I have heard this line all my life. My life has challenged me with this premise constantly. However, this month with the snow piling up in Boston, and the events that have transpired over the last week have proven to me that this theory is full of shit.
I will not say “poor little me” because compared to many, my life is okay. I have a home, the mortgage is always paid, my mom and I are truly best friends, the kids in my family brighten my day, I have and always have had the love of my pets who are fat and happy, and I do love my family.
None of them are serial killers, or serial criminals and I have been able to remain on good terms with all my ex’s.
No one has a perfect life. I have been working on my flaws, trying to minimize my weaknesses or turn them into strengths. I am cognizant of my ambivelance. I know I procrastinate. I know I have a tendency to withdraw from life.
Therefore, I push myself to make decisions, finish things and socialize to compensate for these, but I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I will never be the dynamic, go-getter, social butterfly that is touted as a success in our society.
I actually find social interaction work, being naturally withdrawn. Keeping up with all of these expectations is way out of my realm of comfort, but I feel that the only way to grow is to push ourselves. So I try, I fail, and I try some more.
If this was the only type of challenge that God/Fate threw my way, I could handle it…but! Not so fast.
Now we have to add the people and events who have direct impact on my life.
These people are admittedly on a short list, given how much work social interaction is for me, but that short list can screw up my world more than all my various acquaintances combined.
In the last two years, I have been struggling with alcoholism in my immediate family. It has not only tested my mettle many times, but has brought me to tears more than I want to admit.
There is a strange dynamic in my family. It has alway been the three of us against the world : mom, Dee and me. We bonded together to deal with my father’s alcoholism and PTSD after the Vietnam War.
I was eight when mom kicked him out for good, but like a bad penny he never knew how to stay gone and stalked us for years. He died my senior year in college and I began a very long and very deep free-fall that precedes the healing process.
I dealt with my anger. I learned to understand my withdrawal and ambivalence to the world. I even recognized that I swallowed my desires never allowing them to surface for fear of being crushed when they were denied me.
Now if you haven’t been the child of a violent alcoholic, who is also an outward charmer and consummate lier, you may not understand this. Just know that I have come to terms with it and understand my limitations.
Before I knew it I was in my 30’s and watching the end of a long term relationship.
By 40, I was struggling with cancer and an epiphany that I had swallowed my wants and desires too long. I began taking them seriously and although starting very late, I was finally focusing on me.
Funny thing is, the moment I decided to take myself off the back burner is when the rest of my family started falling apart.
My aunt had a severe heart attack; my cousin has a mysterious illness which is leading to a double amputation of his legs; his sister sold her business and is battling fibromyalgia and my mom’s health is waning.
Through all this I was keeping up, but what was killing me was that my sister fallen to alcoholism. It started in her 20’s, but progressively got worse with each successive (and worse) boyfriend. Where I am oblivious to guys and usually alone with my books, my sister actually has the worst taste in men and selects the man who brings out the worst in her then leaves. They are always arrogant and they always leave; that is her pattern.
She ignored the underlying cause of her drinking so long as she had a boyfriend. A boyfriend meant “normal” to her.
Yet her drinking got worse.
When I returned home from a three week business trip to Germany two years ago, she was a different person. I was horrified to see how bad she had gotten. It took a harrowing year of suspending my life to get her into detox. Looking back now I realize that a year of my life, the pain, the stress and anger equalled only two weeks of good behavior when she got out.
This past year, she was worse than before. She didn’t do the outpatient follow up she needed to, she didn’t drop that asshole who is only looking for non-committal hook-ups while treating her like dirt, she hasn’t handled the fall out at her job well and she is not only ignoring her bills but, not opening them.
I left for a two and a half month stay in Germany this past June, but before I left she was pulled over by the police and the car was impounded because she failed to pay her insurance so the registry revoked her registration.
She was supposed to go to court while I was gone, everyone reminded her, but she kept saying that she had postponed it.
When I got back, the house looked like she was auditioning for “hoarders”, my mom was beside herself and I was on the hunt for a maid.
I asked her about court and she said it was taken care of, but I still warned her not to screw with the court system. She assured me it was handled. That was in August.
By December her drinking and lying were so bad I really didn’t know what to do. We were fighting all the time and she would not help me in the house. She called me vile names and said I was her violator because I dared to remove the garbage and debris from her room. Along with rotten food, I removed 76 empty vodka bottles.
I began planning an intervention, even though I know they don’t work. It was my only hope. Then Christmas came and our annual tree selection. I had it all picked out we just had to get it and decorate it on the 20th.
She was drunk the whole weekend, by the 22nd it was too late to get the tree.
I was livid. Mad at her for not being able to do this one thing, and mad at myself for allowing me to be manipulated into remaining dependent on her for driving.
I walked down the square and got a tiny tree at 50% off. It was a gaudy blue tinsel thing, but I couldn’t let mom go without any kind of tree.
Using another table top fake tree, every angel in the house and all the white lilies from a spring bouquet, I came up with a christmas display for mom. It was the first time in 83 years she didn’t have a “tree” on Christmas.
Dee went to bed…mom and I cried.
I gave mom a secret gift, that night–a promise to finally get my license. No more letting Dee manipulate me (which she admitted she did because she didn’t want me to leave) into putting it off and no more excuses.
This January, I got my permit, but fate said “not so fast”.
We were hit with one snow storm after another and the driving school won’t take on new students. I can’t even practice because there is no space.
While I was thinking of ways around this, since Dee is not to know until I get my license in hand, fate decided to sucker punch me in the stomach.
On Sunday the 7th of February, my male turtle was attacked and bleeding. Seems one of the girls decided to castrate him. By Wednesday he was in the vet’s having one of his two penises removed. He was home Thursday, but died on Friday of a suspected heart attack. I was heartbroken and stunned in turtle years he was still a baby. We went off to the vet and to get me niece for a Valentine’s girls night out.
During this time, I’m scrambling to put together a photography workshop and a 14 day trip for my German colleague. We went to the movies and saw the midnight showing of 50 shades of grey, which is not worth the money. But, the lesson in embarrassment it taught my youngest niece was worth it.
Dee was pissy because she wasn’t in bed by 10pm, but we made it through.
Saturday in preparation for the next storm, we took one niece grocery shopping and were meeting the other niece’s parents at Big Lots to do a “kid” swap and for my mom to see her sister. Or, that was the plan, anyway.
Dee gets pulled over by the Danvers police as we were making the turn onto Rte 1 south and we pull into what used to be the old deer skin trading post.
She gets arrested for driving on a suspended license with a revoked registration and we find out that there was a warrant out for her arrest for not appearing in court.
The car gets impounded and we have to wait for my aunt and cousin to “find” us. Then all of us: mom, Mary, vickie, Vickie’s mom, my aunt and I had to find the police station to bail her butt out of jail.
I will never forget Mary in tears as she watched them hand-cuff my sister. By the time we got her out, it was almost white out conditions and driving was treacherous. They drove us as far as my house, (Mary would end up spending the weekend with me staying up until dawn each night) and then they barely made it home themselves.
Like the dutiful dupe I am, instead of letting her hang, I helped my sister. I’m the one who called Mary’s mother to explain why the child would be staying over, I’m the one who talked to my hospitalized cousin who had called twice while we were bailing Dee out. And, it was me who explained what was going on to mom and Mary and got them to calm down.
Did this earn any gratitude from my sister? Did she fall on her sword and admit she majorly screwed up? No, of course not! If she had it would have been a sign of maturity. No instead, she got angry and she took her anger out on me.
I was the one to walk to the supermarket in the blizzard, to get food for our pets, it was me who took Mary shopping then home by cab on Monday and it was me who looked up the train schedules to get her to Salem.
It was me who arranged an Uber pick up and me who found a place to hold our cell phones while she was in court.
It was also me who tried to reason with her that she had to understand that the rest of the family had every right to be angry. It was also me who opened her unopened mail to discover the summons and arrest warrants she received but had never “saw”–just left them on the table by her chair.
All of this I was handling and then on Tuesday, while I’m talking on a conference call , as usual, with the girls, Mary’s mom asks for a call with an update on what happened in court.
Dee flies off the handle getting mad at the idea of speaking to Susan, at which point I told her off. Basically saying if she doesn’t want to talk to her she doesn’t have to, but to lose the attitude before I put her in the hospital.
Furious, she called Susan, who started off being nice but quickly told her off when she caught Dee’s tone.
Susan told Dee that all of this could have been avoided if she opened her mail, stopped drinking and took care of things.
That set off world war three in my house which ended with Dee storming to bed and me waiting for Peapod’s grocery delivery. By the time I got the groceries put away it was past midnight and I was up at 5 am to catch a 6:30 commuter rail for Dee to face her second court date in Haverhill, which had been pushed back from the day before because court ran long.
Of course, God’s wicked sense of humor kicked in again, for when we get to north station, all trains but Lowell are cancelled. “Dee’s only answer is to postpone, which of course would get her arrested again.
So it is me to the rescue, calling my cousin and working out meeting at the Lowell station which is about a 40min drive from Cindy’s house. I get Dee on the train, despite being so angry at her I couldn’t really talk and so tired I couldn’t see.
We make it to court, where my cousin is being an angel disproving Dee’s tirade about how mean they are to her. She even sat in court with us. Well 4 hours later, we discover that Dee hadn’t called the courthouse to confirm the postponement date and Haverhill was issuing another warrant for her. They cleared the warrants but set a new trial date for her on April 8. Mind you the car is still impounded.
We are estimating the court fee on April 8, will be about $500. We are not sure about the fines for the revoked registration and for her license. It already cost her $300 the day before and it’s $75 a day for the car to sit at the tow company.
After all of this, we get in my cousin’s car and she say to me “I knew I should have made you call the court for me yesterday.”
That was it. God had given me the one last thing I could not take. I broke, I mean I totally lost it. I don’t think I have ever been that angry in all my life. I didn’t think it possible that I could hate someone so much, but I did. In that moment I despised her.
By the time we got home I just let her have it. I was yelling, I was mean almost to the point of cruelty and I didn’t care. She went to bed and mom let me vent until I had calmed down enough to be civil.
I only felt bad at yelling at mom. I knew she understood that my anger wasn’t directed at her, but I had to get it out and it was either going to be to her or the dogs, but that didn’t change things.
I went to bed around 5pm and slept an exhaustive sleep until 10am the next day.
I’m still not sure how I managed to handle the marketing calls for Germany, and the coordinating calls for the workshop, it’s all a bit of a blur, but I must have been charming at some point because I have an invitation to a jazz brunch in Manhattan in the spring.
Dee had stay home, and at first appeared contrite. I tried being civil, but I couldn’t look at her. Then she tried to placate me by buying me things and calling me sweetheart. Big mistake, this released another belch if anger just as acidic as the day before.
I couldn’t help it, I couldn’t control it. Dee went out to take care of things and I found out she tried to pick a fight with our mom the night before. This was unacceptable.
When she came home trying to gloss over what needed to be done, I lost it again. This time telling her the cold, hard truth about how she hasn’t been handling anything, that she is sucking away my life and she needs to go to rehab and stay there until she gets her drinking problem under control.
It funny, I’m still so angry. Yet I am not proud of it. This blog is my confession on just how much a shocked myself. How far I had to be pushed and how reactionary I’ve become.
I am still getting my license. The snow can’t last forever, I plan on having it by spring. It is my priority.
Then, I’m taking the car from her. She can’t be responsible with it; therefore she can’t have it.
So no God, I can’t handle anything else. It is taking every bit of willpower I have not to withdraw and curl up in a ball. That’s what my heart wants to do, but I know I can’t; there is no turning back from that point.
I press on moment to moment. But! I swear if anyone recites that platitude
“God doesn’t give us more than we can handle”
I’m going to punch them in the face!