Friday, October 23, 2015

On Sisters

A couple months ago, my blog email got pitched by my middle sister for her K*ckst*rter project.  So, you know, maybe I shouldn't write things about them that I'm not willing to say in person (likely a good principle in general, no?).

So here are many FEEEEEELINGS, written as if my sisters might actually read this.  If you don't want to read about feelings, here is a bunny.  

To my middle sister,

It's really painful for me to have any kind of conversation with you.  I'm fine talking about gardens or kid swim lessons or whatever, but right now  I'm still having some health problems; chronic severe pain is very tiring and I am really overwhelmed just keeping everyone alive and supplied with clean underwear.   Also, baby.  And that said, if it were really a priority in my life I would  make the time, wouldn't I?

Here's why I don't,* and I quote Captain Awkward:
 "(whatever the hell is going on) prevents them from seeing themselves as the bad guy in any situation and their highly selective memories will remember everything you did wrong with complete clarity while deleting their own bad behavior entirely from the record. You come ready to finally hash out all The Stuff and they act like The Stuff literally never happened and that you are crazy/too sensitive/vindictive/evil/petty/unreliable for thinking that it did.
  I tried to bring up the (eight) Bad First Marriage years- specifically, the deeply offensive weekly screeds about Consumerist America Is So Terrible And You're All Racists, You Don't Get To Criticize Israel's Apartheid Because You Don't Live Here (did this apply in South Africa?) Also Arabs Are Evil, Vote Likkud, vs. your three suitcases of shopping this time (and marching in the Pride parade), and your response was literally 'I like stuff.'

I don't want you to be sorry you lived those years.  I would like you to understand that those years were deeply hurtful, and I didn't much like you then.  I don't want to have an intimate relationship with someone who won't own- or even acknowledge- the pain her choices caused, because I believe it will merely happen again.  I'm sure you were hurt too.  The difference is you were actively being a jackass, and I was not engaging.

To my youngest sister,

Let's recap: you made you own legitimate adult choice to move to another country.  Great!  You're an adult.  You do your thing!

But when you're making a choice, sometimes a consequence is that people are unhappy about it.  I'm not asking you to make choices based on MY feelings.  I'm saying 'I didn't tell you myself  (and had Mom tell you) because I really care about you and didn't want to ruin our relationship' has the opposite effect.  I'm saying that avoiding having any contact with me for nine months says 'I don't trust you to behave like a rational person', 'I am unable to hear your thoughts', and 'I cannot treat you with the respect for YOUR opinions and feelings that I want you to have for MY opinions and feelings.'  I'm telling you that the way you acted, shenanigans with Craziest Unmedicated Cousin** included, is actually a great way to torpedo a relationship.

(I will refrain from commenting on your 'special bond' with Craziest Cousin, or your dramatical llama-ing over how You! Date! Women!  Except when you don't!  [I object to the drama, not to fluid expressions of gender and sexuality.])

Which is all fine. You're an adult!  You do your thing!

But which is also not any kind of relationship. It is you treating me as if I were an irrational, slightly crazy stranger.  Based entirely on how I left you a message 'Could we talk about this some time?'***, let me add, not on me ACTING like a crazy person.

If you want to pretend everything's peachy.... see above.  That is not within my current capacity.  Right now you're not hearing from me because I have nothing nice to say, every mention of you makes me sad and angry, and despite near-overwhelming temptation, I am resisting the urge to have our mother tell you I'm not talking to you.

To both of you,

 For me, the combination of choosing to live so far away, and the way you've both chosen to (not) deal with it, says you don't have a meaningful place in my life. I also want to protect my children from your Israel Is Great propaganda, and I don't trust you to keep it out of your interactions with them.  I don't want to pretend everything's peachy when I'm full of a complex mixture of sadness, anger, and resentment. 

Another fine piece of advice: 
Accept that you won’t really get answers or resolution for the past. You make your own closure. She doesn’t have any to offer. Focus on what you have in common now.
I'm not sure we have much in common now.  I don't know how to rebuild and I don't particularly want to rebuild.  

(Out of scope but also My Feelings: S2's present spouse being a jerk to me and my relatives; the morality of moving to an apartheid state to just... live there; Drama Terrorism Llama I Can't Even; etc.)

Anyone with helpful suggestions is welcome to offer them in comments.  I will delete however I damn well feel like it; reminder that anonymous comments will always be deleted.  Not up for discussion: Israel as a racist occupier, whether moving to Israel is a fantastic choice, or why my cousin is so crazy.  Up for discussion: boundaries, dealing with people in denial/whitewashing/gaslighting the past, how much energy to put into this.  'None' is an okay answer.

*My family members have never been what I would characterize as abusive towards each other, some teenage meanness aside.  Not, like, psychologically damaging meanness.  Just.... teenagers are jerks and we were all once teenagers. "You're fat!" "Yeah?  Well, your violin sounds like a cat being tortured!!"  "Girls!  Cut it out!"
**Who skipped Sister 2's wedding to go on vacation in Canada, giving me some wicked Schadenfreude about how S2, who didn't come to MY wedding, was pissed about Crazy Cousin and CC's intolerable not-fiancée.
*** Yep.  That was the whole message.


  1. I firmly believe in setting boundaries with the crazy relatives, no matter how closely related. Don't feel guilty about protecting yourself and your children! Someday, when baby stuff settles down, you can cultivate a philosophical attitude about how you can't choose your relatives. At least you have supportive friends to listen :)

    PS: look up the Narcissism diagnosis. There is a "family members of narcissists" advice sheet which has good recommendations. Your sisters don't sound 100% Narcissist, but they're halfway there.

  2. Oooof. I have no suggestions, but just want to validate your "I don't particularly want to rebuild". Like you've said in previous posts, it's a family pattern, and that can't be undone by one person, so seems like your best bet is to do exactly what you're doing and focus on your own life.

  3. Lifeisnichtsimal5:22 PM

    Siblings. I don't know. I think that perhaps if mine (a male type) gets married one day we will have more to do with him through his wife, otherwise he can't seem to be bothered (like couldn't be bothered to actually tell me no on the offer of me getting him plane tickets to come meet/visit his only two nephews).
    Or maybe emotional growth is slow and in another 10-20 years he will be there?

    1. Siblings, man. What was he thinking? Just say no! (We heard that enough in elementary school- in the US at least).

      My BIL has not been to visit but he has the excuse of being in the military on the other side of the WORLD.

  4. I have one (a difficult sister, I mean). I think the hardest part is how my parents can't/choose not to see it; how they just think she's the endless victim and not an active agent in her own life, and how when I try to tell them they may not want to have this conversation with me because I will not drink tea at the pity party, this is understood to mean I want nothing at all to do with her, which is not what I meant.

    I am frustrated by my sister's unwillingness to acknowledge that life and relationships are messy and complicated, no one ever gets every single thing she wants, and we're all just trying to get by.

  5. Meh. No suggestions, just a general agreement that you don't need people in your life, no matter how closely related they may be, who make your life sadder, angrier or harder. And if you don't want to rebuild, then that's your prerogative. That's all I've got.


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