silence and sisterhood; the meaning of retreat

i haven”t spoken to my sister now for almost a year and a half. not since shortly after my son’s wedding, where she spoke to his friends and inlaws — making sure they knew what a mentally ill mother he had.

after i got home from the wedding, i very calmly spoke with her on the phone, asking that in the future she stay completely away from my children. anybody who is a parent knows; mess with ME, and i might let it slide. mess with my KIDS — and you just earned yourself a ticket to gones-ville.

so i requested she stay away from my children, and she totally lost it. yelling and screaming at me over the phone. completely flipped. and not once in all her yelling, did she ask me WHY. nope ….. and that’s because she knew. she knew what she did and she knew i was calling her hand.

what is interesting, in this time i have had without having to deal with her — my communication has blossomed. since i don’t have to dumb everything down in attempts to explain thoughts and feelings to my sister, it’s like that weight is gone. like since ever i can remember, i have had to keep a “dummy-translator” onboard in order to transmit more complex ideology in manners to which she would understand. NOT having to do that now, has freed my mind to process without that constant translation.

the other thing that i have noted recently — was my fear of confrontation. SHE is the reason all these years, that i’m scared to death of confrontation. why i will compromise my most treasured ideals, for the sake of avoiding confrontation. and that’s because i grew up with a sister who wigs out the minute you don’t agree with her. so i learned to keep my mouth shut.

this last year and a half, i have experienced conversations with family here in Utah — realizing that the world doesn’t end if you disagree with someone. that’s huge. you don’t know how huge that is. because it means also an end to passive-aggressive attitudes. it is very scary when you realize, in examining your own approach to others — that much is passive-aggressive. but that’s how you learn to operate, when the main person you deal-with wigs out on you.

i’m sure that i’m responsible for my attitudes in many ways. i could have been stronger and not so intent on simply maintaining the peace. regardless …. it’s like a new me. sort of late in life to “find” yourself ….. but there ya go. in processing the effects of this sibling, you know i wonder exactly how many lies she has told over the years — to family regarding myself. it would explain a lot. much in how i’ve been treated never matched any action on my part.

sincerely and seriously — not that i’ve held any sort of patent on good behavior. but all my life have really strived to do what’s right. to not hurt others, to establish a moral and ethical code that in many ways is MORE strict than any given by the church. i base right and wrong on the bigger picture …. and so often that bigger picture does not include your own interests.

something i feel strongly about ….. yet it’s like all were seeing me as something else. could it be that this sister i always cared for and cared about, spoke behind my back and spread untruths regarding me and mine? i’m thinking that’s what happened. 99.9% sure. which doesn’t make me so much angry, as deeply sad. makes the final pieces of the puzzle fit, though.

my husband kicked her out at one point, because of her manipulations. refused to allow her in our home …. and for him, that’s like the pot calling the kettle pitch black. the king of manipulators saying SHE was manipulating too much. so tiring to think on these things. i am trying to pull up some very dusty memories. this last month i was talking to my cousin’s wife, and she asked me “what was your sister doing, during all that time that you spent reading?” and you know, i couldn’t rightly answer. she couldn’t read in her head ever, had to speak anything outloud in order to read it. since that was embarrassing for her, she just didn’t read. i know she spent a good deal of time watching TV. but grandma always enforced limits on that.

she did puzzles, and …….? i don’t know. see, i would play on my own out in the yard making mud-pies. i played with my dolls and made up entire worlds with them. my sister is not IN those memories. where was she? what was she doing? because i spent A LOT of time reading. sitting in the backyard reading, at the beach reading …. at the library. she’s not there in any of those memories. where was she? what was she doing ….

so that’s a strange thing. we played on the swingset together. we road bikes. but what happened to her while i was burying my head in books? i don’t know. i know i got landed with most the housework — because even if she had a chore, would rush through everything to the point that i was left to make sure things actually got clean.

i know that in my mid-teens i took-over the guest bedroom and put locks on the doors to keep her from stealing my stuff. to this day, i wonder if she stole and still has the pearl ring with diamonds that grandmother gave me — just disappeared one day.

mostly i have given my sister more thought than she deserves, trying to reconcile things in my memory. trying to understand — like how or why she loved slasher movies … the purely snuff-film sort. it doesn’t compute for me — there are enough real-world atrocities that it seems absurd to hunt out constructed-ones for entertainment. if there is a necessary theme or plot point — then i will stand it. ONCE. i don’t rewatch the movie. i can’t. it sickens me.

so with somebody that actively enjoys that sort of film and entertainment — i don’t “get” where they are coming-from, at all. i mean, i sort of get madame lafarge …. in dicken’s tale of two cities. taking front row seats to the executions. she lived a hard life, and sat with her knitting because that is where bitter deposits mendacity. but i couldn’t hardly ascribe those traits to my sister —

i really try hard to figure things out. like i was thinking — have always considered that i got the shorter straw when it came to the death of our parents. like i was older — understood more and it hit me harder. but maybe not. am looking for reasons. how can two siblings be so completely different in so many areas? and in my bending over backwards to be complacent and agreeable — how did i generate that much hatred for myself, within-her? it’s like there’s something i’m missing …. the elephant in the room.

she has the screaming-matches with her husband. or did. would make me so uncomfortable, to have to sit there and listen to them tear into each other. yelling and screaming at her kids ….. for no reason at all! and grandmother didn’t do that — EVER! she was a teacher, for heaven’s sake. she KNEW the power of the lowered voice …. the impact of pure silence.

so now i’m trying to remember exactly how much my sister wigged-out and screamed when we were kids. how much of that simply effected ME in becoming a person who is quite thoroughly AFRAID to speak her mind. really and truly — and why this blog and all my writing are my lifeline out of that. i can TYPE my mind. and maybe that’s enough.

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5 thoughts on “silence and sisterhood; the meaning of retreat

  1. It’s a start, and maybe it will end up being enough for you, E. I hope so. I think closure is important, and when you never get a good answer to the question “why” (as in why are some people like that to begin with?), then it’s hard to find that closure. One thing I have noticed, is that when we remove “toxic” people and influences from our lives and environments, we do indeed begin to “bloom” in ways we might never have done, otherwise. That’s why it is SO important to keep those toxic people out of your life! And they are devious in the extreme about staying in it – using every tool available, whether it’s guilt, or playing the victim, or projection or anger…any and all manipulations are fair game when it comes to “toxic” people. They drain and pollute those peoples’ lives with whom they interact.

    It’s only in the absence of their influence that one begins to see how bad they are for a person to be around. I think it must be especially hard with family members, because we’re taught that we have to love them, no matter what, because they’re “blood”. But regardless of whether or not they’re “blood”, if they’re toxic people, then they’re toxic people, period. And to stay in contact with those kinds of people only poisons the person staying, because while the process might be somewhat beneficial in the vice versa situation (the good energy influencing the toxic person), it’s not likely to last…unfortunate, but true – people like that get stuck in a toxic “comfort zone” and that’s where they stay, usually for keeps. So, in short, I guess I’m suggesting that you “save yourself!” and steer clear of anyone who poisons your life. :) xox

  2. P.S. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t regret that things turned out the way they have. But the past cannot be changed, and dwelling there will only make you sad. The future, however…remains to be written. Make it a good story, Eileen. :)

    • yea it’s gonna be damn good …. i’m a writer, aren’t i? i’ll figure it out ….

      and don’t be making me cry, girl. :) in many ways am against labels, even though “toxic” can be aptly applied. do believe it “takes two” and so while she might be toxic to me, it’s possible that she isn’t a toxic person for other personality types.

      (the scientist in me then states that a consistent quantification goes unrealized, thereby making realistic classification impossible.)

      but i understand … when someone else just isn’t good for you, is necessary to realize that and walk away. you can’t make a person into something they are not. even though i have the ego to time and again think i can — or to want changes so badly that i imagine them. toxic people also know how to parrot …. make you think they are similar to you in many ways, to play on that empathy. i know when i’ve been played. guess the sad thing is i’ve always known …. is just like you said. i wanted to stick around to be a good influence. which would mean making her account for her actions with me — which finally meant in these later years that she just didn’t share any of her life at all. she didn’t want me questioning her decisions or having any information on what went on in her life. truth is, that i knew nothing about what she was up to when we WERE talking to each other. so not much different now, except that she is removed and has less chance to sabotage me and my life. one more time around — one more rising from the ashes without a sisterly appendage this time. maybe i’ll make a good run of it, then ….

      *sigh* i don’t know her favorite drink … i don’t know if she likes heels or not heels. i don’t know her favorite food. i don’t know her favorite color. i don’t know if she sings to the car stereo — or if she has migraines or insomnia or if she likes to walk in the rain or if she ever liked school or if she has dreams of doing something else other than her current job — or if she has wishes to travel. i know my grandmother always wanted to go to egypt. i don’t know where my sister would like to vacation or if she likes to go to museums or if she likes to bicycle or if she buys generic groceries over brand names or if she uses coupons or if she likes to cook at all. or if she uses lotion or if she has bad hair days or if she likes to work in the garden at all. i don’t know! i know more about the lives of friends, acquaintances … than i do my own flesh and blood. and truth is, i don’t think she knows much at all about me. anytime a conversation turned into something real she suddenly had to get something off the stove or go to an appointment or whatever. much of the time never answered her phone when saw it was me calling.

      always had better, and more personal conversations with friends. longer conversations with meaningful topics. but sister has this way of making you feel sorry for her while at the same time making you feel guilty for wanting to talk to her. which yea, a pretty toxic combination.

      well, enough poking that hurt with a stick. thanks, Dragon …. words can’t say

  3. Didn’t mean to make you sad. It does seem strange that there is so much you don’t know about her, but you’re right that it takes two, and you can’t possibly “make” someone want to share their life with you or “be” someone they are not. I know that you’ll figure it out though, and do the best you can for YOU. I don’t blame you for keeping trying, though. I think it’s the way YOU were made, to not give up on anyone. That soft heart of yours. It’s your greatest strength, but like most strengths, can be your greatest weakness, too (in that people take advantage of it!). Anyhow, just wanted you to know that I do come back and read your responses. I don’t always reply to them, but I always read them. :)

  4. hey i try to read responses too ….. sometimes i forget and it’s weeks later…!

    is important to stay who you are no matter what others do …. (that sounded a lot more profound in my head) appreciate the vote of confidence, and it sort of shocked me too when i started to think of all the stuff i didn’t know about her. it’s hard to not feel protective, and that’s what i’m trying to ditch. i can’t be there to protect her because the ongoing betrayal and lack of openness is too much.

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