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tell me no secrets…

30 Jan

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I had been back to work for a little over a month when all of this happened.  Things had started to get tense almost immediately after I returned to work.  I’m not sure if my aunt was resentful that I had something to do that didn’t involve her, or if she was just bored and lonely.  Whatever the case, I thought going back to work was going to make things easier and reduce everyone’s stress level.  I hadn’t considered that my aunt really did not like being alone and me going back to work was something she would resent.  My husband and I had spent our Saturday off moving my aunt’s things from her storage unit to a shed she’d had placed in our backyard and trying not to tell her off for not helping us.  Some things are best left alone, and I wasn’t in the mood for anymore drama.  I would learn later that  universal law  mandates that what you focus on expands. In the months leading up to this incident, I had been at my wit’s end with my aunt’s moods and unpredictable behavior.  I was so focused on how much I didn’t like what was going on and wanting it to stop.  I didn’t realize at the time that although I wanted everyone to get along and the conflict to stop, I was basically asking the universe to give me more of it.  Vibes are vibes.  Positive or negative, if you’re sending them out, the universe sends them back; no exceptions.  I was focused on all of the negative aspects of the situation, when I should have been focusing on how great it would be when everyone was getting along and happy.

My mom called me earlier that day, and hearing the irritation in my voice asked me what was wrong.  My mom is the first one to admit that she’s not one for keeping her opinions to herself.   Considering, I should have known better than to say anything, but at the time I was angry and I needed to vent.  Later that day, she mentioned what I’d said to my dad.  Compelled by what he was told, he posted his, “Did your aunt ever help today,” question to my daughter’s Facebook timeline.  After my aunt told me what she was so worked up about, I posed what to me seemed an obvious question, “Why are you upset with her for that?  _____ just answered his question.  Seems like you should be upset with my dad, so why don’t you confront him about it?”  My aunt gave me a convoluted answer that went all around the issue, but never really answered my question.  Frustrated, I repeated it.  I still didn’t get an answer that made her reaction make sense to me.  I could understand her anger at the conversation being on Facebook for others to see, to which my aunt emphatically agreed; although she was under the impression that “Everyone can see it!”  I explained that the only people who could see the comments were people who were friends with my daughter and my dad; which is why she could see it.  My explanation only seemed to fuel her fire.  Trying to get back to my point I asked , “Well, whatever your reason, what makes you think it’s OK to talk to my daughter like that? What would possess you? What were you thinking?”  After a few seconds of stunned silence, my aunt proceeded to tell me that my daughter had said “F**k you!” to her first!

Most parents’ knee jerk reaction would be to say, “Not my daughter.  She would never say that,” but not me.  I would have wanted to say that, but after everything we’d been through with our daughter, I would have to check myself.  But, this time I could say,’not my daughter’ knowing I was right.  Thanks to a lack of insulation in most Florida garages, my husband and I heard the entire conversation from our seats outside in our garage.  My aunt and daughter were in our dining room with only a wall separating us.  I stared at my aunt in disbelief.  Even after everything that happened over the past several months, I couldn’t believe she was doing this!  She stood in my dining room indignantly refusing to admit her lie.  My daughter was beside herself.  She was angry about what my aunt said she did, and worried that we might believe it. I finally had to send my daughter to her room to get her away from the situation. Things had escalated to ridiculous proportions with my two younger kids looking on, which was already happening way too often for me.   Later, my youngest daughter would ask me, “Why was auntie being mean to sissy?”  I didn’t know what to say. How do you explain to a 3-year-old about untreated Bipolar Disorder?  What other reason could there be for a woman in her 60’s behaving like she was and blaming a 16-year-old for her behavior? 

During the time before my aunt came to stay with us, we’d spoken on the phone regularly.  During our conversations, I often confided in her about the issues my husband and I had with our oldest.  She was a teenager, but she also had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder which complicated those difficulties exponentially. After 6 years of struggles, things had just started to settle down a few months before my aunt came to live with us. She knew my relationship with my oldest daughter was already strained and why.  I still don’t know why she reacted like she did or felt she needed to lie about it. Maybe it was a desperate attempt to gain my favor over my daughter or a plea for attention.  Maybe it seemed better to her than the alternative of admitting what she did was wrong.  My gut tells me that she lied because she was embarrassed and she really thought I’d believe her.  Whatever her reason, with everything that already happened prior to that night, any respect I had left for my aunt was destroyed.

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from an ending comes a new beginning

24 Jan

there comes a time

The news that my aunt had moved back and was staying with my mom this time got me thinking.  I can’t help but feel apprehensive about the idea.  I keep remembering all the things that occurred when she was here before.  I had the same intentions to help her get back on her feet that my mom does now.   I can only hope that since they’ve been friends for so many years, that they will be able to cohabitate without any major issues.  The last thing I want to see happen is see my mom’s lifelong friendship with my aunt ruined because of stubbornness and pride like my relationship with her was.  I can’t help but wonder if she still feels like being right is as important as it was a year ago.   I’ve been doing a lot of thinking the past few weeks.  I had several Soul Post drafts ready to be edited and published that I’ve since deleted.  Why? Because they were a recollection of past events that really are insignificant now.  So how does the story end?  Basically, the final straw came after another incident in my life caused by what my uncle Jerry calls “the devil,” also known as Facebook.  🙂

My husband and I had spent our day off moving my aunt’s things from a storage unit she considered too expensive a payment per month to a storage shed she had moved into our yard that she purchased on a monthly payment plan.  We made about 3 trips loading and unloading my dad’s truck and her watching.  She never offered to help.  She just rifled through the boxes as we were trying to put them in the shed. After our last trip to the storage unit; tired and irritated, I enlisted the help of our neighbors across the street to help us with the last load.  With their help, we made fast work of it. I took a break on the patio and from my vantage point could see my aunt picking through clothes with the exaggerated mannerisms of a full on tantrum.  Looking up again, I saw her coming my direction asking, “Did you see what they did?  They just threw my clothes on the ground!”  Shaking my head I said, “No they didn’t.  I saw what happened.  The box came apart as they tried to lift it up and all the clothes started coming out of it.  They piled the clothes on the box and dragged it back here.  They made sure nothing got dirty.”  With that, she stomped away muttering something about how people need to be more careful.  I sat there silently counting to 10 and fighting the urge to tell her just where she could put her precious clothes.  Instead,  I got up and went out front to see if there was anything left.  Finished, we pulled my dad’s truck into his driveway, thanked the neighbors, and made our way inside.  I looked through the patio doors to see my aunt still out in the backyard picking through boxes and no further progress had been made on them making their way into the shed.  After a few moments of considering my options, I went and took a shower and a well deserved nap.  As I laid down next to my already sleeping husband on our bed, I felt justified in my decision.

Later that evening, my aunt and oldest daughter had an altercation.  My husband and I were outside in the garage when we heard my aunt’s shrill, irritated voice yell, “F**k you, __________!!”  Looking at each other in disbelief, we both stood up from our chairs and I asked, “Did she just say f**k you to our daughter??”  “That’s what I heard too,” my husband answered.  I went inside and demanded to know what was going on.  The answer to that question is what ended my relationship with my aunt and why we don’t speak to this day.

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don’t tread on me….or….new year’s deja vu?

5 Jan

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I sat down to write my next post entitled “don’t tread on me”numerous times over the past few months.  Something always seemed to stop me.  After months of unemployment, I landed a telecommuting position and then another.  I was working 2 jobs and that meant work obligations, then there were family obligations and then, of course, the holidays came.  I just never seemed to get the time I needed to sit and write it. I really think it was the Universe’s way of showing me that I can’t move forward while continuing to look back.  It’s common sense, really.  I firmly believe; however, that when dealing with matters of personal growth, it is necessary to look back, at least temporarily.  You need to take that time to reflect, face where you made mistakes, see the lessons you were meant to learn in the adversities you faced, and take that knowledge with you moving forward.  Whatever you have been through, the knowledge you have gained from it will guide you as you take that first step into an unknown, better future. In order for me to move forward into my own better future, I have to finish telling the story I began a year ago. The need for closure and finality keeps me motivated, even though the subject matter is far from pleasant and something I will be  both happy and relieved to finish once and for all.

The ironic thing is; as I type this, Auntie has taken up residence with my Mom next door as of New Years Eve.  I was out-of-town visiting my sister and as my husband and I got my kids situated in the cars to head home, I had a feeling of dread as I thought of returning home.  It wasn’t the usual disappointment at facing the end of a vacation, or leaving a loved one and not knowing when you might see them again; but the absolute feeling of dread and that anxious feeling I’ve come to know as my intuitive sense that the proverbial “shit” is about to hit the fan.  I shook it off,  did what I needed to do as always, and concentrated on the tasks at hand.  That’s how it is with intuitives.  A feeling is just that… a “feeling.”  You can’t always articulate or translate what the feeling is right away, so you put it on the back burner and take care of what you know needs get done.

I made the trek home; 12 plus hours with stops to take my youngest potty and stop for snacks–fighting that nagging feeling that for some reason, I just didn’t want to go home.  It was disconcerting as normally when I am returning home from a trip, the thought of pulling into my driveway is a relief.  I arrived home at about 1 am and dutifully texted my sister and mom to let them know we’d all made it home safe and sound.  I fell into bed exhausted, and fell asleep still trying to push the negative feelings out of my mind.

I woke the following day to the same feeling.  I reached over to the nightstand and picked up my cell phone.  My mom had texted me several times while I was sleeping.  I just couldn’t face the thought of getting out of bed; and that was before I read the texts from my mom.  I assumed the reason getting out of bed felt like such a chore was from the trip home, which had been considerably arduous.  It rained continuously and as day turned into night, it became harder and harder to see.  Add the rain to the wind that was whipping the car to and fro like it was nothing; it made for a very stressful, tiring trip.  Then I read the texts from my mom.  I saw nothing of major consequence at first.  Just the usual.  First she asked if I was awake.  When she didn’t get an answer after a while, she texted me again.  Finally, she texted an exacerbated, “Hello????” to which I responded, “Hi.  Got your text ttyl (talk to you later).”  After a while, she texted, “_____ is here.  Didn’t want you to be surprised.”

My mom had mentioned the possibility of her houseguest to me prior to the holidays.  I had told her that it wasn’t really any of my business and that I couldn’t tell her what to do.  I reminded her of how after my aunt had left the way she did last April, it would only be a matter of time before my Aunt would have nowhere to stay.  It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out with how she’d behaved having lived with me.  During that conversation with my mom, she had offered to tell my aunt she had to apologize to me if she was going to stay with her.  My response was that if my aunt apologized, I wanted her to mean it.  I knew if my mom gave her an ultimatum, she would only apologize out of desperation for a place to stay if she apologized at all, and she wouldn’t really mean it.  Then my mom said she was going to tell my aunt that she had to get treatment for her bipolar disorder if she was going to stay with her.  I told her that was a smart thing to do, but I’d believe it when I saw it.  I knew that someone desperate not to be out on the street would promise anything.  The proof is in the pudding; so to speak, and again–it wasn’t my business.  I’d done all I could in that respect when my aunt was here and she made it perfectly clear at that time that she had no plans to be treated for her bipolar disorder.

At any rate, I never really thought my aunt would show. My mom and I had practically the exact same conversation a couple of months ago.  I figured she’d get back to her home town and then realize she liked it there and decide to stay, and that was what happened…until…she managed to alienate who she was staying with there too.  I had told my mom every time she brought up that my aunt might be coming to stay with her that I wasn’t surprised and that I knew she was would end up alienating everyone she stayed with because of her behavior and end up with nowhere to go, while still refusing to see the issue was hers and not everyone else’s.  I can’t say that I enjoy being right about that.

When my mom brought up the possibility to me again before I went to visit my sister, I told her that she could do what she wanted.  She’d known my aunt longer than I’d been alive, and I could understand the fact that she was her very best friend in the world and her desire to help her.  I’d felt that way once too.  I explained that unlike my aunt; I’d never put her in a position where she felt she had to choose between the two of us.  My mom mentioned being concerned that having my aunt staying with her would hurt our already strained relationship.  So, I gave her some ground rules.  I told her that if she didn’t want my aunt’s staying with her to affect our relationship, then anything she was told about the time my aunt spent staying with me, she needed to take with a grain of salt and keep it to herself.  I didn’t want to know about it or to be questioned about it.  I asked her to take her own advice and remember that my aunt had “issues” and to also remember the daughter she raised, and out of respect for me, not to bring it up.  I told her if she respected my wishes in relation to those things, she shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

As the sun goes down on the first day of my being within 100 feet of my aunt and mom in the same house next door, I can say with gratitude that I have not been affected the least bit.  I won’t lie though.  I’m not at all happy about the prospect of this person being in such close proximity to me or my family again.  I made sure that I let my mom know what boundaries I had and that I expected them to be respected.  If they will continue to be remains to be seen.  I can set all the boundaries I want, but if she doesn’t respect them, it doesn’t matter.  The fact that I live within 100 feet of my mom doesn’t make the situation any easier.  I plan to remedy that as soon as financially feasible for my family and me, and move.  To be honest, it irritates me that I have to resort to moving away; however, I know down to my bones that if I don’t, things with my mom have a very real chance of deteriorating to the point that we have no relationship at all–especially with the additional complication of my aunt living there.

I haven’t spoken to my aunt in the 9 months since she left my home.  Conflict between adults is one thing.  When you attempt to involve innocent children in adult matters to manipulate the situation to your favor, that is where I draw the line and where my story continues…

When Enough is Enough

10 Nov

Before I pick up where I left off, I’d like to tell you all I’m sorry you had to wait so long for this particular post. This post has had approximately 40 revisions, and has been a labor of love for sure! Writing is normally cathartic for me; however, there is something that feels different to me this time, knowing that when I hit “publish” its there for the world to see. This portion of my story still has a sting to it for me. Writing about it, and essentially reliving and processing it all over again has been much more intense than I anticipated. The purpose of starting Soul Posts was to tell my story in hopes it would help others. If reading my posts does that, it’s worth the intensity I go through sometimes to tell it. With that being said..

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I was in an unacceptable living situation, facing the very real possibility of a foreclosure on my mortgage, and my optimism had gone out the window.  I felt hopeless, helpless, and alone.  I was embarrassed that I hadn’t yet found a job, and I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it with anyone; especially the friends I’d realized weren’t really there for me.  The last thing I wanted was for my feelings to be down played, or to be criticized for letting it bother me in the first place.  I’d spent enough time beating myself up over it, I certainly didn’t need any help in that area.  I felt like there were very few supportive people I could count on, and the ones I felt I could, I didn’t want to bother.  My husband was as supportive as always, but he was living it too.  I didn’t want to upset him more, and I knew he would get more frustrated that he couldn’t somehow come to my rescue and fix it. My good friends were only a phone call away, but I felt guilty calling them.  I knew they wouldn’t mind being there for me, but I didn’t want our first live conversation instead of email in months to be about my problems.

So there I was.  I had gotten myself into quite a pickle.  On one hand, I was living with an increasingly unstable house guest, and on the other I had a former friend I hadn’t confronted yet. I woke up one morning and after dealing with yet another of my Aunt’s outbursts, I decided I’d had all I could take.  Enough was enough.  I’d reached my breaking point.   I was tired of being taken for granted and used.  Things had been building up for some time and what had been simmering below the surface started to boil and bubble over.  I made a decision then that if anything was going to change, I needed to take some kind of action.  I could no longer sit silently hoping that things would change on their own.

I have always been inspired by Maya Angelou, both as a writer and as simply an extraordinary person.  I have a site bookmarked on my lap top of her quotes, and I go there when I need a kick in the pants.  Her words give me courage and inspiration to do those things in life that I consider the most unpleasant. Looking for the courage to stand in my power, I found these:

  • “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”
  • “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I don’t really think there really is any right or tactful way to tell someone you feel they’ve used you. I was worried about losing my friend, but I confronted her anyway.  I picked up the phone and dialed.  I got her voice mail.  I drafted an email and let it sit for a couple of days before sending it.  I worded things as carefully and as non confrontational as I could while still getting my point across. Email is never the best method of delivery for this sort of thing, but she wouldn’t pick up her phone, and I had things I needed to say.  I knew she was avoiding me, and I felt I had the right to be heard.  She reacted how I expected her to.  But…instead of denying it or justifying it, she focused on something much more petty that I’d mentioned during our conversation back and forth via email.  I mentioned how she came back into town and visited mutual friends, but never mentioned it, how she’d lied to me about her birthday only to have me find out from pictures posted on Facebook, and how hurt I was by it.  I also told her that I really didn’t care to be around our mutual “friend” anymore.  Every time we had made plans, it was like the two of them were a package deal.  The “other third” was always tagging along, even when I thought I’d made it clear she wasn’t invited.  I explained that the dynamic of the two of them together was unpleasant as they took turns taking pot shots at me and disguising it as kidding.  She defended her right to choose who she spent time with as well as who she chose as her friends.  By the time the conversation was over, she’d managed to use every nasty, vindictive tactic in her repertoire.  My gut had been right yet again and I wasn’t at all happy about it.

I grieved the loss of that friendship for quite some time.  I wondered how I could have allowed myself to be taken for such a fool.  I considered myself an intelligent, intuitive person and I couldn’t see at first how I had managed to get involved in such a toxic friendship.  After pondering it for a while, I had to admit that I’d allowed it to happen.  When I didn’t say anything after the first or even tenth incident, I created the situation.  I had not established any real boundaries in the beginning.  I feel that if I had, I would have discovered a lot sooner exactly what type of friend she really was. After I worked through my feelings and after I’d done my inner work, I was no longer willing to settle for that kind of relationship; whether it was a friend or family member.

The type of relationship I’d had with her and with my Aunt were toxic and depleting.  No wonder I felt alone and unsupported!  Picture yourself with a cup, or any other kind of container or vessel; a lovely, crystal decanter filled with your favorite wine; for example.  Now picture the people you interact with every day.  There are those who deplete you and take your wine, and there are those who support you and replenish your wine.  The goal is to spend most of your time with people who replenish you.  The ones who deplete you should be kept at a distance.   You can’t give anything of value to anyone else, if you yourself are empty.

After all was said and done, I realized the thing that pissed off my ex-friend was the fact that deep down, she knew I was right.  She had used me.  I knew when I confronted her that I wasn’t going to get an admission out of her that she was wrong.  In all the time we’d been friends, over six years, I’d never gotten even one apology from her.  I wasn’t expecting one.  I just knew I had to stand up for myself; otherwise things weren’t ever going to get any better for me.

It amazes me the lengths that some people will go to just to avoid admitting they were wrong.  To them, it’s perfectly fine to end a relationship to avoid admitting a mistake or looking bad. There’s something these types of people should know:  You already look bad! Just because you don’t want to admit you were wrong, made a mistake, or be real with yourself, doesn’t make it any less true! After all, being fallible is a part of being human. If you make a mistake, learn from it and move on. It doesn’t have to be the end of life as you know it. You don’t have to beat yourself up for it or judge yourself. You can never go back, so why spend so much time looking there? Admit your mistakes and failures, fix what needs to be fixed, and move on. If you’ve hurt someone, do your best to make amends and then get on with living your life. Anyone who cares about you is not going to think less of you if you do!

…next…don’t tread on me…

Tough Love Part 2

2 Oct

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My family and I toughed it out through the holidays as best we could.  Christmas Day came and we went to my Mom’s house for dinner.  I was running late as I was waiting for the hand-made gifts I’d painted to dry.  My showing up late set the day into a tailspin and dinner was the worst holiday dinner I’ve ever attended to date.  My mom was understandably upset by my tardiness, as she was trying to get the meal on the table without it getting cold.  I told her my reason for being late and she began with the questions.  “Why did you wait til the last minute?” “Why did you procrastinate?” “Why didn’t you start earlier?” I couldn’t tell her why!  Most of the reason was sitting right there!  With the chaos going on in my home I barely had time to breathe let alone make gifts or shop.  I decided that year that I was going to make a scrapbook of the trip I took with my mom to Italy 10 years prior.  It was my first scrapbook project and it took me longer than I thought to complete since my Aunt was always trying to pull my attention away from whatever I was focused on and back on to her.  My answer to my mom was a meek, “I didn’t procrastinate, Mom.  You’ll see.”

My Mom and her best friend, Auntie, took turns taking pot shots, and pushing my buttons throughout the entire meal.  Then they started on the kids.  I’d been practicing being more assertive with the help of my life coach, and I remember thinking, “Ok, here goes.”  I took a deep breath and looked at both of them and told them if they didn’t stop I was leaving.  My Aunt told me I needed to get a thicker skin and shouldn’t be so sensitive.  Not wanting to ruin dinner or make it any more awkward for my husband and kids than I was sure it already was, I set my fork down and walked outside to cool off.  I couldn’t believe her gull.  After all the drama she was causing at my house with her mood swings and extreme sensitivity to pretty much anything anyone said, I couldn’t believe she was being such a hypocrite!

In January, my Mom began having health issues. She’d been to several doctors and so far none of them had given her a definitive reason for her symptoms or a diagnosis.  She had to resign from her job due to her symptoms and I was very worried about her. I felt she already had enough on her plate, so I made it a point not mention anything to her about the things going on at my house.  Unfortunately, her best friend wasn’t as considerate.

My mom started to bring things up to me during our conversations that I knew I hadn’t mentioned.  It wasn’t hard to figure out who had. The only difference between the things my Mom heard from Auntie and out-and-out lies,  is they were based; however loosely, on actual events.  My mom would ask me about something I’d supposedly said or done to my Aunt, and I’d spend the rest of the conversation angry and defending myself.  I really had a hard time understanding how she could listen to the things my Aunt was telling her!  After all, I am her daughter and she has lived next door to me for the past 7 years!  I was raised by her!  The morals and values I have are the same ones I have always had, and the ones that she raised me to have!  She had seen my Aunt only once in that 7 years, and if it hadn’t been for me tracking her down, she probably still wouldn’t have spoken to her, let alone seen her. I felt she should know I wouldn’t do the things she was being told I had.  Although it took a lot of self-discipline on my part, I kept the things my Mom told me to myself and didn’t say anything to my Aunt. I was on to her and I knew exactly what she was doing. I refused to allow her to get the drama she so obviously was trying to create.  I did take mental note of the things she was telling my Mom and I built up a lot of bitterness and resentment toward her.  I felt like she was purposely trying to destroy my relationship with my Mom and that on top of everything else did not sit well with me at all.

My mom would tell me to try to be understanding because my Aunt was “sick” and had Bipolar Disorder.  I couldn’t help but get more and more frustrated and angry that Auntie wasn’t willing to be treated.  She was causing so much turmoil in our lives. I knew that most of it would have been avoided altogether if she didn’t have the extreme mood swings.  When I finally stopped censoring myself and started telling her exactly what I thought, things got worse.  She became even more vindictive.  She started to treat me and my family as if our sole purpose was to serve her and her needs.

Over the next couple of months she and I would engage in an emotional power struggle that would end up changing our relationship for good…

…next…when enough is enough…

Tough Love

30 Sep

before you quote

We were all at the mercy of Auntie’s moods.  We never knew from one day to the next how she was going to react.  If we got in a disagreement about something, or she didn’t like the way I handled a discipline situation with one of the kids, she would “get even” by not cooking dinner, sulking and either giving everyone the silent treatment, or snapping at us.  It got to be a familiar and tiresome pattern.  It didn’t matter what I said or how I said it, she would take it personally and sulk for days.  It wouldn’t have bothered me so much, but when she was upset with me, instead of just giving me the silent treatment, the kids got it as well.  I would get home from work and the kids would pull me aside and tell me things she had said or done when they got home from school. I would listen and tell them I would talk to her and get her side of the story.  I thought that was only fair since I wasn’t home to witness the things they told me that happened. When I approached my Aunt to find out what happened and to get her side of the story, she would get upset and take it like the kids were sneaking and talking behind her back.  I explained to her countless times that I had told them to come to me.  I didn’t tell her why, but I didn’t think the kids should approach her about anything because her reactions were so unpredictable.

My Aunt was bound and determined to be “right”, no matter what. She knew it all and you couldn’t tell her anything.  You didn’t dare disagree with her.  If you cared for her, then your were expected to side with her; and whether or not you agreed didn’t matter.  In her mind, you were either for her or against her–period. When I went back to work, she started playing everyone against each other.  She would tell me one thing and my husband another. It was the same with the kids.  After a while, my oldest two children started avoiding her altogether. My husband spent more and more time out in the garage tinkering and less time inside with the family. He would later confide in me that he was avoiding her too.

There was no consistency and we never knew what to expect from one day to the next. If things happened to be going well, it felt even worse because I knew it was only a matter of time before the other shoe would drop.  Life was getting more and more unpredictable and we were all miserable.  I suggested several times to my Aunt that she go to a doctor to see if there was a different medication she could try for her Bipolar Disorder symptoms.  The more I mentioned it, the more she stubbornly dug her heels in and refused, saying she could handle her symptoms on her own.  I was terribly frustrated.  On one hand I didn’t want to say anything that may hurt her feelings, and on the other I just wanted her gone.  I felt intense regret that I’d ever invited her to stay with us. The more time went by, the more disgusted I got with the situation.  I worried about my kids and my marriage and I could see the evidence of how our decision to open up our home and our family to her negatively impacted our lives.  I was in a very difficult position.  I couldn’t make her take medication if she didn’t want to, and I couldn’t get her to see how irrational and erratic her behavior had become.  When we were able to talk without her getting defensive, I’d be relieved and think that we had made some progress; only to be met with her sulking a few days later, as if the conversation had never even happened!

At the end of March, Auntie would finally push me too far…

…next…tough love part 2…

Choices Part 2

21 Sep

I-have-great-expectations-for-the-future,-because-the-past-was-highly-overrated.Before Auntie came, my missing income already had my husband and me on edge.  After she arrived, I was in a constant state of overwhelm from the added stress she was creating in my home. Finally, in February, I landed a new job and was set to start the first week of March. I was extremely relieved at the prospect of having a decent income again, and to be honest, I was thrilled to be getting out of the house!  I figured with me gone Monday through Friday, my Aunt and I would get along better.  I thought maybe things were getting tense because we were spending too much time together.  That might have been true for me, but not so much for Auntie.  After I went back to work, her behavior became increasingly more erratic and irrational. I’d only been back to work a week when there was a major blowout.  It soon was crystal clear to me that because she wasn’t getting the attention she was used to, she wasn’t above doing anything she could to get it back.

My two oldest kids were home each day with her after school until my husband and youngest daughter got home around 6 pm.  Most days, I would get there about an hour after that.  Those few hours my Aunt spent  alone with the kids proved to be just enough time to stir up even more drama. Since she was helping out, my Aunt felt justified speaking her mind about everything from where I put my coffee cups to how I disciplined my kids.  I would politely listen to what she had to say out of respect for her, but most times I didn’t agree with her point of view; especially when it came to my kids.  When she took it upon herself to arrange my kitchen cupboards the way she thought they should be, I was irritated, but I let it go.  I had learned by then that it was prudent to pick my battles.  When she started giving my kids her own consequences after my husband and I had already handled things the way we thought appropriate, I wasn’t so willing to let it go.  Now she was overstepping her boundaries and I was getting fed up.

Initially, when my Aunt told me things the kids did while she was watching them, I trusted her and took her at her word, and they were given consequences accordingly.  They’d protest and argue, but I didn’t pay it much attention.  I told them that my Aunt was an adult, and their dad and I entrusted them to her care when we were at work, which meant they were to respect her and do as they were told.  It wasn’t until my 9-year-old son approached me and said, “Mom, Auntie is lying!” that I started to wonder what was going on.  I thought at first it was normal kid stuff; testing boundaries, etc.  Before she came to live with us, they had only met Auntie once.  My son was too young then to remember her.  I chalked it up to my kids resenting this person they barely knew telling them what to do; especially my oldest daughter, who was 16 and fought authority no matter where it came from!  I attributed the difference in stories partly to my kids wanting to get out of consequences for their behavior and partly and to my Aunt’s poor short-term memory and hearing. I myself had experienced issues with my Aunt due to her not hearing half of what I said.  She would interpret the missing parts herself instead of asking me to clarify, and she was always way off base. The short-term memory issue stemmed from the only medication she would take for her symptoms–Xanax.  It is not normally prescribed for long-term treatment of Bipolar Disorder, and is known to cause people to be forgetful. I tried to tell her about it, I tried showing her research I found about it, but discussing her meds with her wasn’t worth the frustration.  She had her view and no one was going to convince her otherwise. She was right; everyone else was wrong and didn’t know what they were talking about.  No one was immune to her stubbornness or know-it-all attitude, not even her doctor.

My Aunt had that same hard-headed, stubborn attitude about pretty much everything. It was getting hard for me to be understanding, and even harder to bite my tongue.  She’d lived with us for almost three months, and nothing was getting better. In fact, it was about to get much worse.

…next…tough love…