Peace: cessation of or freedom from strife or dissention
Strife: vigorous or bitter conflict, discord, or antagonism, a quarrel, struggle, or clash, competition or rivalry.
Antagonism: an active hostility or opposition, an opposing force tendency or action
In my original family I’m the emotional scapegoat. I want to launch into a hundred examples of this so you will believe me, but I’m so bored by the whole thing I refuse to paint those images, yet again. The most consistent and prevalent behavior around this is a pack mentality. If one is mad at me they are all mad. If I am behaving in the way they want me to they love me and I get invited to Thanksgiving dinner. They are also threatened by my tendency for truth-telling and are not above going to almost any length to silence me.
Although for years I have kept a good distance between myself and my family of origin, for the last couple I have attempted to find my way into their pack. To do this in the way they want me to, I must being willing to pretend. Just the way we did growing up. We never talked about the booze, drugs, violence, guns, and incest. But instead managed to act our way into the fabric of the tight Mormon community we grew up in. Very few if any suspected that our family was insane. This pattern continues today. A predisposition to lie, passed on to the next generation.
My mother is the alpha of this pack of liars. They do and think and say and not say, as she commands, no questions asked. Except for yours truly of course. Needless to say my mother and I have spent alot of time baring our sharp canines at one another.
Recently she fell and broke her hip and the pack went nuts. From her hospital bed, she attempted to continue to manipulate to get what she wants, which in this case could have cost her life, so I moved in to see if I could assist. I was immediately assimilated by the group. Sanity seeming valuable at the time I suppose.
Once mama got back to her den, things returned to ‘normal’ and it wasn’t long before I was itching to break free. Thinking I was doing it differently than the previous 100 times, I attempted to explain my departure. I thought mom and I had turned a corner. I wanted to believe that her quitting smoking, after 50 years, [while she was in the hospital], had cleared her mind and therefore cured her insanity. She and I had a couple of conversations where I thought she was hearing me with her heart. I began to get suspicious though when the pack started saying the exact same thing to me. In one of our conversations I told mom that I didn’t feel I had anything of value to offer them. That who I am, how I see and say the world, seemed to be more a liability than an asset for the family. The next thing I knew the usual reactions changed from discussing ‘what Leslie said or did now,’ and then abandoning me, to, every time I offered any input about anything, they cooed, “Thank you for your input. Thank you.”
Their choreographed responses truly felt creepy to me so I moved back even further. In the meantime, I continued to write, hit send, hold nothing back. I stayed in touch with my mother and a niece but soon realized that my niece had been brought into the scheme, as she began to withhold in ways that are unusual for her. This hurt me deeply but I continued to move in the direction of peace, trusting that my mom had my back.
This morning I called mom to tell her to have a nice trip. She’s going to see my older sister who I know is hoping to create some nice memories before mother dies. When I asked mom if she was excited, she hesitated, then said, ”Ya, it will be something different to do.”
I felt pain for my sister who is excited about mom’s visit. I asked mom what time she was leaving to which she replied, “I’m waiting for my son-in-law to call.”
That’s when I knew. My heart broke to the truth, but still, I hoped it was an absent-minded thing, so I said, ” Mom, do you know who you’re talking to?”
“Why didn’t you say you were waiting for Don to call?”
“Because he is my son-in-law,” she replied defensively. Then added quickly, “I’m sitting here with your [younger] sister,” in the conspiratorial tone she uses when she attempts to try to get us to take sides against one another. I was supposed to say, Ok, call me when you get done. Then her and I would talk about why we can’t talk in front of my sister. Or pretend it didn’t happen. But I can’t do that anymore.
“Oh. Well no wonder. It must be really weird for you right now, being that you’re involved in the behavior the rest of them are using to try to control me into doing what you all want me to,” I growled. Hung up before she could react.
The pain I felt was so intense, my heart so hard it stopped the air from getting to my lungs. Took my breath away.
This has happened so many times I’ve lost count. In fairness to them, I don’t want to be a part of the pack, but have continued to move in and out according to the will of my fear and lack of courage.
In fairness to myself, I didn’t want to cause them pain. They kept telling me they loved me. I ignored the many times those precious words came through gritted teeth. Until now this process has been intellectual for me. Because I ‘understand’ in part what the problems here are, I raise myself above them, raise myself above my feelings, only to be filled with paralyzing resentment that keeps me from having peace.