Monday, June 7, 2010

The guilt I was raised on

My mind is a mess right now.  Guilt is such a tool to whack people over the head with.  I haven't been down to visit my parents since the Christmas after chemo, which is about 8 years ago.  When we went down there we were largely ignored by everyone at the Christmas dinner who visited, instead, with each other.  I don't think anyone spoke to Zach and only one person spoke to Tom.  My younger sister barely said hello because she was busy with her new granddaughter, whom she saw every day.

I'm  not saying we should have been the stars of the show, but it would have been nice to have felt welcome.

Fast forward to two months ago when I got a telephone call from the older sister, an American Baptist minister, who knows how to dish out the guilt by the bucketload.  She and my younger sister had decided (apparently they talk about me behind my back instead of to me) that I needed to get down there because my dad was agonizing over not seeing me before he died.  He's in his late 70s, has emphysema and all that goes with it.  Now...why couldn't he just ask me when I talk to him on my twice-monthly phone calls.  No, he has to go to the sisters who will then guilt me into it so he can be the martyr.  (I sound like such a bitch, don't I?)

So anyway...the phone call from the sister.  She and Steph have decided that I need to take a bus down (because we only had one vehicle since December) and go to Peg's house and she will drive me down to Mom and Dad's.  They decided that was the best solution.  I said that I had responsibilities that I couldn't get out of and she, of course, tried to convince me that I was babying Zach too much and should make him start driving.  He has OCD and that is the reason he doesn't drive.  Nothing I say can convince them that putting him behind the wheel isn't a favor to anyone, especially other drivers.

So she let me know that I was just making excuses because she had found THE SOLUTION.

Today I got a forwarded email from one sister to the other where they talked about me again.  Steph told Peg that she wished Kathy would take the time to come down.  Take the time.  Yeah, because I can't be bothered.  So I emailed back and let her know that it hurt me that that's what they thought of me because no one bothered to read my blog which is a daily digest of my life so no one knew the fatigue and pain I'd been in for the past few months, the financial difficulties we've been in the past couple of years due to a significant pay cut, and all the stress and depression I'd been enduring.  Because no one could be bothered to read my blog, the other mundane one, which I have told everyone about for a thousand times.

Okay...I didn't mention the blog again, but I wanted to because I've told them both and my parents that it's a record of my life and a way to keep in touch.  So apparently they don't want to stay in touch with my life, but want me to stay in touch with theirs.

Even on facebook, I'm invisible.  None of my nieces or nephew ever comment on my stuff, even when I was linking my blog.  Not even my sister finds anything I have to say worth commenting on.

So...I'm the one who is supposed to feel guilty because I don't spend the money I don't have to drive for 12 hours in a car with no a/c and the front windows that don't roll down so I can go down there and be ignored by everyone and criticized by my parents for a) being overweight, b) drinking too many diet sodas...never mind that ever since chemo I've had stomach upsets that only diet sodas take care of and c) not being a Baptist anymore.  No, they don't know about leaving Christianity.  Being an Episcopalian is too close to Catholicism for them.

And to top it off I had woken up feeling craptastic for lack of sleep and a ton of work in the garden that I wasn't looking forward to.

So yeah...I'm really eager to drive down there...except my dad's in the hospital with pneumonia right now.  On top of emphysema.  And my favorite uncle is probably dying as well.

So now I've got to figure out when to go down there.  I can't be there on the weekend because I'd be expected to go to church and I will never go back there if I don't absolutely have to.  I'm thinking of leaving Wednesday and coming back on Saturday, which is a really crappy day for travel but I don't know what else to do.  I can't be gone long from here because of Professor and the garden and the bills and my medicines and my life.  And of course I feel like a jerk for not getting down there sooner.

Twelve effing hours driving.  I could knock it down to about 9 except I won't drive through Chicago.  Nuh uh.  No way.  I wouldn't survive it.  And taking the way through Janesville won't work either because they have a toll road I have to be on for a short time and my window doesn't roll down.  So I go through Lake Geneva and that's why it takes so long.  I take the country highways.  Less stressful for me but oh, so long.

I'm not a city driver.  Never have been.  I need serious medication to drive in a lot of traffic.  And at 55 years old, that's not likely to change any time soon.

At any rate they found the button to push to activate the guilt enough to get me to go down there when I can't afford it or when I'm not in good enough shape physically to go down.  And of course they will nod their heads, convinced that yeah...I could have done this all along.

Why do families have to be so painful?  Why can't people accept their children or siblings for who they are.  Yeah, I could accept my sisters for being who they are if it weren't for the fact that I don't ever measure up.  Same with my parents.  I can't be in the same room with my husband and father because my dad uses me to score points, by ridiculing me and making fun of me.  Not just my husband either.  Anyone else.  One time the pastor came over and Daddy wouldn't let up on how ridiculous I was.  Another time it was my aunt and uncle.

So...not really excited about getting that treatment again.  Tom can't go down with me because he can't get the time off from work.  He had already scheduled his trip up north with his brother and that can't be changed unless he just gives up that weekend altogether. 

And yet I can't give them up.  They are my family and I love them.  I just love them better from a distance.

At any rate, this is messing with my calm for sure.  I feel like a child again, under their authority and subject to their rules.  When do I get to be the grownup?  When do I get to have my own life?

I don't know if guilt exists in Pagan families like this but it is definitely a product of Christianity. At least in all the circles I've ever been in.

I have no idea what I'm going to do or when I'm going to do it but for now I'm a real mess.  I live with untreated clinical depression (can't take the drugs because of a potentially fatal interaction with other meds I need) and woke up this morning really down but I'm lower than that now.



  1. I'm sorry. This sucks. I think guilt is just a family thing - doesn't matter the religious association. I'm sure Atheist families have guilt too. People tend to treat their family members like crap because they know they won't leave them. It's true. I see it in my own family.

    The only way to go independent of the guilt is to do it because YOU want and need to do it. Doesn't really matter what the sisters say or how they feel about it. My thought? You don't have something truly helpful to say or to give, then STFU. I know you can't *say* that. But, it's okay to think it. :)

    I don't think you're being a bitch at all. For what it's worth.

    Lighting a candle for you tonight.

  2. Sounds like they're going to bitch about you behind your back no matter what you do. So do what YOU want to!

  3. Thanks so much. You're right that the end result will be the same no matter what choice I make so I'm not going down just yet. Things don't look dire as far as I can tell but then no one is answering my questions on facebook and no one was home when I called my mom.