Love: Is Self Alone Enough?

Parents are supposed to love you unconditionally, right? They are supposed to love you just because you are, not for anything you can or will do.

I feel like my parents don’t love me just because I am. Their love has always come with conditions. Oh, they’ve never actually said that; that wouldn’t be right, you know. But there was always this unspoken, “I’ll love you if you do ____.”  At the slightest misstep, they would withdraw their love. When I did something “right” (their version of right, of course), the love would come back.

My mother would tell me that she loved me, or that I could never disappoint her or make her not love me, but I felt like she was lying. I knew she was lying. I felt like I had to earn her love. I had to make her love me. Every day, every moment, I had to make her love me, because just being wasn’t enough.

The upshot of this? Now I feel like I have to do something to make people love me. I mean, why should anybody just love me for no reason? I had to earn it from my parents; why shouldn’t I have to earn it from other people too? It’s not enough that I just am, there has to be something I have to do to deserve it.

It’s weird that nobody I consider important to me demands that I earn their love. They say that I don’t have to do anything. They say that the fact that I am is enough. They know that I have so many issues that I need a magazine rack, but they don’t care. They love me anyway. They tell me so. They show me.

And I stand and have to ask why.

I’m nobody special. I have issues. There are times when I’m positive that I’m crazy. But for some reason, people love me. People love me despite all that.

I don’t understand it. If my parents couldn’t accept me as I was, direct from the factory, how can anybody else? My parents have known me since birth; if they can’t love the person I am, why should other people?

How can who I am–just me, with no additions or deeds attached– be enough to deserve other people’s love?

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A Play in One Act

Background: Just lately I’ve been feeling very tired. Not physically tired so much; this is mostly emotional.

I just want to go away. Somewhere far away from my family and their unceasing demands for things. This constant bombardment from all sides makes Nyght Mist an unhappy camper.

So: a short one act play that happened today.

Cast: me, Keeper of the Holograms.

Scene: The kitchen. I’m getting ready to put some carne asada on for tacos.

KotH: What did you do today?

Me: (looks around at the clean house)  I mopped the floor, cleaned the fridge out, watered your plants, and now I’m about to start dinner.

KotH: (irritated) God, what’s the matter with you these days?

Me: I’m tired. I need a break.

KotH: Here we go again.

Me: What does that mean?

KotH: What do you need a break from? You’re here by yourself all day! Well, mostly. Your brothers are here with their kids, but that shouldn’t bother you.

Me: I just need to go away for a bit. From everybody.

KotH: Well, why haven’t you gone somewhere then?

Me (thinking, where can I go with five dollars to my name?): Even if I went somewhere it wouldn’t help much.

KotH: I don’t understand.

Heavy sigh. I don’t want to get further into the reasons why I want to go away because it would boil down to, “I’m sick of having to deal with all of you and cleaning and cooking for a bunch of ungrateful, lying, grown up brats. I want to disappear from the earth just so none of you would be able to find me again, ever.”

That would hurt them if I said it, even if it is the truth. I don’t want to hurt them, no matter what they’ve done.

Who Am I?: Going ID Shopping

As I’m moving through this, I’m beginning to see something that worries me very much.

I have absolutely no clue who I am.

I know what people tell me, but I can’t say with any degree of certainty that I am X person.

You’d think that I’d have a pretty good handle on who I am, considering how old I am. I’m way past the age where an identity crisis (or worse, an ID void, which is what I think I’ve got) is the done thing.

I know that you form an identity by basically trying on things that might work for you. We do that mainly while we’re children. But when does the trying on stop and you commit to the identity you want to wear?

I feel like I’m shopping for the person I want to be. But just like when you’re trying to put together that perfect outfit, I have to go through a lot of different stores.

I feel ashamed that I can’t face anybody and tell them: “This is the person I am; you can like it or not.” I can’t say that because I don’t know who that person that people can like or not is. I can’t find her. Maybe she’s lost, or maybe she’s dead somewhere.

I feel like I should have decided who I wanted to be way before now. It doesn’t matter what happened to me; nobody can keep anybody from finding themselves, can they?

Have you ever felt like you are so annoyed and sick of yourself that you wish you could go somewhere without the parts of you that are annoying? I’m there right now.

A Discussion and Something Funny

A thing that happened today, and something funny to lighten the dreariness.

Colonel Crazy and I got into a spirited religious discussion with Volcano today. My father has latched onto religion in a really big way in the last couple years, so he doesn’t like to hear that neither Colonel Crazy nor I believe much of the Bible.

Volcano asked me how I prayed. I asked him if he really wanted to know, since the way I pray is not the way he prays. He said he did, so I told him that I pray mostly standing on my feet, talking like I would normally talk. These are the things my father said are wrong with the picture of me praying:

1. I don’t kneel. I told my father that I do kneel if I feel moved to do so (if I’m asking for strength, courage, endurance, or asking for something for someone else, for example), but for my regular prayers I stand on my feet. My father says that I should kneel in prayer because not  doing so doesn’t show the proper respect.

2. I don’t use formal words. According to my father, all prayers should be said in a certain way, all the time. That I just talk when I pray, just lay out things like a normal conversation is “treating God like a friend and not like GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY (the way he said it, it was in all caps like that). ”

3. I don’t end my prayers the right way. “The right way” to end all prayers is to say “in Jesus’s name, amen,” my dad says. That’s the only way any prayer can possibly end, ever. I told him that I end my prayers like this: “Thank you.” Or if I’m getting ready for bed, then I say “Thank you. Goodnight.” There was no need to get into when I’m doing a spell or something like that, because he was already a little pink in the ears. He says that because I don’t end my prayers in the proper manner, I’m wasting my time and my effort and speaking into empty ears. He looked a little flustered when I told him that I’ve gotten prayers answered before.  🙂

Now to the funny. When my dad was finished with his salvo, he bade Colonel Crazy and I goodnight and told us he would pray that we’d have a change of heart.

We he was gone upstairs, Colonel Crazy smiled at me and said, “You’re gonna go to hell!”

I smiled back and said, “Yeah, but that’s okay. You’ll be there and we can have a party!”

“Hell yeah!” he said. “I’ll make the reservations, but you gotta bring the booze.”

On the Brain

I guess I’m on a “this is the reality of abuse–get it through your thick skull!” crusade, because I’m making yet another post about it.

I found this on http://www.lilaclane.com, in the section on emotional abuse:

THE PROCESS OF BRAINWASHING
(MIND CONTROL)

1. The brainwasher keeps the victim unaware of what is going on and what changes are taking place.

Your partner might control your finances, make plans for you, or not tell you what his plans are until the last minute.  He may talk about you to others behind your back, to isolate you from them.

2. The brainwasher controls the victim’s time and physical environment, and works to suppress much of the victim’s old behavior.  The victim is slowly, or abruptly, isolated from all supportive persons except the brainwasher.

Your partner might have insisted that you stop certain social, hobby, or work activities.  You might have gotten moved to a new location, farther away from your family and friends.  Or you may have been asked (or told) to reduce or stop contact with specific supportive people in your life.

3. The brainwasher creates in the victim a sense of powerlessness, fear, and dependency.

Verbal and emotional abuse creates these emotions, and they become stronger and stronger over time.

4. The brainwasher works to instill new behavior and attitudes in the victim.

Your partner trains to you behave in ways that he wants you to behave.  He gradually makes you feel differently about yourself, and erodes your confidence in yourself.

5. The brainwasher puts forth a closed system of logic, and allows no real input or criticism.

In other words — What he says, goes.

The site is mainly talking about emotional abuse in romantic relationships, but this is exactly what it’s like to live in my house.

And I found “Lie Abusers tell their Victims” on http://www.hhhh.org . A lot of them are ones I’ve heard all my life.

A few examples:

You’re too sensitive. I’m sick of you being so hypersensitive all the time!

Why are you so negative?

For a smart person, you sure do some dumb things.

You shouldn’t feel that way. You shouldn’t think that way.

I can’t believe how selfish you are.

You’re self-centered, lazy, and irresponsible.

You shouldn’t let it bother you.

That’s just the way your [abuser] is. You shouldn’t let them bother you.

I know you better than you know yourself.

If you talk about your feelings, you’re just whining. That’s all they do in those support groups, anyway. They just sit around wallowing in self-pity.

Friends can’t be trusted. Your friends are evil.

You’re not sensible. You don’t think things through.

You’re ridiculous. Where did you get that crazy idea?!

Did [random suspect person] put you up to this?!

(that’s rather more than a few, huh?)

I know they’re just words. My rational self tells me that they are just words, but here’s the thing: I hear them all the time.  I hear some version of the above things at least every two or three days.

I feel like I just grabbed a hammer and shattered all the good things I wanted to keep believing about my parents. God, I can hear their voices saying those things right now, this very second.

Moreover, I feel like I just took a hammer and beat myself up with it. All these years they’ve said those things to me and I just let them. I stood there and allowed them to say such hurtful things. I didn’t tell them to stop. I didn’t try to argue with them or change their minds.

I must be severely screwed in the head to have allowed it to stand for so long. Even now I don’t say anything when they start in, so what does that mean? I’m ashamed of myself. I can’t find a way to make it stop, even now.

Abuse: the Breakdown

I’m thinking about abuse again. The dictionary (the online Merriam-Webster) defines abuse five ways:

1: a corrupt practice or custom

2: improper or excessive use or treatment

3 obsolete : a deceitful act

4: language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily

5: physical maltreatment

Looking at everything again (and again and again, since my mind can’t seem to leave it be), I would have to say that what’s happening to me falls under definitions 2 and 4.

Definition 2:improper or excessive use or treatment. It’s wrong how I’ve been treated. I don’t know if it’s excessive, but it’s definitely improper. I feel badly for saying it, but I need to start seeing things the way they are.

Nobody should have to carry the well-being of non-disabled, perfectly capable adults on their shoulders. I’m not supposed to carry them through the world like they’re children. I don’t know exactly when it became my job to run the house and their affairs, but it has to stop now.

No duh, right? Seems pretty obvious, I know, something I should have noticed way before now. I didn’t see it, though. It was just my life, just the way things are. I’m still trying to see it. Still trying to understand it, and to decide how I should feel about it.

It’s hard to realize that I’ve been getting used for a lot of years. I keep wondering if I’ve bought it on myself somehow. I’m a grown woman, capable of making my own choices; did I somehow choose this? I believe in karma; did I do something so horrible, so utterly unforgivable that this is what I get in return? And if I did, then what kind of monster person am I? Those questions are always in the back of my mind.

Now to definition 4: language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily. I have lovely people in my life who tell me I’m a good, loving person, but I find it very hard to really believe it.

My parents have never been keen on approving things I’ve done, as you can see. I’ve always been told that my thoughts were just that tiny bit off, that nobody wanted or cared for my opinion, that the things I’ve put my heart into were wrong or just plain odd.

I’ve never been able to do anything exactly right. I don’t clean right, I don’t care about the right things, I don’t think right. When I was younger my mother’s favorite remark to make about me was that while I had plenty book smarts, I was lacking in common sense, and so would be hopeless out in the adult world. She said that many times to me, my father and siblings, the extended family, even her friends. She held up my siblings as models of common sense and implied that they’d do better in the world because they had it.

As I got older, the common sense remark evolved into her saying that I was too naive to live by myself. Again, my siblings were held up as prime candidates for living alone—even though none of them has ever lived alone before—and again, it was implied that they’d be better at it than I would.

It’s very hurtful to be told at every turn how lazy I am, or how much I don’t care, or how I’m heartless and have no loyalty to the family. It’s very hurtful to have to hear that I don’t have drive or purpose, or how my sister or brother has so much of X quality and why don’t I have that?

I don’t know if my mother even knows just how far in the toilet my sense of self-worth is. It’s so bad that when people tell me that I’m good or loving or anything, my first thought is that they don’t know just how bad I really am and if they did, they’d not want to be around me anymore. After all, my own parents think I’m bad, and why would they lie about something so basic?

People love me and I have no clue why they do. Oh, my mother says that people have good reason to love me, but I can’t believe her. Why should I?

I know I said in an earlier post that parents make mistakes, but how can anybody do this to their child and not know that it’s hurtful? I know that we are prone to do what our parents did, but where does this stop?

I’m sorry. This post isn’t the tight, well-reasoned thing I wanted it to be. I’m going to bid you goodnight and go try to calm down.

A Typical day in my Life

I want to write about a typical day in my life with the family. I don’t know why I need to put it down; I guess I need to see it written for myself so I can see how screwed up it really is.

I wake up at about 9 in the morning. My first thought is a prayer for strength so that I can actually get up and face the day rather than stay in my bed cowering. Being in bed cowering is starting to look better and better each day.

So I get out of bed, shower and dress. While I’m doing this, my mind is trying to find something to make for dinner. I run over what I made for dinner the night before and the night before that, up to a week in reverse to be sure there are no repeats, as my family doesn’t care for the same dish twice in one week.

By the time I’m dressed for the day, I’ve hopefully come up with something to cook. So I come downstairs. The first sight that greets me are the dishes in the sink from the Lord of Lassitude and/or Colonel Crazy making breakfast, and whatever bowls and things they left on the kitchen table. And where are said brothers? Usually either gone or out in the garage with their friends, drinking.

Before I can take out whatever I’ve decided to cook, I’ve got to wash dishes. When that’s done, out comes whatever I’ve decided to make for dinner. Then I have to clean the stove, wipe down and dust the family room, sweep and mop the floor, then vacuum  and straighten the pillows in the living room.

By now it’s about noon. If there are any calls that must be made, any bills that must be paid or extensions asked for, I do that. Yes, I have all my parents’s info, as they can’t remember anything.  If I have to call repair people or make doctor’s appointments (yes, I’ve even done that for Volcano) those things get done. If there’s no phone calls to be made, there are messages to be taken. So I do that.

Note I haven’t had anything to eat yet, and it’s now about 2 in the afternoon. Time to make dinner!  I get dinner started, and finally while it’s doing whatever (frying, baking, stewing, etc). I sit down and have a small something. Usually a granola bar or some other thing. Sometimes I watch TV, sometimes I check my e-mail or play the Sims. I don’t forget dinner, as if I burn something I can expect wrath to fall down on me. So I’m popping up and down getting dinner done.

Dinner’s done between 3 and 4 in the afternoon–and good thing too, because Volcano comes home and dumps all his lunch dishes into my clean sink and drapes his stuff all around my clean family room. He wants to eat OMGRIGHTNOW (which is why I try hard to have dinner done when he gets home)! My mother makes sure he has lunch to take to work, but he always comes home ravenous. I don’t get it.

So Volcano eats (and he has a habit of eating more than his share, too, which makes all my mental portioning useless), and then he dumps his dishes into my sink. I tell him to wash them, but does he listen?

By now the Keeper of the Holograms comes home. She at least puts her stuff in a corner of the room. She sits down and usually doesn’t notice the clean house. She asks me if I have done the day’s tasks (calling people and bill paying and whatnot, if there was any), and tells me tomorrow’s list of things, usually in the guise of “Make sure I don’t forget to do X”. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am my mother’s external brain.

If we have to make a trip to the store, we do it now.  I go along because again, I am my mother’s walking brain and it’s a sure thing she would forget something without me.  Anything that couldn’t be handled via phone for the day gets handled.

Then KotH has dinner and I pray that  the Lord of Lassitude and/or Colonel Crazy will eat soon so I can put the food away. And notice I have not had dinner myself. By this time in the day, I don’t want to eat anyway.

By now it’s 7 in the evening, and I pop up to clear everybody’s dishes and wash them and put the food away. Still haven’t had my dinner; I’m too tired to bother most days.

After the kitchen’s clean, I have to hope that nobody will want to make anything foodwise, because they won’t wash up their dishes.

So there’s an hour or two of “family” TV time (which is Volcano watching westerns and everybody else just ignoring them), and then the parents go to bed and I have the house to myself, providing that my brothers are gone.

I’m usually too tired to sleep, so I bop about online for some hours. I check my Facebook, answer email, stuff like that. Finally I lock up and head off to bed, to do it again the next day.

Mind, this is just a typical day. On non-typical days there are more things to do or people to care for.  If I’m lucky I go to bed between 1 and 3 am. If not, I stay up all night.  I feel exhausted all the time, and not because I don’t sleep. I could sleep for 12 straight hours and still feel exhausted.