I adore some of the people who make up the family that I married into. Others I try to find ways to understand and, lacking that, I meditate on words like: compassion. Kindness. Tolerance. Acceptance.
I haven't written about them here much because this is the place that I write about how I was abused by my family of origin and my struggles to overcome that particular Homer-esque Epic of Trauma. Simply put, my in-laws haven't been abusive to me; in fact my SIL and BIL have never been anything but supportive of me. They're some of the people in my life who stood by me through thick and thin - even when they hadn't a clue what was causing my pain or what the holy hell was going on, they picked up the phone and they listened and talked and expressed to me six different ways from Sunday that they loved me. They were proud of me. They had my back, baby.
DH and I have traveled many roads together, some of the uphill all the way until you get to the washed out bridge variety and some that have been delightful scenic routes to beautiful places. He's taught me how to allow myself to be loved in the skin that I'm in in so many different ways, and I've shown him how to crack open the shell of fear that he sometimes retreats to in order to let the sunshine in.
I've never particularly understood my mother- and father-in-law, but I've cared for them and they've cared for me in their own (extremely private) way. We have very, very little in common as far as our beliefs, our life experiences, how we choose to spend our time, what we enjoy. We eat differently and at different times. I like spices and fresh produce and food that has unique flavor. They put ketchup on tacos and mayonnaise on... well, everything else. They enjoy being 'country.' I decidedly do not, to the point that I've been known to ask people who refer to a creek as a crick to show me, damn it, show me where that pronunciation exists in a dictionary. They're crazy cat people (seriously, six cats is a ridiculous number of cats to have,) and I am firmly a one-dog person. You get the picture.
We've found our vibe of co-existence over the years, though, and it's been mostly comfortable for me.
After all, with my background of family=abuse and mother/father/sister/brother=psychopaths, the in-laws have seemed largely normal to me.
Except for this thing, this giant elephant that stuck its trunk inquisitively into my living room a few years ago and has been slowly inching its mass further and further into the spotlight sense then...
My mother-in-law lies. If I detailed it all, we'd be here all night, but here's a breakdown of some of the more egregious offenses:
She decided I was Mormon before DH and I got married. Twelve years later, I still have no idea how she manufactured this; I had two children and was divorced, had lived out of wedlock with her son for almost two years, smoked like a chimney, swore like a sailor and drank like a fish, claimed zero religious affiliation though my father was a Southern Baptist minister (very much NOT Mormon, possibly even ANTI-Mormon as So. Baptists are pretty much ANTI-anything that's not So. Baptist,) and my wedding dress - which she'd seen - barely, just barely covered my ass. During one particularly energetic dance, it actually didn't cover my ass. I, however, was drunk enough not to care. The centerpiece of our wedding reception was a fully stocked champagne fountain. We got married in our backyard and went to Vegas for our honeymoon. Really, I would have been the worst Mormon ever. Ever.
But instead of being forthright, instead of actually asking, instead of developing a relationship, she - without ever asking either DH or myself - decided that I was Mormon (a bad thing in their family,) and called all of the extended relatives to tell them this.
I remember thinking, "Oh... kay."
DH was furious, but I let it go because, hey, I loved the guy. He loved me. I had enough issues with my own mother, right?
There have been lots of other "Oh... kay" moments over the years. Stories that didn't add up the first time she told them, much less as they morphed over time in the (repeated) re-tellings. Alleged facts of her or other people's live that are thrown out in conversation as attention getting tactics, but don't really add up. (She barely graduated high school while preggers with my DH, and has never worked outside of her home other than to volunteer at the seriously bass-ackwards and ineffectual "christian" school that she forced her children to attend, is barely literate and has never pursued academic or intellectual enrichment, yet she has begun claiming that she, "retired from teaching.") Oh... kay.
When my FIL had a major and debilitating stroke, they both insisted for years that it had just been a 'baby stroke.' No matter how many times I showed them and told them that by definition a 'mini-stroke' or TIA is a stroke that causes no long term effects, they insisted that FIL hadn't had a major stroke. Even when the man had to attend physical therapy to learn how to use his non-dominant left hand to write with and to pick up such tricks as how to sit on his right hand to control the involuntary muscle movements enough to not backhand the person sitting next to him, they still insisted that he'd only had a 'little stroke.' Oh... kay.
She claimed that the water test she had done on our well when we moved into this house was fine and clear of bacteria, yet after our disastrous incident with our well poisoning, when we got our fifth water test back showing that the contamination had returned... again, I asked her to show me a copy of that initial water test. I wish I could say that I was shocked when I saw that it said, right there in black and white, that our well water was contaminated (and therefore we had been drinking contaminated water for four fucking years,) but I really wasn't all that shocked.
What did shock me was the height of the wall of denial that she was willing to stand behind in order to be proven right. Her response? "I don't know what to tell you. The water's always been fine for us!" Oh... kay.
So, in the last week, we've all been dealing with some illness on my father-in-law's part. He's had medical issues that have gone largely untreated by the non-involved and apathetic doctors that they insist on seeing (cause that's always been fine for us!) and he had another event last week.
I was the first person to say the word (stroke! stroke! stroke! stroke! STROKE goddamnit!) this time just like I was the first person to say it out loud the first time he was in the hospital for that alleged 'minor event' that wiped out all functionality on one side of his body. And it got me thinking.
I grew up in this vortex of illusion and deceit wherein it was dictated that as long as we didn't name the Big Bad Thing, as long as no one found out about the Big Bad Thing, as long as we didn't acknowledge the Big Bad Thing, then either the Big Bad Thing didn't really exist or the Big Bad Thing was really just an Honest Mistake. I distinctly remember my molesting ENF teaching the girl scout class on how a girl should tell, tell, tell a trusted adult if another adult touched her 'private parts.' So, yeah, start with two parts abuse, add one part crazy and a dash or denial of reality, let cook for 30 years then watch the ACON dry out and run screaming for dear life from the NFOO Crazymaker Clan jello mold. (Then watch the NFOO blame the Scapegoat ACON for all of it in the first place.)
My only way out of that hell was to get honest, real honest, and how.
And I learned that naming the Big Bad Thing and shouting about the Big Bad Thing from rooftops was not only the way to take away its power, but also to cleanse it, to remove the shame and fear and humiliation and fear from it and reduce it from the (Powerful) Big Bad (Secretive) Thing to the thing we're going to deal with. To make it a part of life, and maybe not the most comfortable part of life, but a part of life that can be dealt with, categorized, taken care of, moved on from and possibly even prevented from reappearing in the future.
So now, the past, present and future medical issues of my FIL are coming out into the open. Something will have to be done. Something will have to be named. Confronted. Taken care of. Dealt with.
And my MIL and FIL are so, so, so, so terrified of that, so frozen in the clutches of denial, struggling so hard to not see it for what it is, so willing to lie to themselves and everyone around them in order to deny the existence of the problem that they are risking my FIL's life in order to do so by not seeking immediate testing, diagnosis, treatment, solutions. I'm super proud of my DH and SIL for spearheading this drive to name the darkness, though they're scared as fuck, too. They're choosing not to hide from it or to make up stories to deflect reality or hide behind denial like they were taught to do, and I couldn't be happier for them.
What a cluster fuck.
This blog is about my deciding to carry the rocks that have my name on them. I'm in the middle of the process of determining which rocks in this pile are mine to carry and of deciding which grindstone to throw the considerable weight of my support and will to. It's going to take a lot of strength and thought.
It's going to take a lot of honesty.
I guess I'll just spend some time thanking my allegedly Mormon gawd that I've got honesty in spades.