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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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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…

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…

Choices

13 Sep

depression-1A person with Bipolar Disorder experiences moments of Mania, where they are euphoric, have tremendous energy, and sometimes even feel invincible.  There is also a crash downward into Depression after the Manic episode occurs. Some people experience these shifts a few times a year, others can have symptoms  with shifts as often as several times a day.  It really depends on the person and their chemistry.  Those who experience contrasting moods to the extent that they happen several times a day tend to be very restless and irritable.  Auntie was one of them.  One minute she would be goofing around, having fun playing with the kids, and I’d see a glimpse of the woman I remembered. The next she was annoyed, treating the kids harshly, and stomping off in a snit, leaving my husband and I looking at each other in confusion over what had just happened.  Worse, the kids would be bewildered and ask, “What’d I do?”  The only person in the house who was “safe” from Auntie’s moods; at least directly, was my husband.  Auntie had been through several abusive relationships, and I think she had a fear of men; though she’d never admitted it.  I believe that was probably the only thing that kept my husband out of the line of fire.  She would come to me to complain about him instead.

Over time, I found myself dreading being home with Auntie and would find any excuse to get out by myself for a while. I didn’t recognize this woman, and I grew weary of pointless discussions that went on and on, in circles for hours, with no resolution.  There was a lot of finger-pointing and blaming going on and she took absolutely no responsibility for any part in anything that happened.  In her eyes she was never wrong and to hear her tell it, my husband, kids, and I were mean, horrible people who did things purposely to hurt her!  I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that this woman who had known me my entire life was accusing me of acting in ways I just wasn’t capable of.  The things she accused my husband and kids of doing were even worse.  She acted as if she thought everyone had some hidden agenda or ulterior motive.  I was constantly having to defend myself as well as my husband and kids to her and it was getting to be so surreal!  I wondered when she had gotten so bitter and cynical.  After all, Auntie had raised two children.  Surely, she had to have experienced these kinds of things before.  Why was she getting so bent out of shape over “kid stuff”??

I started going to Starbucks every morning after dropping my youngest off at preschool.  I’d get my favorite coffee, pull into the parking lot across the street and sit in the car.  I’d park in front of a small pond at the far end of the parking lot, the furthest away from the all stores and activity, and watch the mama ducks and their ducklings play follow the leader, while enjoying the solitude and my coffee.  It was during these moments that I would try to make sense out of the things that were going on.

After a while of taking time to myself each morning, I decided to have a talk with Auntie.  I couldn’t understand where her behavior was coming from and I wanted to see what we could work out to try to lessen the tension in the house.  The conversation wasn’t going as I’d hoped; we were getting nowhere, and I had decided to drop the subject for the day when Auntie confided in me about her Bipolar Disorder.  In the next breath she told me she didn’t need to be treated for it and she could handle it just fine on her own. She said she had been prescribed medication for her symptoms but was not taking it.  When I asked her why she stopped taking the medication if the doctor felt she needed it, she said she didn’t like how it made her feel.  She said she had only tried the one medication and had never gone for her follow up visit to let the doctor know how it affected her…

…next…choices part 2

 

New Year…New Life

8 Sep

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During the time I was dealing with losing my job and sorting out the issues with my friend, a family friend came back into my life.  She and my mom had been friends since they were kids, I’d known her since birth, and we considered her family.  I’d grown up calling her my Aunt, her children my cousins, and so on.  She and I had always been close and I was very fond of her.   She had always been a unique individual, free-spirited, or what my mother liked to call “flaky”.  It wasn’t unusual for years to go by without hearing from her.  I’d wonder how she was doing  and would eventually track her down.  I had done just that earlier that year in May, a couple of months before losing my job. We talked every few days from then on.

About a month later, I was talking to her during the hour-long drive home in the early morning hours from my ghost tour job in Saint Augustine.  She confided in me that she was in a horrible living situation and desperate to get out, but had nowhere to go. I called her back the next day after talking it over with my husband and invited her to come stay with us. The plan was for her to stay as long as she needed until she had saved enough money to get her own place.  I was excited to have her come and stay, but there was an uneasiness in my gut when I thought about it. Figuring it was just the idea of someone living with us causing it, I made the call anyway and brushed it off.  Unfortunately, like so many times before when I ignored that inner voice; what I now call my soul voice, I made the wrong decision.   I remembered her as a sweet, nurturing presence in my life when I was a kid,  and as someone I could always talk to, no matter what. I felt my kids would benefit from her being around since I intended to return to work full-time when I found another job and she’d be there with them when I couldn’t be.  They’d have another adult with a positive presence in their lives. She’d benefit by getting out of her current living situation and have a place to stay with people who loved and appreciated her, and she could save up the money to start over.  She offered to help out with the kids, cooking, etc., in return for staying with us.  I figured it was a win-win situation for all concerned.

She arrived December 1, 2012.  She’d changed her name over the few years that passed from the last time I’d seen her until I tracked her down and called her in May.  The day she arrived, she asked that we not call her by her former name.  She reasoned that it bothered her because she’d been through hell and having coming out on the other side, she felt that person was long gone.  In hindsight, I can see where the red flag should have gone up for me.  After all, I’d known her all my life as that person.  Chalking it up to one of her many eccentricities, I didn’t give it much thought at the time.  It felt strange and awkward calling her by this new name, but wanting to respect her wishes, I compromised and just called her “Auntie.”  I would find out her name wasn’t the only thing that had changed since I’d seen her last.

…next…new year…new life…part 2