she lacks other physical boundaries and liked to eat off my kids plates which drove me nuts.  When my oldest was an infant, she helped himself to his baby snacks while we were out.  She also has serious emotional incest issues with my husband and his older brother.  She doesn't respect privacy and has walked in on me several times while changing.  However, she is very buttoned up with her own personal space.  She has insisted that I "cuddle" with her at a coldfootball game and was offended when I wouldn't.  During my husband's teenage years, they didn't have a TV in the living room and everyone watched TV in her bed together.  She bought all of her DIL's underwear for them to wear on their wedding night.  ICK.  I could go on and on.)
We had pushed back to LC and shortly there after she got sick.  For six (glorious) months, she was hospitalized and was very close to death (don't get me wrong, I wish her no harm.  And I was sorry she was suffering.  However, it was so peaceful while she was gone.  I finally felt free from her hoovering around us all the time and dropping in whenever. )  For almost a year, she was too sick to do much and we hardly saw her.  That was a year ago, and now we are seeing her more and more.  DH still struggles with wanting a "normal" family for his kids.  He loves his dad and wants him to be around (although he is starting to lose his hero worship for him).   He believes his mother is "trying".  I believe she is white knuckling it.
In the last few months we've been seeing them more and more.  DH sees that as coincidental.  I see it as "give them an inch" they'll take a mile.  They have suddenly decided to start attending my kids sports functions (that's a whole other story, as being a star athlete is very big NS for my ILs.  Up until now, they haven't put much attention into it, as the kids are young and not "stars" yet.  They ended up no-showing several times when they said they'd come to watch.  As "important" as we are, it's easy for them to ditch us, or expect us to change plans, for something better to them.)
I consented to one game for my kids (to feel supported) and my husband.  It wasn't bad, but it was uncomfortable.  She sat behind me tense and pouty (she complained a lot about having wet feet).  She's usually loud and boisterous, unless she's somewhere she's not in charge and she acts very cowed in those situations.  She just generally seems cranky.  My FIL, while a nice guy, also thinks it's funny to point things out and make a big deal about them.  It really bothers me, as he's always laughing at the kids playing.  I'm not sure if he thinks these things are "cute" but he makes such a loud guffaw about it that it feels a bit like making fun of them.  At this game, my young son's shoe came untied and he couldn't get out the double knot.   FIL drew tons of attention to it by laughing and pointing it out.  (I feel really uncomfortable during these situations, but feel pressured to join in the I'm being a stick in the mud by not joining in.)  DH's FOO teases relentlessly (expect MIL.  No one teases MIL, she gets pissed) and makes big deals about things and laughs loudly.  I felt the shoe tying things was ridiculous and make a big deal out of it for so long could embarrass the kids (sort of "look everyone!  Look at him!!"  It just sort of has that feeling about it.  My husband, accustomed to this sort of teasing, misses it a lot.)
I thought I'd be done for a bit with them, but no luck.  They invited themselves to my son's football game yesterday.   I get very anxious when they are coming around (I realize I often feel helpless.  I feel if I say or do anything they perceive as "different" or "not going along" my husband will get upset with me.  He often gets cranky with me after we see his family.  I'm not generally a difficult person, but he accuses me of it with his family.)  I was not thrilled about them coming and, since my husband is a coach, I would be stuck with them by myself.  I worked with a friend to arrange our chairs so that it left no spot next to me during the game.  I told DH that I did not feel like entertaining them during the game and planned to be polite by keep my distance. (I wanted to enjoy the game too, not listen to FIL and MIL cackle at all the things they found funny.)  They arrived just as the game was beginning (they can never be on time, so that works to my advantage) and I could see FIL was frustrated with the lack of room.  He also expressed annoyance that the game had started before the game time (all the kids were there, so the ref started.  Be early next time.)  I was polite and greeted them and shrugged off the "game started" comment.  And then I turned back to watch the game.  He went down to sit in another spot (with my nephew.  They were babysitting my niece and nephew.  They were supposed to come to the game last week, but rearranged it all at the last minute because they, now, were needed to babysit.  So, I spent two weeks very anxious.)
However, MIL remained parked right behind me.  Parents rarely actually sit during these games, so I was standing.  She stood right behind my chair.  The energy coming from behind me was uncomfortable as I could "feel" her intent on me.  Eventually, she hollered (she always hollers) up at me to ask where my other son is.  I'm not sure if she expected me  to have him waiting there for her or what.  I told her he was playing.  She said something stupid in return ("oh, he plays too?")  I turned back around.  Pretty soon, she's inching up between the chairs, standing to my right,but behind me.  I move down to a friend of mine and make conversation.  She moves closer again.  She's standing all by herself, without my FIL, so it's clear she's trying to get to me.  I again involve myself with the game and move further away.  I HATE this stalking she does.  I hate feeling like she's forcing herself on me.  I hate feeling my space invaded.  If I had wanted to talk to her, I would have.  If I wanted to interact, I would have.  Why couldn't she just go sit with her husband and watch the game (that she was supposedly here to see)?  I feel misplaced guilt about what I'm "supposed" to be doing (chatting them up, making MIL feel comfortable -everyone is responsible for her feelings, making sure everyone knows DH's parents are there.)  I've often felt this pressure in the past to "give" them myself and do what they want.  I hated feeling that way and felt I was putting on a show instead of being myself.   Any other game, I walk around, chat minimally with other parents, and I watch the game.  Why should this be different because they are there?  My husband doesn't sit and chat the whole damn time.  Hell, he hardly ever sits and talks with his mom at all.  Why should I have to?
Later, I go back down the sideline to give my son some water.  She is standing right behind the players (which is weird.  Most of the parents don't stand there.  They give the coaches and players some room.)  But not NMIL.  She's got my niece (who she's using as a shield, she does this a lot) and trying to get my son's attention.  "(OS)! (OS)!  Did you see who is here?  Your cousin is here?!"  He waves a bit and goes back to focusing on the game.  She tries again to get his attention and he walks away.  (He wasn't being rude, he really was so focused he wasn't even paying attention).  I think it's ridiculous that she's demanding his attention while he is supposed to be focused on the game.  It makes my stomach churn.
Luckily, my nephew got stick (not for my nephew, obviously) and they have to leave.  They do not say goodbye to me and take off.  (I was so glad we didn't have to sit and chat after the game.  They tend to "linger" and you can't get rid of them. It takes an hour to say goodbye to them.)
I couldn't help but feel that they were annoyed with me.  I know I didn't live up to what they wanted and I'm sure they saw me as "rude" and "stand offish".  And while I certainly wasn't interested in talking to them, I wasn't acting any different than I would have had they not been there.  I struggle with the feelings of guilt though.  And then I get annoyed remembering how she stalks and lurks around me.
Anyone have any suggestions on how to deal with this?  Holding my ground does nothing (and only rewards her and encourages her.)  If I grey rock, she sees me as rude.  She has none of these expectations for her own son.  I don't want to feel I'm running away from her, but I also don't want to be pinned and cornered.  And I don't want to be forced and pushed into being friendly and social with her.  If she would just be friendly, but distant, with me, I would be just fine with her.  If she could just back the fuck off of me, I'd be good.  I do not want to be friends with someone who's been cruel and mean to me.  I have no illusions that things will get better if we just "try" (she's too self absorbed to be friendly with and friendly only gives her license to control you.)  I feel a bit stuck.  Any thoughts are welcome.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Another Long Weekend

When my mother came for my son's birthday in May, it ended horribly.  She picked fights with me until I final stood up to her and stopped her.   I told her that if she wanted any kind of relationship with me, she needed to stop condescending me and treat me as an adult.  She even tried to rope my husband into the situation, telling him (after I left the room but could still her here) that what I was "doing wasn't right".  I'm assuming "what (I) was doing" was being NC with my sister and that most of the reason she was picking the fight with me was so that she could yell at me about being NC with my (forever-in-chaos) sister.  I'm not so sure she really cares that I'm NC with my sister, other than dealing with my sisters drama falls mostly on her.  Oh, and it looks bad.  Oh, and it probably leaves her at a disadvantage when trying to triangulate.  Among other things.
After she left, she "reached out" to me several times trying to get me to mend the relationship to "what it used to be".  (She clearly is trying to label our relationship as good "before", but she knows damn well, it's never been good.  I just kept myself quite and never fought back, so it was "good" for her.  Not me.)  I finally responded that our relationship needed some serious work and that it would take time and effort.  She agreed.  And then I didn't hear from her again for three months (except once, when she caught wind that I was on vacation and demanded to know where I was).  She started playing games again with me about a month ago.  NM is a very tit for tat kind of person, so because she believes I am withholding or ignoring her or not "reaching out", she behaves the same way to me.  So, she would ask me questions and then not respond for awhile.  She pulled out a fabricated story that she uses every. single. time, she comes to visit.  She demands to know what the plans are, as she claims that work is "so busy" (and she's always about to be "let go" so she has to be careful.  She's worked for the same company for 35 years) and that "other coworkers are looking to take time off".  You'd think she'd remember the bullshit she tells me every time, but no.  Anyway, she went back and forth, telling me she would get a hotel (which I had hoped) but then asked at the last moment to stay here.
Now, before anyone criticizes, I know, I know.  I know that was a bad decision to allow her here.  I know I should (probably) be NC.  I know all of the things I should be doing.  However, I did it because my kids already know something is up.  They also know that grandma has been less than welcome and we've had very limited contact.  They have been upset by this.  They also miss my step father, who is (mostly) a very nice man and grandfather to them.   I feel that I have gone into extreme LC with her and that I could handle a day and a half of her being here, especially with SD (step dad) here (he tends to keep her in check a bit.  One of the problems with the last trip was that he didn't come.  So, she got drunk and started picking fights.  Also, my husband does not want to go NC, with either my FOO or his NFOO.  He feels my kids will resent not having grandparents and I struggle with that thought.

I have done a lot of work and I did feel a whole lot less anxious about the whole thing (in addition to NM, I also have to deal with NMIL during this weekend.  She also likes to stir up drama.  I also have a SIL who likes to create drama too and always "complicates" the birthday parties.  She is always late, or doesn't show, or one time, stomped off in a fit because she was angry with my BIL.)  My husband's been gone a lot for work and life has been hectic, and so I was surprised at how calm I was remaining.

And then, NM showed up over an hour earlier than she normally would.  And the weekend started.  So, here are some highlights:

*As I said, she should up early.  This is typical NM, to try and throw me off balance.  I've had her sneak around my home and knock on my living room windows (as I was nursing my baby-openly- and with SD in tow) in order to "surprise me".  She thinks it's funny to throw people curve balls and laughs gleefully.  She knows my son doesn't get home from school until later in the afternoon and my husband works, but she showed up at 3:30.  I was not done cleaning (and was upset) so I said a breezy hello and said "oops!  I was just finishing vacuuming! I'll be with you in a minute."  I hadn't had a chance to get my son settled from school, I hadn't had a moment to do some calming exercises, like I'd hoped.  And I know she did it on purpose.  She always at least calls when she gets into town, but not this time.  So, it doesn't start well.

* I continue vacuuming, calming myself and regrouping.  When I go to say hello (she and SD huddled back into my kids rooms, which I wasn't happy about.  I had also hoped to have my son straighten his room after school, but no such luck.)  she was gone.  It had been, maybe, 10 minutes.  I talked briefly to stepdad, apologizing for not being ready and not expecting them early.  His reaction told me he also knew she was trying to screw with me.  (NM's vengeful side and her get-even-nature, are well known to both me and SD.)  Because I couldn't find her, I went out into the garage to go outside and gather some tarps I'd had out, but hadn't had a chance to put away.  As I came around the corner, she jumped.  There she was, on the phone.....with my sister.  I was pissed immediately.  She used to do this to me, before we went NC.  She'd have my sister on the phone as she walked in the door of my house, describing me, my home, what I had going on....before she even said hello.  She used to claim my sister was "jealous" of her spending time with me and "always" called right as she was pulling in.  I didn't believe it then and I don't believe it now.  I think it is so ridiculous that she needed to be on the phone with my sister.  I'm sure she was crying about how I hadn't greeted her like she wanted.  (Also, in May when she was here, she also used this phone trick to stir up drama.  She kept jumping up to check her phone -making a big scene - or checking her iphone watch.  Then, tons of huffing and blowing and sighing.  Every time we went to do anything, there was a "sudden" emergency text.  She claimed my aunt was having some problem with my cousin and was demanding support.  I ended up peeking at her phone....which she left open to the messages....when she set it down and found out SHE was texting my aunt and asking how it was all going.  My aunt kept telling her not to worry and enjoy her weekend.)

*NM spends several minutes talking on the phone to my sister, going around the corner of the garage so I can't here her.  She then comes in, but I'm now starting to cook cupcakes (which I had needed to do and since she was busy....).  She hasn't come to say hello at all.  When I go looking for her (again, another 10 minutes later), she's got my older son outside.  I watch from the window as he tries to show her some of his soccer footwork.  She's scrolling on her fucking phone.  I'm annoyed that, this boy whom she claims is so damn important is trying to show her something and she's ignoring him.  And she's only been here 20 minutes.  So, I open the door and tell him he needs to come do his homework.  She starts paying attention.  He comes in (after smarting off.  He tends to smart off, mostly, when she is around) and I ask him who grandma was talking to (I know, I shouldn't put him in the middle, but I wanted to know if he knew).  Of course he knew.  "Auntie Drama.  (NM) said my moves were so good that she videotaped her and sent them to auntie."  Now I'm really pissed.  My sister has only marginally (at best) paid any attention to my kids.  She forgets their birthdays.  She rarely sends gifts or spent time with them before NC.  I had to take both of my kids to meet HER, not the other way around.  She is jealous of the attention they receive from me.  She is a horrible influence around them and sets bad examples (swearing profusely, drinking, complaining endlessly if she has to do too many "kid" centered thing, being vulgar and exposing them to vulgar things, along with her abusive boyfriend.  She wanted to bring her abusive boyfriend to meet me for the first time....and stay in my home for days...immediately after my C-section with my second son.  When I said no, she refused to come).  She few times she saw my kids, she paid attention to them for a limited amount of time and then grew bored and went back to drawing attention to herself.  She has never expressed any genuine interest in my kids (my youngest, 5, she's only met once at 2 months.  He was a year and a half old when I went NC).  I felt it was such a violation that NM would send a video of my kids to her.  I felt that it crossed big boundaries.  I felt that NM was placing my sister's wants over mine.  I felt she was using my son and manipulating him into thinking my sister actually gives a shit about him.  (NM wants everyone to think well of my sister).

*So, I go back to the cupcakes and son goes downstairs to play with his brother, SD, and NM.  I come down a few minutes later and she won't look at me.  She does not say hello or greet me at all.  I had tried to be friendly (but disconnected) as I came down to say hello, but she blatantly wouldn't look at me.  As I watch the game, I notice she is starting to bristle at my older son.  He used to be her "everything" but when he turned 5, she started to lash out at him.  She would do things to put him in his place and often projected negative characteristics onto him (i.e. that he was greedy, or selfish, or mean, or stubborn, or controlling, or rigid).  My son is very independent.  And he can, on occasion, be bossy.  But he's also a good leader (that is the word his teachers repeatedly use).  He is polite, but definitely doesn't allow people to walk on him.  He is not passive and a follower, which bugs the shit out of NM.  He is not obedient ("disrespectful" in her terms) and she hates that she can't control him.  So, she creates situations in which she can then chastise him for being "greedy" or "mean".  But she does it very, very covertly.  She once sent a package loaded with gifts for his little brother and light on gifts for him (after she got in trouble with me for her convincing him to keep a secret from me) and when I pointed it out that he noticed, she snorted and said "figures he'd keep track!" as if he was being petty and ungrateful.  He was 5 at the time.
Anyway, as I watch the game, she clearly has it in his mind that he's trying to win the game and is shifting things in his favor.  (She also favors my little son and so is overprotective).  In reality, he has noticed the shift of her attention and the favoritism, and he's really just trying to get her attention by winning and showing them how smart he is.  Especially since it's "his" birthday weekend (and NM had told him that little son got more attention last time, as it was his birthday) he just wanted to impress them.  But he wasn't playing outside the rules and, I felt, he was actually being pretty kind to his little brother.  But NM started snorting and implying he was cheating giving him a disdainful evil eye.  (Later, when he accused her of changing up the rules to favor his little brother, she retorted with "you're a cheater!!"  I wasn't in the immediate vicinity to intervene, but called my son to come upstairs and help me.)
It really bothers me that she sets my son up like this.  On her last day here, she came up, smuggly laughing that my son "doesn't like that I challenge his way of doing things".  Firstly, she is not "challenging" him.  She's pulling rank, as an adult, and telling him he can't do things as he sees.   She doesn't negotiate or discuss it with him, she just antagonizes him.  Her goal seems to be to "put him in his place" (she loves to put people "in their place") or "take him down a peg" (another phrase she loves).  And even if, even if, she felt his behavior was unacceptable, it is not up to HER to correct his character.  (I will add, she has something negative to say about damn near every one of her grand kids or grand nieces/nephews.  She is highly critical.  It is hard for me, as my son is a very assertive kid and her criticism stings.  But none, NONE, of his variety of teachers or coaches or friends' parents have ever characterized him in such a negative way.  Most have nothing but positive things to say about him.)  I really wish I would have said "why do you feel you need to challenge him?"  I wish I would have stood up for him.  But I didn't.  She was set to leave and wouldn't be around him much anymore (I did try and keep him distanced from her as much as possible, with lots of activities or with alone time with SD, whom my kids love to hang out with.)  I knew she was laying in wait for something to latch on to and pick a fight.  So, I bit my tongue and walked away not saying anything.
Several other times, my son came up crying.  Once, he claimed that they wouldn't let him play (she wouldn't.  When he tried to join in, she grabbed him and held him from playing.)  Another time, she changed the rules on a football game (and is an avid football fan, so she knows the rules) so that he couldn't score or make plays (she was again holding on to him).  I felt so badly for him.  But....and maybe this is horrible....but I thought they were very mild examples showing him that grandma isn't this loving, wonderful woman he convinces himself she is (he gets very upset when I explain that grandma is a bully and can be mean and that's why we don't see her as much or go visit her.  He claims he loves her and seems to forget the nasty things she does in favor of remembering the good.)  Since my DH doesn't see NC as an option, I feel that letting him see bits and pieces of her nasty side and agreeing with him that it's not right and I'm sorry that she acts like that, helps him to protect himself.  It helps him to see that, just because someone buys you off, it doesn't mean they "love" you or are "nice" to you.  But maybe I'm wrong.  I'm just trying to work with what I've got at the moment. Everyone I've talked to says that I can't "control" their relationship or his perceptions of her.  That I can't "disparage" her.  And he repeatedly gets angry with me when I've told him that I am keeping her at a distance for his own well-being because he only had the doting, "loving" grandma for so long.
I don't know, maybe I'm completely wrong.  I struggle with what to do.  In any event, my son distanced himself from her the rest of the weekend.  She tried, the last day, to say "come see me!  I haven't hardly seen you and spent any time with you!"  But by this time, he was over her (and all she wanted was to cuddle him physically, which is not something he enjoys).

*As far as my younger son (who is 5 and a lot more cuddly), she took every opportunity to cuddle him (even running up to put him back in bed over and over.  She knows I do not like this, but she did it anyway.  And by the last time, I was sick of arguing with her.  She made a big deal the next day about how she slept with him and how much that made him happy and go to sleep.  BLECH.)  She likes to put on this cartoon-ish personality around little kids.  It's not a pleasant personality, but is cloying and ridiculous.  She often likes to dance around, squeak and make little stupid noises that drive me crazy, but gets a little kids attention.  She likes to see them think she is funny and pay attention to her "performances".  It is obnoxious, at the least.  However, my son does see through her a bit and tends to stick with SD.   But she revels in any attention he gives her.

*She can't stand to be told what to do and acts like a child if I ask her to be on time for anything.  We had to be to the kids' soccer games on time and she suddenly couldn't get herself together to get in the car (despite being told what time we were leaving).  When we got there, she spends time dawdling, putting on her coat and then sllllloooowwwwly walking to the game while holding youngest's hand (I wanted to smack her).

*She basically kept her distance from me.  We both seemed to be practicing "medium chill" or "grey rock".  She only asked me ONE question about myself and that was right before she left.  She works in human resources, so she puts on her "human resources" persona around me.  When I tried to tell her bits about the vacation that she demanded to know I was on (and demanded pictures), she gave only vague, blah responses.  I could see her simmering, but she remained cool and aloof. She left without saying "I love your" or any of the other responses she usually says, which is fine with me.

*My husband got a new job.  She asked him tons of questions about it and it was clear she wanted him to like his new job.  Not for his sake, but because she thinks it's prestigious and will make him more money.  When I told her, back in May, that I was struggling and things were hard for me (as my husband was traveling a ton more and it was upsetting to the kids) she said "I'm sure, but I'm really excited for DH."  I guess her excitement trumps my struggles.  Not once, all summer, nor on this visit, did she ask how me or the kids are handling this.

*While she was here, she asked to post on photo on FB.  I said fine (she kept trying to shove all of the photos she took in my face, but I responded distantly).  She posted not one, but THREE.  She asked if she could post photos from soccer.   I said no.  I also said it's against league policy, as there are other kids there.  She said "OK" and then sent me the same photos....twice.  When I didn't respond, she made up a cloying post about "missing" the kids and posted the photos (although she did crop out the other kids, so she was "technically" following my direction.).

For my part, I felt that I handled her reasonably well.  She did not rile me up.  She did not get to me.  Sure she hurt me at times, but it didn't cut me that deeply and I was able to recover.  Anytime she tried to direct things to herself, I ignored her.  I spent a lot of time talking to SD (who was very nice).  I maintained grey rock.

But it still wore me completely out.  I've had an emotional hangover for two days now.  I am ruminating about the situation with my older son, wishing I'd said something, but not wanting to give her fuel to start an argument.  I feel very alone and without support, as my husband doesn't seem to get how difficult this is for me.  (He is very contradictory about how I should deal with difficult situations and I find that frustrating).  I am very sad and have been grieving a lot.  I'm feeling a bit depressed.  But I'm trying to find my way through it.  I don't know if any of this is progress or not.  I guess we'll see.

Friday, September 9, 2016


I'm not sure if anyone is still out there reading this blog.  I know it's been awhile.  I have still been working on dealing with my Ns, but I've needed to do some more personal work, rather than the more lengthy blog posts.
It's been 4 years since I went NC with my sister.  When she lied on FB about having cancer, I'd had enough.  I asked her to change her relationship with me.  I changed my relationship with her.  I refused to participate in the drama, the codependency, the enmeshment, and, most of all, the enmeshment.  But the merry-go-round of drama continues to go around with her.  Last year, she rushed to my grandmother's death bed to "make amends" after 15 years of estrangement.  (She N-raged against my grandmother and then blamed my grandmother for not "reaching out" to her and making her feel better.)  She managed to "martyr" herself into getting the most money of any of the grand kids out of my grandmother and my grandmother's car.  She also used the opportunity to try and force me into contact.  The latest drama is centered around her break up with her long-term and abusive (she's abusive too) boyfriend.  Again, she suddenly wants to "fix" our relationship.  But really she just wants me to take on her issues again.  She has been buzzing around a lot lately, trying to see what she can do to get me to interact.  Up to this point, I have held strong.  
I slowly went more and more LC with my mother too. She had started in picking on my oldest son and I'd had enough.  So, I severly limited contact between her and my kids.  And I started to fade away.  Although NM was clearly not happy about it, she didn't bring it up, but rather, silently seethed.  In May, while visiting for my youngest son's birthday, NM spent over an hour trying to pick a fight with me.  She kept bringing up ridiculous subjects that she knows are touchy subjects (one being politics) and tried to force me to get angry.  What she was really aiming for was to confront me about my NC with my sister and my LC with her.  She mimiced me, made fun of me, belittled me and basically treated me disrespectfully.  I finally lost it and told her:  treat me with respect and like an adult or we won't have a relationship.  I finally told her (quite calmly but VERY firmly) that I was done with the relationship as it was.  She (literally) glowered at me.  She glared unblinkingly at me.  I asked her twice to stop.  She didn't, so I left.  She then started in on my husband, complaining to him about me and saying what I was doing "wasn't right" (I'm assuming what I was "doing" was going LC/NC).  He defended me and she claimed to "understand" that he was defending his wife, but that he "knew" I was in the wrong.  I grey rocked her for the next day in order to keep the peace for the sake of my son.
After she left, she sent me several texts and an email, apologizing for "her part" in the disagreement and that she "wanted our relationship back the way it was".  When I didn't respond, she started texting and bugging my husband again.  I finally responded that things weren't working as they were, that things needed to change, and the relationship would require some work.  I haven't heard from her since then.  Of course, until now, when she wanted to come for my older son's birthday party (not his actual birthday, but the party.)
I know,  I should just cut her off.  (Especially after watching the co-dependent mess she participated in with my sister this summer.  After the break up, my 36 year old sister moved back home for a month, sponged off my mother, and then moved back out when they couldn't get along.  Shocker!  NSIS had been making up more fake medical issues and expected everyone to rescue her.  Really, she just needs a therapist.  But God forbid, she gets on of those.  She verbally abused my father, threw tantrums, and basically caused havoc.  And NM lapped it all up, enjoying the drama and then complaining about being involved in the drama.  And then she and NSIS would go on FB and act like the perfect mother and daughter.)
My sons (especially the oldest) still loves their grandmother.  I still don't feel completely right about going NC.  I am allowing NM to come for one day for the birthday party.  And I'm dreading it (as my sons skip around excitedly for grandma to come).  I have no doubt she's still seething and looking for ways to get revenge (she is a horribly vengeful person).    I can see now how much the stress and anxiety around these two woman makes me sick.  I have had nightmares and been irritable and depressed.  I plan to grey rock the shit out of her (it will help she has my step father with her this time.  She behaves somewhat around him),  But I'm dreading it.  My husband is against NC.  He feels my kids will resent me for cutting off their grandparents (my MIL is a narcissist too.)  We have little to no extended family around our kids.  (They have 4 uncles/aunts +their spouses; none of whom makes any effort to be in their lives.  My BIL and SIL only live five minutes from us and we never see them.)
The whole situation makes me sad.  I do feel a lot stronger than I have in the past.  I feel more self assured.  Standing up to NM in May really helped my self-confidence and independence.  But I still feel mired in the shit.  I still feel sad, and lost, and lonely.  I feel like a person without a "home".  I worry about my kiddos.  I worry about the covert manipulation by their grandmothers.  I worry about them feeling isolated and alone without extended family.
We also don't have many close friends.   We are working on it, but it's been a slow process.  People our age have friends and don't need new ones.  I had made one friend, but after I asked her to watch my home for a week, some sides of her came out that I was not thrilled about (she wasn't honest and allowed her kids to have a play date with another kid at our home).  That relationship is on "pause" while I figure out what to do (our kids are close friends, so, yet another decision that can effect my kids).
I'm stuck also trying to explain things to my kids.  I don't believe in completely not saying anything to the kids.  As with any difficult subject, I think it's important to share age-appropriate information.   I don't want to like giving my sons the impression that their grandmothers are great people and people we should want to be around a lot.  I don't want to participate in them being "groomed" by their grandmothers by acting as if grandma is normal.  Both my kids are very perceptive and have picked up on things.  But they are young, and I've been warned to not burden them emotionally with "adult" issues.
On the plus side, my father finally has heard me.  When my grandmother died, I finally let it all out.  That I was in therapy.  That I had PTSD.  That I had been suicidal.  That the relationship with my mother and sister was horribly toxic to me.  My father isn't particularly warm or open emotionally.  H has had his own trauma and suffers severe depression (which made him angry and abusive when I was a kid.  He's getting treatment and is a lot better).  But he, at least, understood and told me I was doing the right thing.  Of everybody in this world, he is the only other person who understands the depth of the problems with my mother and sister.  He's a victim of them too.  He's not great at support, but he's at least been there somewhat.  So, it's something.

So, I'm still plugging along.  But I wonder if it will ever get significantly better.  To where this doesn't weigh on me so damn much.  To where I can detach and completely focus on my own family.  It bothers me SO much that this takes up so much of my energy and emotional space, which takes me away from my own family.  As I watch my kids grow so quickly, I don't want to waste this time on unnecessary drama.  Which is why I moved away from the Ns in the first place.  But I become frustrated with the time and effort it takes to make progress.  I wonder if I"m progressing fast enough to not harm my kids.  I wonder if I'm doing the right things by my kids (am I being selfish with LC/NC?  Is it fair for my kids to have no extended family?  How much contact is reasonable?  How much should I share?  How can I protect my kids from the covert nature of my Ns? It goes on and on.)

Wish me luck in the next few weeks.  It is so frustrating that all my Ns come hoovering around during important times in my kids' lives.  I think I'll make it through, but I am so anxious....

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Mirror, Mirror...I'm Invisible

I wanted to expand on my last post about my feelings that no matter what I do, I can never be a "good daughter" to my mother.  After Quartz's comment about how my mother won't let me be a good daughter to her, my brain started to fit some puzzle pieces together in a different way.   I have felt that the choice my mother presents me with is either to completely do what she wants (act as she wants, respond as she wants, give her whatever she wants) or to be labeled a "bad daughter".  I was describing the situation to my husband as having to relinquish any sense of personal integrity and personal identity OR have a relationship with my mother.  I'm not allowed to have both, in her mind.  I'm not allowed to be "me" if I want a relationship with her.   I've realized that I think it goes a bit further than just not being myself, but that I must be a perfectly black slate, a perfect mirror to reflect back at her.  And in order to be the "perfect mirror",  my soul, my identity must be perfectly invisible to her.  I must become so enmeshed with her that I do not exist at all.

This idea came to me because of two recent events.  Since I've been NC with my N-sister and LC with my NM, my sister have become closer (read: more enmeshed).  They've always been the more bonded of the three of us.  I always always sort of the "spare wheel" (not even the third wheel.  I was the one they used when the other one wasn't meeting their needs).  My younger sister was my mother's "baby" (and by result, also expected to be "my baby".  I was to care for her just as my mother did.)  My sister and mother often "paired off", while I was expected to have my father be my "main" parent.  I was mommy's little helper, but not my sister clearly got the most attention (even if it was mostly negatively gained), time, and support.  My mother often said she felt sorry for her and as my sister was a very difficult child, she sucked up my mother a lot.  And despite them having a very love/hate relationship, I've often felt that they are more closely connected than I was with either of them.  (Not that I think that's a bad thing for me.  I think the two of them are so similar that that is the reason they more closely bonded.)

I have put down my foot on playing NM's "pretend" game on FB and I don't participate in the staged selfies with her, I don't allow her to stage selfies with my kids or use them to further her "grandma image" on FB.  My sister does.  My sister plays participates fully.  Lots of selfies together.  Lots of "love you!!!!" exchanges.  Lots of "momma bear" and "my baby" comments between each other.  My mother consistently refers to my sister (who is 36) as "her baby".  They project, together, a very solid image of a mother-daughter bond.  My mother gushes over her, gushes over her gifts (a very thoughtful gift I gave her for Christmas got ignored until NM could find a way to exploit it for supply on FB.  My sister's gift was gushed over immediately), posts tons of pictures of her, talks about how beautiful she is,,,,,, and on and on.  NM took one of these FB quiz/app things that displays in graphic form the words she uses the most (the most frequent words showed up largest).  Not surprisingly, my sister's name showed up as one of the largest; I couldn't find my name (or even of my kids) at all.

And while I really don't want to be the object of my NM's FB gushes, it is difficult to see such a visible representation of her adoration for my sister.  It does sting, although I'm not particularly jealous.   I don't want to participate in my NM's life as my sister does (and I suspect that evey thing isn't as rosey as they make it out to be), but it's painful to see how "close" and "loving" they believe they are together.

But the thing is, my NSIS allows NM to project off of her without any interference.  She never contradicts NM's little staged scripts on FB.  She never offers up contrary opinions, criticism, or objections.  She never asks to be seen as a separate person.  In fact, the two of them are quite fused.   The have very similar interests and NM revels in being more like a twin sister than of mother and daughter.  NM is WAY over involved in my sister's social life and the enemshement is very obvious to me.  NM also uses my sister as a sort of fantasy.  I believe that my mother secretly wishes she had my sister's life: wishes she was as daring, outspoken, and brash as my sister.  She secretly craves the excitement (drama and chaos) of my sister's life.  She lives vicariously through her.  And that too always NM to reflect back on herself exactly as she wants.  NM can see herself as "strong", "bold", "outgoing", "cute", "beautiful" because she sees in it my sister and, through the enmeshment, claims it as her own.

I can clearly see that having my own feelings, ideas, and thoughts gets in NM's way of her reflection of herself.  If she has to "see" me, than she can't be looking past me into herself.  So, when I put up boundaries, ask for consideration, express my individuation, it is offensive to my NM.  She finds it as disrespectful as I am not giving her what she wants, a completely unobstructed view to the image she's created.

Another reason all of this came to light was due to a relatively silly thing.  My NM has extreme adoration for my old kindergarten teacher.  As my children are now in primary school, this old narrative of how wonderful and great my kindergarten teacher was keeps coming up.  And she doesn't just speak about her, she prefaces it with "Wasn't she the BEST teacher Jessie?"  "Did you just think she was wonderful Jessie?"  It's always important to her that I buy into the narrative.  That I express her thoughts as my own.  That I echo back exactly what she thinks.  I am almost 40, so my memories of my kindergarten teacher are vague.  I know she was nice and kind, but beyond that, I do not remember much.  I don't remember her as standing out any more than some of my other nice and kind teachers.  But for some reason (which she never specifies) NM always claims she was my favorite teacher and that I love her so much.   The last time NM visited, she was pontificating about my old teacher again, how she was the best, and didn't I wish my kids could have her too?  I finally told her no.  That I didn't remember my teacher all that well.  That my kids had plenty of nice and kind teachers.  That I don't remember the teacher being all that important to me.  NM was quite offended.  I remember her looking at me as if I had two heads.  I hadn't been rude.  I hadn't been confrontational, I simply just didn't gush about my teacher as NM wanted me too.

I realized that if I don't parrot back to my NM everything it completely destroys her fantasy.  There is no place for me to have my own feelings, thoughts, or individuation.  It's not that I just have to agree with my NM, I have to completely BE her.  I have to reflect back the exact image that SHE wants to be seen as.  I don't feel as if NM doesn't like me or the person I am, hell she doesn't even know who I am.  My biggest sin, according to NM is that I have any personality, any ideas, anything other than being an extension of her reality.  I am to be completely invisible.  I am to have no needs, no thoughts, no plans, to will that doesn't originate with her.

I've spent a lot of time in my relationship feeling like I'm invisible.  And recently, pondering why I can't be a "good daughter" to my mother, it occurred to me (as Quart pointed out ) that I can never be because she can't see any of that at all because she won't let me.  And any attempts be my to break out of her roll for me completely shatters back that mirror reflection and shakes her out of her illusions of reality.

Even further, the more I attempt to express myself, the more she's attempted to push me back to being invisible.  In this last year I've given her two gifts.  Not because I had to, not because I expected anything.  Just to be kind.  NM didn't want to see that, so she completely ignored them (which is unlike her).  The first gift, she wouldn't turn around from playing basket ball on my children's hoop to look at.  I didn't even think she knew what it was until I realized she'd taken it with her when she left. She never acknowledged it.  The next gift, she minimized and ignored until it suited a FB post (in which she still didn't acknowledge me).  She doesn't like me speaking up, so she ignores me.  She doesn't like me ruining her false-reality, so she doesn't include me (and aggrandizes my sister).  She punishes my kids by ignoring them.  (I upset her the other day too, as she wanted to buy my kids some new clothes.  This is her one of her false realities that I've also ruined.  She likes to be the "rich" person who runs in with money to save people and be the hero.  I, however, have plenty of money to take care of my children and it offends her.  She asked to buy my son some shorts and asked his size.  I told indulged her for a bit, commenting on the several choices she sent me with photographs.  When she asked if he was still his old size, I said yes, but that he has plenty of shorts, so she should size up.  She then asked what he did need.  I answered honestly, that he didn't need anything ( in fact, he has more than enough).  She responded by saying that she just wouldn't get anything at all than if she couldn't buy him his current size.   I ruined her fantasy, so she chose to do nothing at all.)

I am very saddened by the fact that in order to have a relationship with my mother, I have to be completely invisible: no thoughts, no feelings, no ideas, no personality.  I can not be myself at all.  My mother does not love me for me at all.  I know that this is an "old" idea that I've come to terms with several times in the past, but the weight of it all seems to be finally hitting me with full force.  (I'm guessing that my psyche wouldn't allow me to feel all of the feelings towards this at once, as it would have devastated me, and so I keep coming back to it as I'm able to tolerate the pain).  She won't let me be a real person at all.  And that makes me very disappointed and sad.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Good Girl

Hi all.  It's been awhile since I've written here.  I've been working on healing in a few different ways, and so the blog has been neglected.  It's been hard to come up with full posts and and ways to put things so they make sense and so posts have been hard.  Most of what I've been working on is small details put that are forming into "big picture" ideas.

The holidays, while not horrible, were exhausting for me.  All in all, my FOO had a really nice time.  We were busier than usual.  I was happier than usual.  I was able to fully be in the moment.  But with any holiday,  the Ns come buzzing around like flies.  They have expectations, demands, and bone to pick.

At present, I am LC (and pushing for more) with my NM, LC with my in-laws, and NC with my NSIS.  The NC has been difficult for me, as I've come to realize I really do not want a relationship with my sister.  The few bits I've heard from her and about her, tell me she hasn't changed at all.  My MIL was very gravely ill this summer and it has led to a whole lot of changes between DH and I.  She allowed a lot of her true nature to shine through, and I believe he's seen things he can't unsee.  I've been pushing NM back further and further and it's been very interesting to watch her reaction.   She hounded me a ton over Christmas.  Lots of texts, lots of pressure to visit soon.  Because I didn't do what she wanted, she suddenly became cold, distant, and icy.  She started DARVO-ing, implying she was going to stop giving me "more chances" because I'd been "disrespectful".  I spent a lot of time thinking about how she views things and how she can possible believe something like that.

I have finally reached the conclusion that my mother absolutely can not handle any negative emotions from me or my sister.  No sadness, no angry, no disappointment.  If my sister feels that way, she does something to "fix" her (temperarily bandage the problem).  If I feel that way, she completely dismisses me, ignores me, pretends she doesn't hear me or doesn't see the issue, or attacks me for being angry with her.

Growing up, my mother was quite distant.  I remember her spending a lot of time on chores.  She worked full time, but when she wasn't, she cooked, cleaned, or really did anything else.  She didn't play with me, help me with homework, ask me about school or friends, help me run lines for my school plays.  She just never felt very interested in me at all.  We didn't have a lot of money (something my mother must have said a lot, as that was always the feeling I got.  My mother has a big issue with being poor).  But I was clothed and fed.  I had nice toys and had good (although not lavish, which is fine) Christmas'.   We were well "taken care of".  But I don't remember being really maternal at all.  She "ticked all the boxes" of what a mother should do (credit for that saying to my friend Kara).

I do remember her being very withdrawn and cold and depressed.  I remember always trying so hard to not upset her further.  I remember trying so hard to appease my sister (who was, unlike me, not afraid to act up or express her needs and wants.  She was vocal, volatile, and intense).  I know my mother asked me often to appease my sister.  Just give in so that my sister would behave.  I was the ultimate "good girl".  I realize I wasn't perfect, but I was always trying very, very hard to not make waves.  I was good in school (in fact, if I ever got in trouble, which I think maybe happened twice, I was devastated).  It's not that this necessarily came naturally.  I tried very, very hard to BE a good girl.  I did whatever it took be the good girl.  I helped out, I was friendly and kind.  I did all my homework and chores.  Even into my teens, I was a relatively good kid.  Despite a herendous divorce and my family life falling down around me, I still worked, got almost all As, participated in college level courses and extra-curricular activities, and took on a lot of the responsibility for my sister.  I had always taken on extra responsibilities involving my sister.  From the time I was very young.  I was the perfect mother's helper.  (You can imagine my hurt and surprise when my mother tells me now about how she'll tell anyone who listens how "hard raising teenage girls are."  She'll go on and on about "girls' - she knows enough not to call me out directly.)

When my parents divorced, my mother pretty much abandoned me for my teen years.  The little involvement she did have went down to almost nothing.  Despite being exceptionally depressed and upset about the divorce, my mother acted as if I should be "fine".  Any extra support went to my sister, who had seemed to explode into a pillar of problems, issues, and chaos.    It's not that NM had so many problems with my sister that she couldn't also attend to me.  It was that she never, ever considered how I was feeling or what I was going through.  If I expressed any dissent, hurt, or God forbid, the slightest degree of anger, she would shut me down immediately.  My unhappiness was impeding and dampening HER happiness, so I was not allowed to be unhappy.  I distinctly remember her telling me "It is my turn to be happy."  I can look back now and see how she felt she'd sacrificed for her family (she had an NM and an alcoholic father and had taken on a lot of family responsibilities herself) and than been so unhappy with my father.  But at the time, I was stunned that I wasn't allowed to have ANY feelings because it conflicted with what she wanted to do.   I wasn't allowed to talk about it.  When I spent three weeks locked in my room, only coming out for school, she ignored me.  She never asked how I felt, never talked to me about the divorce.  And in fact, she then pushed her "new" family at me and demanded that I fall into line and embrace these strangers (my step father, in particular, who she'd been having an affair with.)  The divorce was acrimonious, there was significant traumas, my sister was out of control, I was left alone a LOT to care for my sister on the weekend, yet my mother never once bothered to stop and consider how I feel.

In my mid-20s, she apparently grew bored with her new family and decided to swoop back in and take back the reigns as "THE mom" in charge of me.  It was at this point, she became very enmeshing and co-dependent.  She had been quite enmeshing when I was a child (not considering what I liked, who I was, or what I wanted) but as an adult, it took on a whole new level.  She wanted to operate my life like she was at the control panel.  She expected to push buttons and I would do whatever she wanted.  And in a lot of ways, I did just that.  As I said, since a young girl, I had always wanted to just make my mother happy.  I wanted to fix that unhappiness she seemed to have (which now came because my sister, 10 years later, as still extremely out of control and we never knew if any day she would find some way to kill herself.  And my the "shine" of the new family had worn off).    So,  I tried to make her happy.  Tried to do what she wanted and be the "good girl" again.  The wounds of the divorce hadn't healed (I had felt so utterly abandoned) but my mom was "back" and I so wanted to make it work.

But, of course, it didn't.  Any attempts to have a real relationship, express any individuality, act like an adult were insults to her.  She took great personal offense to me not accepting her "help" (money forced on me so she could strong arm me into doing what she wanted.  She now had a rich husband, so money became her favorite tool.  It worked on my sister but not me.).  If I didn't take what she offered, I was ungrateful.  If I did take it, I took advantage of her.  If I did take it and didn't do what she wanted, I was spoiled.  I just couldn't win.

And during this time, she tended to take out her own anger about how her life had turned out and project it onto me.  She had constant criticisms and was just down right nasty at times.  Little insults, little digs.  Constantly telling me that I didn't measure up to her expectations.  For a little girl who only wanted to please her mom, who had been terrified of losing her family during the divorce, I often acted desperately to please her.  I was in my 20s, but I still felt very much like a lost little girl.

I finally started to gather some courage and stand up to her in my late 20s.  Many events had become so difficult with her and I was frustrated and saddened that I couldn't figure out how to "get along" with her.  I decided to try talking things out with her.  This did NOT go over well.  Expressing any sort of feelings to her got regulated to "you're just still upset about the divorce".  Being a bit naive at the time and unsophisticated in dealing with Ns, I didn't have a response for this.  I didn't realize how she was shifting the point to take the pressure off of her.  I WAS still upset about the divorce.  I'd never had a chance to heal, my mother had never acknowledged that I even had a right to be upset about the divorce, and because she kept telling me that, my being upset was an affront to her happiness, I had stuffed all of my upset down.  I had wanted her to be happy, so I refused to acknowledge how upset and angry I was.

But that had NOTHING to do what was going on now.  My upset with my mother had to do with her controlling, belittling, demanding, and insensitive behavior.  It had to do with her insults and continued abuse of me.  It had to do with her emotionally raking me over the coals.  It had to do with her expectation that I was just as "responsible" for my sister and her out of control behavior as my own mother.  Her expectation that I was to fix it.  It had to do with my mother using me as her own personal psycho-therapist and dumping all of her problems on me.  Yes, the divorce wound was there, but it had nothing to do with what I was trying to resolve with my mother.

These interactions left me baffled and hurt.  I again felt so minimized.  I felt that I couldn't quite get to whatever it was I need to get to in my mother to make any difference in our relationship.  My feelings, my emotions, my anger with her, my hurt towards he was so offensive to her that she wouldn't allow me to express it at all.  If I did, she would become very wounded, hurt, angry, or upset.  And watching her feel like that was the ultimate discomfort for me.  I didn't want to hurt my mother.  

The pressure kept building though.  I remember one night in which she'd been drinking and had become particularly nasty in her criticism and snark.  We were driving home and she was yelling at me about how I was "just still upset about the divorce.  You're just still upset I married your step father."  I can remember fighting that feeling so badly to tell her how I felt.  I knew it would NOT end well if I did.  I remember her pushing and pushing me to tell her how I felt.  Not because she actually wanted to hear it, but because she was testing to me to see if I'd hold back.  She wanted me to deny every feeling I had and tell her that I wasn't angry with her, I wasn't upset with her, she was a GREAT mom and I loved her.  But I didn't.  I finally decided to give her what she'd been pushing me to do and I let her have it.  I wasn't mean towards her (I was still respectful, not calling her names or accusing her of anything) but I unleashed how I really felt.  And she went beserk.  We were in a Home Depot parking lot, me curled in a ball in the back seat, her screaming and clawing at the door to get out.  It was locked (automatically locks if the car travels over 15 mph) and she was like a caged animal trying to get out.  She was screaming at my husband to take her home.  He gently told her he thought we needed to just talk and figure things out.  I was sobbing.  She screamed so badly and freaked out so much that we took her to her hotel.  She got out with out a word.  The next day, she stopped by my house to say good bye and return a hair dryer.  She said not one word about it, didn't ask to resolve anything, but gave me a hug and figured that solved it all.

From that moment on, things were never quite the same.  As my kids came along, she demanded more and more to be put front and center.  And if I didn't, she became angry and hostile.  She played the victim.   She accused me of being unkind, keeping her from her grand kids, being selfish, and spoiled.  She accused me of favoring my in-laws (HAHA!  And she knows how much I struggle with them.)  She continues to dismiss me at every chance she gets.  In the last 4 years of LC, in which I went from talking to her for 2-3 hours every other day (well, listening to her, not really talking) to only talking briefly on holidays and birthdays.  I don't tell her anything about my life, and she doesn't ask.  I don't make an effort to see her.

In all this time, she's never once asked me how I'm feeling or if I'm OK.  She's never asked to make things better.  She's continued to pretend everything is fine.  She's never asked me if somethings wrong.  When I went NC with my sister, she never asked to hear my feelings on it.  She's preached to me about my sister, badgered me to get back into contact, and continued to share any and all details of how "great" my sister is doing (this is a lie).  But she's never asked what I need, how I'm doing, or if there is something SHE can help ME with.  She has never once, to my recollection really wanted to know what my feelings are.

The only time she cares is if it's a dramatic situation and she can suck up the NS from it or somehow position herself so she's pitying me.  It's only ever been to gain an advantage (like when my grandmother died almost a year ago, she suddenly became very "concerned" about me.  Interesting, because when her own mother died, she had no ability to see I might be grieving at all. )

As I've said no more and more to her, I can see that "good girl" image pop up in my head over and over.  This is the one tool she uses on me the most.  My willingness to be conscious, my desire to be the good daughter who makes her mother happy, my wish for a happier family.  She knows damn well that is my soft spot and uses it to her full advantage.  It really is difficult, because, often, I feel I'm compromising my own integrity by NOT doing what she wants.  I'm happy to give people what they ask for a lot of the time.  I'm happy to compromise and make people feel special and give a lot.  But when I discovered that she was using this to her advantage, asking more than she should have, and expecting total compliance, I was dumbfounded.

I've also realized that this is what sets me up to fail a lot with my NMIL too.  I want to be the "good DIL".  I want to make the family happy and get along.  I want to compromise and make it work.

Unfortunately, the goal of "good daughter/DIL" (and "good sister" ) is always changing in it's parameters.  I can never be good enough or just "good".   I have to do every little thing they tell me too.  I have to compromise and give up EVERYTHING that I am.  I have to relinquish any control over my life, my kids life and do whatever they want, whenever they want.  And even then, they will not be happy.

I have realized often in the past (intellectually) that I need to give up their definition of "good" and just do what I believe a good daughter would do.  And while I can understand that, the "doing" of that and fully taking that into my soul, is so much harder.  There is still a part of me that just wants her to be happy.  A part of me that just wants to figure it all out and get along.  I beat myself up routinely (aided by a lot of flying monkeys) for not being able to work out why I can't just be satisfied with doing what I know to be right.  In almost any area of my life, other than dealing with Ns, I'm very confident in knowing I've done the right thing.  Many people tell me I'm full of integrity and a kind and thoughtful person.  I just can't see what the next step is to getting rid of the discomfort of not living up to my mother's (and MIL's) expectations of me.  I'm not sure how to handle the criticism, nastiness, passive-aggressiveness, and shaming that comes from them when I don't live up to who they want me to be.  I don't know how to get self-esteem in that area.   I'm not sure how to deflect the gaslighting when they claim it's all me and I'm just a sorry excuse for a human being.    I can know it in my head, but how do I incorporate it into my being.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Family Trip

We recently went to visit the city in which my sister lives.  DH and I both LOVE this city and haven't been there for four years.  It's been three years since I stopped having a relationship with my sister.

Ironically, I had encouraged my sister to move to this city.  It's a lot closer to our home than the other city she lived in.  She was in the same town as my father, but that wasn't healthy for either of them.  She was in an abusive relationship, wasn't thriving, and I thought that if she moved to a new town, a town that seemed more in sync with her personality, she could finally break free from her self destruction.  I'm sure no one will be surprised to learn that the move didn't fix much.

We had gone to this town several times over the years.   The last time, I took my newborn over to visit her.  Yup, that's how our relationship worked.  She didn't come to meet her new nephew, but I took him over there.  She had offered to come and help me during the birth.  But when I suggested that bringing her new (and abusive) boyfriend to meet me at the same time as I was recovering from a C-section and had a newborn was not a good idea, she suddenly chose not to come.

We had to keep the vacation a secret up until the last minute.  I did not want my NM to know that we went.  She would have laid on a ton of guilt.  She was here the weekend before we left and it was exhausting.  Not that there was anything really "bad" that happened, but it was constant ducking and weaving to avoid falling into her traps.

I was anxious going to the city.  It's a big city, but I was worried I would accidentally run into her.  I know that seems paranoid, but I just couldn't imagine what I would do if I did happen upon her.   DH asked what I would do.  Anxiety and fear popped up.  I imagined that it would not go well.  She would expect me to have a reaction (happy to see her), I imagine, that I knew I wouldn't have.  I feared that if I did see her, N-rage would come out and she would yell, curse, maybe even hit me if she saw me in person.  She has no self control with her emotions and lashes out and fearing her attacking me in front of my kids was not far fetched.  She cares not at all about the feelings and thoughts of my kids.

During the trip, I would relax when we were some place that I knew she would clearly not be.  But I kept scanning the crowd anytime we were in a more public area or in a neighborhood near where she lives.  I was afraid of pulling up next to her at a stop light.

Memories of our last trip over to see her contrasted sharply with this visit.  Before I even went the last time, I tried to establish some boundaries.   Our family was going for a vacation, not just to visit my sister.  We were happy to have her join us, but I didn't want to have things revolved around her.  I didn't want to pay for her for everything (she's in her 30s and capable of paying for things herself.)  When I tried to explain to my NM that we were going to do things outside of seeing my sister, she became upset, telling me that I needed to make sure my sister's feelings were at the forefront.  The fact that DH and I were taking our family, wanting to do some other things (that my sister wouldn't like), that I couldn't afford to pay for my sister to join us on our more "touristy" activities didn't matter to NM.

When we arrived in town, we headed for the beach.  It took my sister over an hour to meet up with us (I had a toddler and a newborn, but we worked on HER schedule) because she was at the courthouse.  Her boyfriend had struck her, been arrested by the police, and she was at the courthouse worried that he'd get sent to jail for it.  That was her primary concern, not that we had driven 8 hours to meet up with her.

The next day, we went out for dinner by ourselves, only because it was our anniversary.  Normal sisters would have offered to watch the kids so her sister could have a nice dinner.  But not my sister.  Not that I would have left my kids with her anyway.

We took the kids to the zoo.  My sister showed up in a crop top and daisy dukes.  And thin, flimsy flip flops.  An hour into the day, she was complaining about her feet hurting.  When we went to get the tickets to go in, she just stood back and let my husband pay for her's.  She didn't ask, but didn't offer at all.  She has this way of projecting entitlement: if she's going to "honor" you with her presence of coming (which I had tried to tell her she didn't have to come), you have to pay for that.  She would never spend HER money on something SHE didn't want to do in the first place.  She was doing us a "favor".   As I was used to taken care of her and NM often made me feel I had to pay for my sister, I did it.  At lunch, NSIS complained about the prices of the food.  Again, she could afford it (she showed up the day before in $200 boots), but she felt she shouldn't HAVE to pay for something that we wanted to do.  Despite the fact that I had told her many, many times that I knew it would be expensive for her and she didn't have to join us, she came anyway.  And made us pay for it.  Towards the end of the day she became really testy.  She gets irritable easily. I again encouraged her to go home, that we were perfectly fine with that.  But nope.  She stayed.  And made us miserable.

Later that day, we met her for dinner (at a place she chose).  By now the novelty of the kids had warn off.  The way she seemed so disconnected from them seemed odd.  I often got the feeling that she was always annoyed with my husband because he got too much of my attention.  She seemed the same way with the kids.  Like they were an inconvenience to her getting attention.  She started in on a diatribe about herself, her friends, her life.  She started ordering whiskey on the rocks with a beer.  Every round.  And she had a few.  And then, not surprisingly, she didn't even move when the bill came.  I always felt so badly when my husband had to pick up the check for her.  This wasn't the first time, and in fact, whenever we were around her, she just felt my husband should pay (I don't think she really connects that HIS money is my money.  It's like she feels she can take advantage of him, that he "has" money and so he "should" pay for her.  Thinking about the fact that we were paying a pretty penny to visit the city in the first place was not even on her radar.)  She grew bored with "family time" and went out to drink with her boyfriend for the evening.

Luckily, the next day we went and visited some tourist attractions, which is beneath her, and so we were spared from spending the time with her.  She came one more time to say goodbye.

The contrast between that last trip stood in such opposition to this trip.  Despite the anxiety of seeing her, I was much more relaxed.  I didn't feel torn between avoiding her rages and keeping her happy, and sacrificing my family's enjoyment and money and respect.  I didn't have to worry about her being snippy to my husband.  I could work around what my KIDS wanted to do, instead of what she wanted to do.  I didn't have to worry about her sharing things that were inappropriate for kids or swearing and cursing (her creepy boyfriend has a weird internet site that has a very vulgar cartoon image of a woman in outline.  She had a sticker of this on her vehicle.  I couldn't imagine having to explain that to my kids now.....and I wondered at the time how other people parked behind her at stop lights appreciated that image).    I didn't have to work around the creepy boyfriend or make small talk with someone who is a complete self absorbed schmuck.  I didn't have to explain why she chain smokes to my kids or worry about the example she would set by drinking so much.  We could go do "touristy" or just things we wanted to do while in the town without worrying about working around her.  I didn't have to worry about what she was going to tell my NM when we left (about how horrible I was, how my husband wasn't nice to her, blah, blah.)  I didn't have to worry about NM lecturing me about making sure my sister was OK and her feelings were foremost and her needs were met during the visit.  I didn't have to worry about her relegating my husband to "scenery" while she dominated all my attention and the conversation at the table.

I didn't miss her.  I didn't feel sad that I didn't see her.  I wasn't upset that I was so close to her and didn't visit.  At all.  It makes me sad that this is what it's come too, but looking back at the toxicity, the stress, the craziness that used to involve any visit with her, and I don't miss it at all.  I just don't see how I could ever go back to a relationship like that.

Monday, July 6, 2015

"She's beautiful, inside and out" (Or, why am I such a misfit)

Fellow blogger, Judy, often titles posts "Brain Dump" when needing to get something off her mind. This is going to be a "Heart Dump" post.  I just need to get some feelings off my chest so they quit festering.

While all of this stuff has been going on with MIL, I've seen her family hardly do anything to help her or my FIL out.  One BIL went down and actually helped.  We tried (twice) to stop by and see her.  Her GC, seemingly, had lakes to visit and other activities to do.  DH finally organized a trip for all of MIL's kids to come and see her.  That was it.

Yet, they continue to play big, happy family on FB.  (I know, I shouldn't look at FB.  They are all on "restricted" status, so I can't see if I don't look, but sometimes I get curious.  Plus, it keeps me in the loop, so I'm never taken by surprise by their antics.  It also helps to keep track of what they are lying about.)  They talk about "family" and hanging out together....yet, when BIL and SIL were up at a family vacation home, all I saw were tons of photos of the FRIENDS they took up (probably to show off).  One of our mutual friends describes it as BIL's "fan club", which seems about right.

It was SIL's birthday, and they all made a HUGE deal wishing her happy birthday.  Every one of them has an addiction to exclamation points.  (Seriously!!!! Everything they say is followed by them!!!!! I don't even think they know how to use periods!!!!!)  BIL said "Happy Birthday, Sis!!!"  She is not his actual sister.  He has NEVER referred to me as his sister.  In fact, he didn't even wish me a happy birthday this year.  Or the year before that.  He and SIL are not particularly close (although SIL and BIL are very dependent on this BIL for "advice".  They treat him sort of like a parent and he loves that they "look up" to him and "admire" him.  He likes that they maintain the image of himself that he has created.)  My other SIL, whom I used to be close too until I found out she sold me out repeatedly, made a big gushy thing about "can't wait to see you!!!!!".  I live five minutes from her house.  I haven't seen her in months (unless you count her crabby, pouty butt at my son's birthday party.  She was hung over and had all kinds of attitude about having to be there.)

I know it's an act.  I know that it's phony.  I know that I don't want any part of that bullshit.  And I refuse to play into their egos.  But it still upsets me.

My NM and NSIS just got back from a vacation they took together.  NM was in Vegas for a conference.  She had told me she was having my aunt come down and stay with her a few days.  She did not say that she was having my sister come down.  NM tells me all of her comings and goings, so to omit this information was intentional.  I got to find out on FB, when they started posting tons of gushy photos of the two of them gambling and drinking.    They kept saying how "beautiful" the other one was and how much FUN they were having, just the two of them.  I had no desire to be there (I took two "girls vacations" with them a decade ago.  Either my sister or I were crying the entire time.).  And I guess I probably should have appreciated not being put on the spot and asked to go.  But there seemed to be an insensitivity to their posting all their photos.  NM has repeatedly told me how "close" they are now (in the time that I've been NC with NSIS).  NSIS has been making such a big deal about what a "wonderful mom" NM is.  Although I don't think they were trying to send me a message by posting them, I can't help but think that they hoped I'd be jealous.  Or mad.  Or feel badly about it all.  That's just how they are (I know this, because I've seen NM do it to other people.)

I'm sure it's very phony (after the first drunken night and all of the posts, I saw nothing for the next few days until NM changed her profile photo to one of her and my sister.  The previous one for the past two months had also been of her and my sister.)  I've watched my mother "construct" posts before to make things look better than they are.  I wonder if their relationship is always as "happy" as they claim it to be (I'm not sure how it could be.  Before I went NC, they both complained about the other one often . I can't imagine that everything has changed in that time.  Although they certainly seem to want me to think so.  I wonder if they want me to believe it's BECAUSE I'm out of the picture.)

But it does hurt.  It irritates me and rubs me the wrong way.  But why?!?  Why do I care?  Why can't I let all of this go?  Why does it matter to me that they are continuing on with their charade (or maybe they all really believe they are "one big happy family....without Jessie".  I know partly it makes me doubt myself.  Like maybe if I tried just a bit harder, looked the other way when they pulled out their bullshit, let things go, I could handle it.  Or that maybe I'm just a fucking misfit and can't manage to fit in.  How can they all continue on like this?  Do they really think this is what "family" is?  Surface crap that doesn't actually extend to real love, compassion, or consideration?  The only one of my BILs (my husband's blood siblings) that acknowledges my kids on their birthdays is the one that has to (because his kids are invited to the party).   None of them acknowledge my DH on his birthday.  My sister has ignored my children since I put up the boundary that I would only speak with her on email and only after we addressed some of my concerns about our relationship.  She claims she LOVES them so much, yet does nothing of substance to prove it.  NM has never bothered to ask why I feel the way I do regarding my sister, has not asked if something is wrong with me (I mean, if your daughter pulled away from you, wouldn't you ASK if everything was OK).  NM actually doesn't ask about me at all.  When she does contact me, it's to bitch about my step siblings or talk about herself.  I know THAT is the reality of the situation, so why do these phony displays of love bother me so much?

I'm just so frustrated with myself.  I want to move on.  I want to not care.  I want to let them live their phony bullshit without me.  Why can't I?