I promise I’ll pick up with the rest of the Seattle story once I feel better. I really got knocked down here by some kind of bug. I cycled through a high fever night before last, spent most of yesterday on the couch and dozing in and out of Netflix stopping for an intermission to get to the pharmacy before they closed in my pajamas and slippers and finally knocking out for about 14 hours.
I’m thankful for several things:
1. I went to the soup swap and have a freezer full of delicious homemade soup right now.
2. I had plans that were changeable for this weekend (regrettably but yes).
3. This did not hit me in Seattle.
4. Saggio’s healing sound meditation is tonite and if I feel up to driving out there, that would be very good for me to attend.
5. This thing has not landed in my lungs (I do not want to revisit pneumonia again).
Those are five off the top of my head right now.
But that’s not what I opened my laptop to write about this morning. While in my warm bath earlier, I started connecting the dots on two stories that arose yesterday. Both that made me mad, then sad. Over the same essential issue.
John and I were planning to head up to Sedona this weekend, I was planning to teach my dance class (tonite actually, bummer) and just take a little road trip to our beautiful home. I think he really needs it. In fact I’m going to call him after writing this suggesting he go up there anyway by himself. I think that entire experience would be good for him.
So he calls me to check on me in the morning as I’d told him the night before I wasn’t feeling well. He asked if we were still going and I told him “not today, maybe tomorrow” then inquired if I needed anything.
“Orange juice? Ice cream? Anything? I’m happy to bring you something”.
What a breath of fresh air as I’ve lived on my own with no family support close by for so long to have someone offer that to me is just so unfamiliar.
So naturally I declined.
Then I rethought it and called him back saying “actually I would like some orange juice and some rainbow sherbet”.
“Oh, ok” he said with kind of a disappointed tone. “Don’t you have some sherbet in your freezer right now?”
“No, no sherbet” I replied.
That’s when the dominoes of one of our childhood scars started falling. I felt it right there.
He phoned me back a few minutes later saying “you have some orange juice there in your refrigerator. I bought it when you were gone”.
That would have been a month ago.
“No, I don’t have any orange juice” “Ok, I’ll bring you some” he replied with the same disappointment.
John showed up, looking not so great himself, about an hour later with three grocery bags.
One containing a quart of orange juice. One containing the lunch he’d brought for himself. One containing, what he described, as rainbow sherbet he brought from home. “I already had some in my freezer so I brought it”.
I instantly felt sicker than I already felt as I opened that container and there was this soggy mess with about 1/4 in ice crystals all over the top. Rainbow sherbet that was probably a year old or more.
I was just instantly so mad. Rushing through my head were thoughts of “you actually went in to the store, bought this orange juice, managed to get your lunch and still had to nickel and dime me on this crappy sherbet”. I showed him this container, threw it in the sink, bleating “this is inedible, why did you even bring this to me John? I take care of you all the time and once, just once I’m sick and this is what you bring me”. I was pissed.
He looked dejected, sad. And just said, “do you want to share my lunch?“. I knew it was just that he was lonely and didn’t want to eat alone. But just once, ONCE, I was putting myself first because no, I didn’t want to eat that or any lunch. I wanted to go back to sleep. MY needs were trumping his after over a year of this intense caretaking, it’s about me today. And I said that to him after he asked “so are we going to Sedona today?”.
I’ve so been defined as being there for him, for others that it’s just damn disorienting when I can’t be. But it’s also a very lonely isolated place to be in and it’s hard to take care of yourself when you’re sick.
He needs to learn more about this, not sitting isolated on his island of mental illness but breaking out and caring for someone else.
I told him I needed to get back to sleep and he said “I’m sorry about the sherbet” and left. I laid down, then quickly second guessed myself. Instead of what I usually do, sit there wishing someone would get a clue and do the right thing (the thing I would do which would be remedy my mistake immediately) I got up, opened the door and called him back and said this.
“I need you to go back to the store and get me that sherbet”.
He quickly said “Oh ok, I will do that”.
And he did.
Mind you, the store is one block from me, two blocks from him. He has nothing else to do. This is a very easy task and one I wish he’d thought of on his own, but he didn’t. So I’m retraining him. Retraining myself.
After he dropped it off, I got up off the couch and hugged him apologizing for snapping at him and he apologized back. I just told him “we have to treat each other very well John, especially when we’re sick”. He said “oh, ok”.
It’s ok to ask for what I want.
But this business about offering then reneging or minimizing the offer is rooted in our whole lives of being instilled a comfort zone groveling at the bottom of a barrel. While there’s a whole feast sitting on the table untouched.
Later in the day, I popped out of my fever coma and started browsing online. I don’t know why or how or when but it had to do with clothes shopping and I remembered the whole concept of putting an item of clothing “on hold” until you could come back to get it. I am very very familiar with this and this was a normal way of shopping for us when we were kids. Not layaway but “on hold”. Some stores would hold it until the end of the day, some til the next day. But if you returned, they’d have it for behind the counter.
Why were we always putting things on hold back then? I wondered.
Then I remembered.
As part of Marj’s Behavior Modification Program (aka her style of “parenting”), she instituted clothes shopping budgeting for us. Which involved us, starting at around age 12 for me, submitting a budget for clothes for the school year. It was in writing, in a particular format she prescribed, then we would submit it for approval. I think we had something like $300 for the year but had to spend it wisely.
We would put “Sweater, $10” under one category and so on.
Once our budgets were approved, we, on our own, went out shopping. We would take the bus, ride our bikes or walk to the store and find articles of clothing, place them on hold, come back and submit this article as part of the budget, get the money to pay for it, then go back and purchase it. Yes, meaning we would get back on the bus or our bikes go back the mile or so to the store and buy that $10 sweater.
This was how we purchased our school clothes once she arrived in our home.
I was in grade school doing this.
I remember hearing of great outings my friends took with their mothers, fun outings, to stores out of town, making a day of it. Finding fun outlets, going out to lunch, getting their new fashions for school as a fun tradition for both of them. Bonding. Most of my friends did this with their mothers. I remember stories of big malls in Chicago, the outlets in a nearby small town, etc. I imagine the mothers looked forward to this ritual all year long, creating memories and stories they tell to this day. I had no friends who had the budget plan going on.
All I can say is I’m lucky I had my sister to do this with. But our bonding was riding the bus or our bikes, finding the clearance racks, the best deals we could find, presenting them with “oh I found this 70% off” to oohs and ahhs and aren’t you so clever? responses.
The one shopping trip I do remember Marj taking me on was to buy my first bra while in the 5th grade. And she took me to K Mart and directed me to the sale rack. She didn’t take Cindy as I’d “developed” before her which, considering she was a year older, was humiliating to her. But that wouldn’t have been prudent would it? Wasteful is what that would have been.
We were trained very early on to know we would be valued if we found the best value out there. We would receive the highest praise for the cheapest thing we could find. We were be held in scorn if we ever, for any reason, considered purchasing something not on sale. We were trained, highly trained, in devaluing ourselves.
I’m sure any of you readers raised by Depression era parents can relate. They were still living in that era yet it was the 70’s.
What was mostly confusing about all of this was we came from a family where there was money. We knew this. We didn’t know how much but we knew there was lots of money.
Yet we were being raised to live like we were scraping the bottom of the barrel for every thing we got.
What that translated to, to me, as an adult has a lot to do with the amount I value myself, my very self worth.
Because it wasn’t just yearly school clothes. This came through in a variety of ways.
Of course I grew up to be a woman who’s attracted man after man who devalue me and I don’t see it coming or happening. I’ve been working on this one for decades and still have a way to go. This issue has raised it’s ugly, cheap ass head in almost every area of my life.
There’s a lot more to say about this but you get the gist.
So me asking my brother to go back and finish what he offered and get me that sherbet was healing for both of us. We don’t devalue ourselves anymore, at least not in my house.
His offering something, then becoming somewhat stunted or maybe even panicked to actually give it is a very old phantom and one I understand.
Recently John and I were talking about his nickname Alfonse and he said “Cindy never called me that as much as you did. She always called me ‘Big M’ “. And that’s true, it’s what she called him much of the time. Big M stood for Big Miser. And she said that lovingly. We all joked about it.
John coped by going that direction, over withholding. I went the over giving route. Cindy was definitely on the train I was on too. It’s all just different manifestations of the same trauma.
Those ghosts need to move on.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love a good value like anyone else. You can see that in the way way I travel. I look for deals all the time. Yet I WILL look for a deal for a 5 star hotel vs just stay in a Motel Six like my father. In fact, I’ve gotten deals for that kind of upscale accommodation that would rival a cheap place like that in terms of what I actually pay. I’m clever like that. But I still have worked myself up to those 5 stars and appreciating them. Appreciating myself. My worth. What I feel I deserve.
Last year I spent much of the year working full time, supporting myself, supporting the Alexander family through various means during that trial, supporting my brother through three hospitalizations and finally, finally in the summer I asked for financial help from my father. Knowing it’s there. I mean we would have paid and are paying someone now to do the job I did, while working another full time job and managing my business, for over a year. It took me a very long time to figure that out. Again, I’m expected to handle it all. Very little is ever really offered.
When the family’s financial guy Sam and I spoke once about making this happen he asked “what took you so long to ask for this Kathy?”.
That brings tears to my eyes right now thinking of it.
Because I was so well groomed to think I was deserving of little more than working my ass off and buying off the clearance rack. While coming from a family of considerable wealth.
There I said it. I said it out loud.
I’m talking a lot about these things now with my therapist. She’s giving me challenges and I’m semi succeeding. I’m making some strides even if they are baby steps.
It’s just a fact, when your self esteem has been damaged, severely wounded in early life, you just have to set about repairing it and it takes time.
And I’m taking my brother right along with me because dammit, it’s never too late to have a happy (and abundant) childhood.
Now my hands are shaking again so I’m headed back to bed. With a tall glass of orange juice and some homemade soup.