The Hamster Wheel

In biblical times, rivalry between siblings resulted in, at the extreme, murder or being sold as slave to foreigners, or, at best, being shunned and cheated out of your birthright. I suppose it’s good to know the majority of us with problematic relationships with a sibling have evolved to the level where we simply inflict psychological and psychic torment on each other. It’s a matter of the knife in the back being more metaphorical than actual, but it’s every bit as sharp.

My problem sibling is an old sister with whom I’ve never enjoyed a close or stable relationship. We fought as kids, we fought as teenagers, we fought as young adults, and, while we don’t physically hit each other any longer (maybe just because we live in different cities), we still manage to locate those sore spots in each other like radar and poke each other even now in our 60’s.

Rivalry is the end result of parental favoritism or, as in our case, parental withdrawal, where the need for love, attention and approval is made stronger because it is always elusive. As the second born, I came into a home as the interloper who would steal the love, attention and approval that was in short supply already, and, what there was of it already belonged to my sister. Of course, she would hate me. She would go on to perpetrate her hate by terrorizing and humiliating me to the extent that I ran away from home a number of times as a kid and finally, for good, at 17. But the trauma is still there. Although we’ve both gone on to make lives for ourselves, I think her guilt and shame and my anger and mistrust continue to dog us.

Maybe you have a similar situation. Maybe you had a mother who, on her deathbed, made you swear you would get along with your sister. And maybe, like me, you haven’t found that sweet spot between complete estrangement and a maintainable cordiality that you can live with. It’s something with which I struggle.

I do know this: I no longer have the energy or the time left in my life to running on the hamster wheel that is this relationship. The continuing make up, break up, make up, break up, ad nauseum is more drama than I want in my life, and carrying anger and mistrust is exhausting and toxic. I want to lift it off my shoulders, lay it down, and leave it behind. The trouble is, she is my sister. We are stuck in a pattern of behavior forged in history. It takes two to change the behavior, doesn’t it?

She has already told me she is not open to discussing the past, that she wants to start “right here, right now.” Convenient, but by not acknowledging our history, it remains the elephant in the room and the relationship isn’t really healed. I understand her, and I understand her desire to dismiss our past. I’ve tried to see our relationship through her eyes.

I think about the survivors and family members of the horrible Charleston church shooting, many of whom were able to forgive the killer in order to move forward with their own healing. What do they know that I don’t? Forgiveness is the agent of healing. I am working on forgiving the hurt of the past even though the perpetrator cannot offer or show any remorse or accountability. I might get there in time. But I don’t know, even if I find forgiveness, what a relationship with her might look like or even if a relationship is possible. Perhaps the best I can hope for is that it won’t matter so much.

What do you think?

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Hello, It’s Me.

(Blows kiss to the audience and steps up to the microphone) 

I know everyone says they are so surprised when they win an award like this (gestures to small statuette in hand), but, let’s be honest — I was truly the front runner in this category this year.  Actually for the past five years, but who’s counting? (Fakes a humble laugh).  To be named The Laziest Blogger On WordPress is truly an honor, and I’m so grateful to the academy for even remembering that my blog is still here after five years of inactivity.  (The play off music begins) Well, there’s so much for us to catch up on, and now that I’ve deleted my Facebook account (yeah, a little late on that), I return to the blogosphere, where, as we all know, only the best people are found.  I love you all.  💋💋

Where There’s A Willow, There’s A Way

                                                                                 How Could You??

The puppy is now about a year and half old.  She has come a long way from berserk. four pound sheep hunter to wily, seventeen pound combination persistent nuisance to all things and loving, loyal member of our home pack.  She still has miles to go before we all sleep well, but the girl is on a good path.

I know a lot more now than I did “B.W.” (Before Willow).  My two other Jack Russells lulled me into a smug sense of security that time and training would produce a calm, stable, companionable dog in a year.  Willow has dispelled any notion I had that nurture can override nature, sort of like the false security you have that your software will protect you against Heartbleed or some other such insidious virus.  She has a prey drive second only to a hyena with the scream to match, and only another piece of prey can pull off one scent to another. There’s yet to be a cookie invented that can compete with a chattering chipmunk. Perhaps if I rolled myself in raw meat, I might have greater appeal to her, but I have this image in my mind of being taken down by coyotes or bears, or at least every other dog in the neighborhood save mine.

Her recall is spotty.  I don’t chase her any longer.  Long gone are the days when she would take off through out rural area, this mostly small white streak, with me in pursuit (usually in my bed slippers), through horse pastures, cow pastures, pig sties, and chicken coops.  If she leaves the farm perimeter (which is, admittedly, less often) for far-flung fields, that’s her choice.  It isn’t that I don’t care or that I don’t worry:  I’ve simply learned that the less I holler for her and simply take Martha and Gus inside or continue playing with them, the game is over.  She can’t stand not being the center of attention and comes back of her own accord out of curiosity about what she may be missing.  Like the new raw food treats.

She’s also taught me you can put everything you’ve got into a dog, but the dog has to want to meet you halfway.  A  dog makes choices, good and not so good.  Sometimes, you just have to wait until the brain is more mature and just hope the dog survives its less stellar choices.  Willow isn’t Gus, who walks at heel through the forest off leash, looks up for permission to chase a squirrel, and, now that he has the Tasmanian Devil as a little sister, has the patience of Job.  Martha, blissfully deaf and much less patient with Willow’s antics, snarls.  Any resemblance to my own human family life is purely coincidental.  Or maybe not.

I am hoping one day, in our dotage, to be glad after all that I brought her home.  I want to look back and, like labor, not really remember how the early days of our lives drove me to the brink of psychosis.  I want to be able to buy good sheets again without resigning myself to the holes that will be chewed in them.  And I would like to answer the front door like a normal person, not hiding behind the tiny crack like a hoarder, with dogs snapping at my heels to charge the unseen intruder.  I’m certain at this point, we’ve been removed from the Jehovah’s Witness visitors list, and I must admit, I miss having someone to talk to occasionally.

The Pride Of Frankenstein

My mom died.

I needed to step away from everything after my mom’s death.  I don’t have to explain that to any of you who have lost your parents at any age.  All the times I pleaded with them to “just leave me alone.”  Now they have.

I needed to step away from the blog and writing and try to find a voice in images.

So, I did.  Or I tried.

And I picked up my camera, went to the Wyoming Badlands for a bit this summer and photographed cowboys and horses (and cowgirls).

Wyoming.  The ranch life, the Badlands, the landlocked cocoon of the wide open, windy spaces took me outside of my life.  I felt invigorated and refreshed.  I got up before dawn to shoot sunrises on an incredibly different landscape and stayed up to learn how to photograph star trails.

This Is What I Did Last Summer Report (the short version).

8 Seconds

and

kate

and

Spencer

And dozens more.  I had a great time and met some fine people.  I didn’t want to come home.

I didn’t want to come home because I knew I have to face the fact that home isn’t home any longer.  That it never really has been.  That I have a lot of to-the-bone truths to work out, including the fact that no matter where I go next, I will be taking myself with me.  How dreadful.

Wouldn’t it just be brilliant if Dr. Frankenstein (that’s Franken-STEEN) had perfected his art, and you could have elective surgery to replace your funky brain that misfires with a better one that was more optimistic and talented, less turbulent and prone to bad thoughts?  And, if it’s not asking too much, maybe a little off around the middle-age waistline and a boob lift?

That would be work in which the good Doc could take pride.  I wonder if that might be covered under my ObamaRama Plan?

The Following

No, not the creepy tv show starring Kevin Bacon (although I know people who know people who are cousins with him twice removed).

I’m talking about the abundance of emails I get advising me that someone with a “blog” of some sort is following me. Even on days when my stats show not one view on my site. Even in the month I took off from blogging to attend to my mother’s death, AND my stats showed almost no activity. No views and no reads.

And there’s something else fishy about these new followers — they are either posting one or two posts with only links selling weird things from foreign countries or, when I click on their blog site, nothing appears.

Is this happening to you?

Is this about

those pesky ads

at the bottom of our blogs?

Hey WordPress–what gives??

And In The End The Love You Take

If there is one truth that all parents must embrace sooner or later, it is that no matter how much they love their children they must learn to let them go. Eventually, children must learn the same thing. When a parent dies, children do not say goodbye as much as they release them.

On February 18th, we released our mother in the early morning, as the deep indigo sky released itself to rising dawn, and soft pink and yellow light streamed through half open blinds into her hospice room, across the blanket that covered her, and quietly bathed her still face with a diffused glow.

We released her from our continuing need for her love and confirmation. We released her from our ambivalence — of her successes and failures as a parent — and of knowing that the perfect parent could not exist, for no child could stand them nor get free from them. All parents hurt their children. We vow to not make the same mistakes with our children. But we do, or we make different ones. And hope they have the capacity to forgive us. The miracle is that, somewhere in the process of releasing our mother, forgiveness became reflexive; there was only love.

Her death was not easy. She suffered hallucinations, physical and psychic pain. It was nightmarish. Yet, there were quiet moments in which she knew we were loved ones, even if she may or may not have known we were her daughters. I think there was comfort in that.

Here’s the thing: the mother of whom you can say loved you unconditionally; gave you a sense of purpose and possibility in life; and showed you what it means to live faithfully, to age courageously, and to die at peace with herself, is all the mother any child could hope for.

We had that mother.

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However Long The Night…

Eglon Beach Sunrise 2

I admit that I have been cycling downward for a while. Up, down, up, down, and occasionally, there is middle ground. When I’m in an upswing, I tend to get a lot done, or at least I start a lot of projects. Like three-quarter sleeves, however, I never quite make it all the way down to the wrist before the energy dissipates. When I’m on a downward trajectory, there isn’t much I can do but hunker down and ride it out. Because this is what I know — everything is fluid. Happiness, sadness, come and go like tides.

You don’t fight the beast nor do you give in to it. You meet it. And know it is impermanent. There is an African saying: “However long the night, there will be another dawn.”

I was there for this one.