Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Send Off

I wrote the following to my sister as she graduated from the 8th grade and transitioned into high school (I believe it was something that school required from its graduates):

[Sister (nickname)] 
            I write to you as a holy man… 
Just kidding. 
But seriously folks, I just want to say how proud of you I am.  True, for several years, you were like a paper cut between my fingers but it was only because you got all the attention of the family.  And at that time, I was a pudgy, goofy, booger kid with glasses that took up most of my face.  You were a cute toddler and I just couldn’t compete.  But I got over that though, and finally started to like you (don’t get me wrong, I always loved you, I just had a hard time liking you).  You’ve blossomed into a phenomenal young woman (and I use that term loosely—haaaaaaa) and I have no doubts that you will become a phenomenal woman.  It’s too early to think about that though, you still have to be my little sister whom I scare and bother from morning till night.
So what advice can I give…
Don’t take anything personally, that’s for certain.  People will dump on you and kick you to the ground, but that’s only because they can’t handle themselves or what lives they lead.  You can because you’re always going to be better than them.  Always.  And a little tolerance and understanding go a long way.  It’s never too late to learn something.  It will make you more worldly and knowledgeable, and that is something that will impress people.  You know the old saying “knowledge is power”.  That, as corny as it is, holds true.  I really don’t want to preach to you.  Goodness knows how I hate that, and if you’re anything like me (which you are, HA again) you aren’t a fan either.  I tell you these things from experience, as a brother to a sister, and a friend to a friend.
Don’t let the world get you down, because there’s so much to see when you rise above the rest.

I love you little sis, silly little bag of muffins.

[LSV nickname]  J  ß ha ha ha look what I made!!!


This letter is what led my wife to her revelation that I may have been the scapegoat for my mother. The whole first paragraph I'm telling her how much I didn't like her and that she got all the attention and I couldn't "compete" with a cute toddler. I put myself down but still managed to point out that loving someone is not the same as liking them, in that I loved my sister, but that didn't necessitate me liking her. This was a strange line for me to read because when it came to other relationships I was all about the idea that loving someone meant you  A L W A Y S  liked them. I held this idea when it came to most of my romantic relationships. I think that's an important piece of conditional love too, which is what I was subjected to, so it's not really a great surprise as I look now, that I had the equation, LOVE = ALWAYS LIKE.

The second paragraph, the "advice" section. I think some of what I said is sound: knowledge is power; a little tolerance and understanding is a good thing. However, my wife picked up on something that was more truly telling -- that knowledge, while also giving the wielder power, will also impress people. Now, why would I say that if I didn't really think that to be true? And wasn't that always what my mother was about - giving people a nice show on the outside, impressing people with...whatever? Yes, that is what she was about and I was feeding that to my sister, another malleable mind. My mother was getting what she wanted, her son to play the part of father/brother/caretaker to feed her daughter with the same poison apple that she fed her son and it's all the more potent because it's coming from a male figure her daughter so highly regards.

Sick sick treacherous game that was.


  1. I'm curious what you would write now, if you could do it all over again.

  2. Narcs love to pass their responsibilities off to others, especially their own unsuspecting kids. Years ago my (now GC) younger brother said I was more of a mother to him than NM had ever been. An appalling observation on NM's parenting skills!

    You and I should never have carried this burden but the fault does not lie with us!

    I hope one day you can have a healthy relationship with your sister.

  3. Yeah, it was. But please don't loose sight of the fact, you were the KID here. And we were so well trained to please the narcparent(s) (least we be on the receiving end of all kinds of hell) our ability to be genuine was beyond compromised.
    There was a time when OUR VERY EXISTENCE depended on their "approval." They literally had the power of life and death in our worlds. The shame is on them and their abuse of their "power."
    I personally don't buy this whole "Well, they have a mental disorder." Really and no shit Sherlock. But it's massively clear volitional agendas were at work here....they could choose when and where to abuse their kids: In public? "Mother-of-the-Year." In private, "DO my bidding...or else." These pds can't even pass the lowest "bar" set by society....pd is NOT a legal defense for insanity.
    Yet we lived-and died-sometimes physically, but most certainly mentally/psychologically/emotionally at the onus of these self-serving pieces of perverted humanity.

  4. awww :(. this letter made me smile and made me sad a little at the same time. it sounds like the letter of a depressed young man trying his best to make someone feel's someone giving and giving because that's what he feels he needs to do in order to be loved. the sad thing about the first part is how you've sort of resigned yourself to and taken on the label of pudgy booger kid, aww. in this sort of self-deprecating way...when it's not true! you were not a booger kid! hahaha. the second part struck me as sweet and sad in how earnestly you're trying to lift her up and tell her some good things. it's very sweet hearted. but the funny thing is, you tell all this and yet it's not something you tell yourself or allow yourself. i mean, that part about people kicking you to the ground and it's only because they suck and not you and you're better than them. jeez! wonderful words to hear but I think you're the one who needed to hear them. i know how it feels to be like that. i used to be able to cheer people up like no other. even if they were complete assholes to me sometimes...oh it makes me sad. i think i was the one who needed to hear that and live that. but at least we had a glimmer of an idea what we were talking about and i do think that's why i'm here. :(.

  5. I rather liked the letter, but then again, I wasn't reading it in context of your childhood and the dynamics of your family at the time. I also am a bit older than my younger sister, 6 years. I was also the scapegoat in the family, the eldest, the bad and rebellious one. My little sister was the replacement sister for the one who died. She was a little angel and my mother dressed her like one. I could have never written this letter. I wish I could have. It's the kind of letter I would have liked to receive if I had an older sibling. It shows your love and affection for her. I think the like vs. love thing is something an older brother would point out just to needle his little sis a bit. It's like, I love you but I don't want you to think that means anything because I still don't like you. I took it as a teenage boy (young man?) not wanting to admit his deep affection because it is a little embarrasing. It's probably something I would have said to my sister, if I ever had the chance to say anything or be anything to her.

  6. Yup, you were well trained. I suspect you cared a lot about your sister so taking on the responsibility wasn't a burden. You spoke from your heart in the place you were at then. You've learned a lot and kept yourself open to new ways of living. I recommend to follow your own advice, "Don’t take anything personally, that’s for certain." You did what you felt was best at the time with what you had learned so far. I do understand why Jonsi as a third person could see so quickly your training. You are making healthier choices now and perhaps your example is doing more than you think. Which ever way it is, you now recognize she is your sister and not a parental responsibility. It is a different relationship entirely. Good luck on making the change.

  7. Wow! Lot's of really uplifting and perceptive comments. (Not sure why I'm surprised, our friends in this community are always perceptive and brilliant).

    I liked these comments in particular:

    ALL of Lisa's comment - it's too hard to just pick one part, but I suppose I really liked this, "wonderful words to hear but I think you're the one who needed to hear them. i know how it feels to be like that. i used to be able to cheer people up like no other. even if they were complete assholes to me sometimes..." That describes my husband perfectly - always trying to make everyone else feel better, always being everybody else's shoulder to lean on.

    Ruth - "I recommend to follow your own advice, "Don’t take anything personally, that’s for certain." It's so interesting to me that DH made that observation, because it's something I've said to him so many times. I agree, he should follow his own advice!

    Anon - "I personally don't buy this whole "Well, they have a mental disorder." Me too! It may be a mental disorder, according to the books, but quite honestly, it doesn't matter to me. I don't believe N is something that a person is incapable of changing. Something can be done about it.

  8. Judy- What I'd be writing now would be something completely different I think. In fact it may not even matter what I have to say since my sister is an extention of my mother.

    Mulder- I too hope that one day I can have a healthy relationship wtih my sister, but she's got to do a 180 herself. My mother once told me that she felt abandoned by me after I became involved with my now wife. Abandoned, really? Was that because I was more of a father to her than her own father? AND my mother let that happen? Overwhelming yes. She was abandonded by her father before she was even born, poor girl. Now she's the only person she knows how to be: her mother.

    Anon- I wasn't that much of a kid at the time: my sister and I are nine years apart. But I was steal under a heavily veiled existence thanks to my mother.

    Lisa- thank you..for the whole thing! As I read and re-read this piece I had a melancholy happy. More melancholy though. I needed to follow my own advice, that's for sure, but what I was doing was spitting out pieces of advice that I thought I was supposed to say. Pretty sure I didn't come up with all those gems on my own, I must have heard them somewhere at some time. I can see my self-deprecieating non-confidence in this letter and it's super sad for sure.

    MC- In a recent revelation, I too believe I was the scapegoat for my family of origin. Even before my sister was born. There's a nine year difference between my sister and I, that's like two completely separate and alternate universes just about. At the time, I both liked and loved my sister, in whatever capacity I was able anyway. I still do love her, but because of her behaviors, I can't say I like her too much now.

    Ruth- I didn't know how to not take anything personally. Espeically early in the relationship with my wife. Oh, I shouldn't put my shoes there...WHY DO YOU HATE ME SO MUCH! Yeah, it was like that....

  9. I would like to make a suggestion that you do the exercise Judy offered. I think it would be a great exercise to write about your sister!

  10. I wasn't thinking in terms of writing it for your sister, because I believe you're right in that she is too enmeshed with NM. I was thinking in terms of you being able to see how much you've changed already. :-)

  11. Oh, I see what you mean Judy. I actually didn't mean that DH should write it and send it...I was thinking he could write his thoughts here. It might be interesting if he addressed it to his sister, as though he was talking to her directly, or something to that affect. You know, kind of like the "writing a letter and then burning it" thing. I doubt it would do much good for HER at this point. I think it might help DH thought.

  12. What I could/might do is write the same sort of letter for when she graduates high school. Knowing what I do now I mean. Good idea though!

  13. LSV- I had a very unpleasant boss that I used as a Guinea pig to learn how 'not to take things personally.' The man had a campaign to get me to quit or fire me. I ended up at HR since it was a large company and they sent me to affirmative action. I was in a long list of complaints against this man. He treated everyone badly. Affirmative action explained, "If he were this way with just minorities or just women, we could do something about it. It is not illegal to be a jerk." From then on when he criticized me I first decided if the complaint had merit. Then I considered the source. His anger and hatred wasn't about me. He directed at me since he thought I was an easy target. Sometimes using examples of people on the freeway that cut you off then swear at you, it isn't about you personally, you were just a vehicle in their way. Took me a while to get the hang of it but it is really freeing when I realized that some people being angry with me is not about me. I still tend to carefully evaluate the situation but a huge burden has lifted off my shoulder when I realized many scoldings I got from NM were not about me. She was angry with something or someone else first, I was just a convenient target. I was the target not the problem. Doesn't change my past, but it does change my perspective of myself now. I was actually a fairly good kid. She was really just so unreasonable. Hope this explains kind of what I mean. I think you are doing great.

  14. Ruth- I appreciate your affirmation of my plight! Currently, it's still difficult for me not to take things personally, as I've said. I'm not sure if this is becuase my mother trained me this way - as I've also said, I believe she blamed me for taking away what ever life she could have had were it not for the unwanted pregnancy. SO her attacks were personal in nature. My father on the other hand, he was always of the mindset that children owe their parents, honor thy father and mother, etc. So I suspect his behaviors were personal too since I was "not respecting" him and not acting like I owed him something. That's my understanding now, though it could change as my eyes open wider.