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I feel different today. I feel lighter.
I am 37 years old and have never stood up to my mother. Never spoken back to her. Not once. Not as a child, not as a teenager, not as an adult no matter what she said or did to me. I have never stood up to my sister either. Yesterday, I did. After 37 years, I did.
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I have worked hard to turn the other cheek, to look for the log in my eye and not the splinter in theirs. I have tried to be empathetic and loving and kind. To not meet their aggression with mine, as you cannot dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools. But there is a difference between being aggressive and being assertive. I gave up the passivity that defined my role in my dysfunctional family.
*
It was no great scene. Not emotional or dramatic. I simply told my sister I did not want her dirty money (I don’t. She made it off the backs of the poor) and that someone who’d hurt my children like she did, did not get to dictate the terms of our dispute. And then I told her something true that I’m sure cut her to the bone: that she is just like our mother. Because she is.
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My mother responded by telling me she knew I’d sent “hateful” texts to my sister. I told her the truth. I told her I’d simply told my sister she was just like my mother and my sister apparently considers that hateful. (it’s kind of funny, looking back on it) She said, I suppose I won’t be hearing from you for a while again (referencing the months I’d taken while in therapy a few years ago to work out my wounds from her and what kind of boundaries I needed to establish. During which she was free to see my children whom adore her, but whom she chose not to see). I replied, No, unlike you I don’t write people off for disobeying me. I wouldn’t hurt my children like that.
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I texted her today to assure her she was still invited to the three children’s birthday parties we have coming up and that the children would be sad if she didn’t come. No reply. I’m not surprised but I am sad for my children.
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The narrative of what happened will go down in the family history book like this: crazy Libby did something irresponsible again (believe it or not, this whole thing was precipitated by a dog I’d bought impulsively. Don’t ask) and responsible Becky came in to save her and the poor innocent dog (my mother was considerably more concerned about the puppy she’d know for 24 hours during our exchange than her grandson she once referred to as her “soulmate”). Libby responded vindictively and cruelly.
*
I’ve no doubt my sister Becky, who had shut my parents out of her life for the past five years along with me and my children, will now return to the fold. And so my dysfunctional family will go on as it always has. But without me. Not by my choice but by theirs. And my children will be the ones to suffer. First their cousins taken away and now the grandparents they adore.
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I hope this doesn’t happen. I hope a distant awkward peace can be made enough that they can bring themselves to see my children.
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I spent my childhood trying to be the good one, trying to earn their love and never be bad. Good grades, never talk back, extracurriculars, stuff your emotions down, don’t ask for help even when you’re in so much pain inside. I was never good enough. I tried.
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And so in my lightness today, I am using my energy to write letters to my children. To let them know I love them and I’m proud of them. To let them know I only push them so they can be their best and achieve their dreams and purpose in life. I admit to them I am imperfect but I’m sorry for my wrongs. That they don’t deserve the frustration I take out on them at times. I remind them they have a perfect mother in heaven who is always there.
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Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, I seek a new people now. For mine are gone away. They were never there; I just couldn’t see it.