Where Did it All Go Wrong? Dear Sister, Part 1.

Dear Sister,

Where did it all go wrong? I cannot remember most of my early childhood nor can I find any early memories of the two of us. Photographs show a forgotten love. I cannot say that we were ever close. I cannot even say that I have ever felt a natural bond with you. How sad, for both of us. Perhaps our parents were to blame. Any time I wanted to talk to you, communicate with you, I was stopped. They intervened.

“Don’t upset your sister,” they would say.

What could a seven year old have ever said to upset you? I was a child who did not understand depression. No one sat me down and explained it. I was just left to second guess every action and every word I spoke. That is cruel. In the past, when I mentioned it to the two of them, both have become defensive. Both have denied any wrong doing and I berate them for that. As a parent to be and a parent yourself. surely one is able to admit that they are not perfect. There are and will be times we will fail. It is what makes us human.

My only childhood memory of you that stands out is a sweet moment of sibling protection.

I have made it clear in this blog that there was a time where my mother was not the person she is now. Looking back, she was a very frightening woman. In a flash of rage and disappointment (for reasons I cannot remember) our mother launched at me one day. It was not the first time she had been violent. Smacking happens all around the world and I understand that in certain circumstances it may be necessary but I cannot advocate slapping a five year old child on any part of their body. At that age, a time out should be used or at very least your words. I remember running from her and finding you on the sofa. I jumped on you in tears, scared to the bone, calling your name. She was storming towards us as I huddled and cuddled myself into you. She was on one mission only, for me to learn my lesson. Her flat palm took a large swing and her aim for my bare thigh was on target. With force she let go. I screamed anticipating the pain but before I knew it, you had shielded the beast with a cushion. There was no pain. My tears were staining your shirt, I closed my eyes knowing that she would not be happy. She yelled at you but you just yelled back. She wouldn’t fight you. She never has. You won. I won. You saved me.

I never felt that love again.

What went wrong? At what point did you stop loving me? I never stopped. I looked up to my older sister but I was an embarrassment to you. You only sought my mother’s approval and when you achieved it, I was of little point. As a teenager you distanced yourself. Academics and grades were more important and the small glimpses of fun you did enjoy were not shared with me. Yes, as an older sister, I do understand that having a nagging eight year old wanting your constant attention would be off-putting but I wasn’t a stranger off the street, I was your only sister!

I was no doubt confused the time you requested I stay with you for a weekend at University. To me, it made no sense but my happiness that my sister finally wanted to spend time with me was too much to question your reasons. I cannot remember that weekend. For a while, I thought I had imagined it. Only recently did my mother confirm it really took place.

After that, well nothing.

I felt completely apart from you. The only information I got was from my mother and she was not forthcoming with positive news. I was only to hear negative. It only created a further barrier between us.

How could the two of you ever ask or expect me to live with you instead of my father? You were not the better choice. Neither of you made me feel a part of YOUR family. I wasn’t. I was an outsider in the private, secretive world you had created. You were both so confusing, frightening. Your emotions and anger were raw and your hate for my father was so magnified. I couldn’t live with that. I loved him.

I loved you too. Both of you.

But love was used as a bargaining tool, how many times was I subjected to,

“Well, if you really loved us then……..”

Is that fair? As a parent and a sister tell me, is it?

Is this the point it went wrong for us?

If it is and you cannot forgive me then why on earth did you forgive him?! I have seen and heard of what he did to you. Yet, in his final years, you put that behind you. You forgave him for his torturous behaviour and allowed him into your life.

Explain yourself!*

 

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.

*Part 2 to follow.

Proof of Love.

Showering of gifts

filter on through 

proving your love

in ridiculous ways

Drenched in luxury

soaked in hurt

proving your love

means no control

Downpours of decadence

wash over me

proving your love

showing your power

Floods of extravagance

fearing your rule

proving your love

wasted on me

Tsunami of treats

backed into corners

proving your love

cannot be tempted

Submerged in gluttony

a callous mistake

proving your love

proving my hate.

 

The cost of kindness.

I sometimes forget all the things that are free in this world. Kindness is one of them. After being sent a link on Facebook, (35 pictures to prove there is some good in this world) it made me think about how easy it is to take such a basic emotion for granted.

When living with my abuser, kindness was almost forbidden – certainly on his part and especially towards me. His exterior often portrayed a kind and generous man but behind closed doors was a different matter. I ached for an ounce of kindness from him. I wanted him to be gentle and thoughtful with me, to be considerate of my feelings and character. I longed for him to empathise with me and have compassion. These are characteristics that he would have certainly classed himself as having as he did not see himself as ever being without these traits. Many would agree that my father was a thoughtful man but they only saw what he wanted them to.

I will never forget this memory.

One summer evening after a shopping trip, my father was driving us home. It had been a bad visit to the supermarket and we had spent the majority of the journey arguing in the car as we drove back. It was a stupid and dangerous thing to partake in. Arguing while he was driving was my worst place to fight as I never could trust what kind of risks he would take. He was happy to risk our lives and leave me fearing for my life. I cannot remember the subject of our row only that he was attempting to drill in his point. It wasn’t so much of a two way argument; more of a barrage of anger from his end. I had done the unthinkable and spoken back to him. His questions were NOT to be answered. Silly me for forgetting.

I began to feel claustrophobic and tried to avert my eyes from his powerful gaze. Even as he drove he was still finding a way to bury his burning glare into my soul. As my eyes darted from window to window, something caught a hold of my attention. The car slowly pulled up to a bit of traffic as I focussed in on a man lying face down on the ground at a bus stop ahead of us. The day was fading into night and the sunlight had now disappeared into the distance. My father was still continuing his tirade at me but by now, my concentration was fully placed on the stranger.

As we slowly approached the man, I dared to interrupt my father. I could feel his shock and momentary build up of rage. Once again, I interrupted his flow and as I was too frightened to speak in fear of him screaming, I just pointed. I pointed to the lonely man lying face down on the floor.

“Ignore it,” my abuser muttered as he keep his eyes ahead of him.

His comment immediately broke my gaze.

“What?”

“Ignore. It.” He repeated defiantly.

I couldn’t ignore it. I couldn’t fathom his own ignorance. I was horrified.

“There’s a man over there. Pull over.”

“Did you not hear me the first time Babitago?! IGNORE IT!” He shouted violently and slammed his hands on the wheel.

I lost it.

I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I was not that kind of a person.

“He could be dead!” I screamed. “Pull over! We need to call an ambulance!”

“You are a insolent moron! Evil! Disgusting! What is wrong with you? You have no respect for me!”

“This isn’t about you!”

My final comment was enough for my father to release his fury. He let out an almighty roar and I practically jumped out of my seat. The traffic had subsided and he gradually began to pick up speed. I had unleashed his inner monster and it was not about to go into hiding. I turned to see the stranger still on the ground. His lifeless body waited to be found yet no one stopped to help. I wanted to show some kindness, to reach out, to help in some way but the demon beside me was preventing it. He had total control and even when we returned home he made it very clear that I was not to follow through with my plans. Even suggesting anonymously ringing for an ambulance was useless. He wanted nothing to do with it. To him, it was a problem and someone else’s for that matter. That man could have been dying and it did not matter.

I was subjected to an hours worth of abuse and insult when we were hidden behind closed doors. My father reprimanded my concern instead of praising my worry.

I was ashamed to be his daughter.

I never knew what happened to that man.

Self-help hater.

I confess it. I am a self-help hater. I have never been a fan of being given “advice” on how to be a better me. I prefer to analyse myself and be the one who gives the guidance. It stems from my father’s love of self-help books (a point I have blogged about previously). He needed instruction on how to live his life, without these books’ direction, he would not have been able to make decisions or create values. They were fundamental to who he was and detrimental to the power he possessed. It was a source of control. He used the messages in these books to dictate and order me around, to degrade my life choices and look down his nose at me. He would see it as “knowledge”. I can’t tell you how many clichés he threw at me. His favourite was “knowledge is power”. I read. Just not enough and I certainly did not read the books he was recommending. I did not want to “improve” myself. As a young adult, I was only discovering who I was. He hated that and attempted to crush and contain any self-exploration that I tried to seek.

It’s not that I am unwilling to look deeper into the depths of my character; I am. I just want to do it on my terms. I have sought out help before but through a legitimate path by seeing a counsellor. She gave me questions and ideas to think about so that I could journey through the past and present consciously to improve and develop my future.

Self-help books and ideas aid many people. I can understand that. However, I choose not to follow my life by what someone else is telling me to do.

Today, I was subjected to a little self-help. In a discussion, comments were made about regret. Someone noted a quote that spoke of how we tend to regret the things we haven’t done and not the things we have. True. Sometimes. This is a very general and broad statement. One that many people seemed to agree with. I can’t.

I don’t totally disagree of course, but life isn’t that black and white. Some of my biggest regrets in life are the big choices I have made. The biggest regret being my foolish decision to live with my father aged sixteen. The choice that upturned and capsized my life. The choice that handed my abusive parent the reins to control and mentally torture me. I regret staying with him for so long. Twelve years! I regret not fighting sooner and accepting my pathetic life. I regret so much that I chose to do.

I am not a risk taker.

I can’t imagine doing some of the things I long to do. I believe in responsibilities. I am not frivolous. Perhaps that is a bad thing. Perhaps I should be more spontaneous. Except I hate surprises. In twenty years time, I am certain I will have regrets. Not huge, life-changing ones but ones where I should have taken that holiday to the Caribbean or treated myself to that expensive bag I had been lusting after. I do not mind those regrets, they are the regrets that keep us human.

Life cannot be so straightforward nor can it be peaceful and effortless at all times. I am not saying I want a depressing and bumpy journey! I just understand that shit happens and we need to be ready to face it when it comes our way.

I have many regrets, and I’m sure everyone does. The stupid things you do, you regret… if you have any sense, and if you don’t regret them, maybe you’re stupid.
Katharine Hepburn

Too right! How anyone can say they do not regret a choice they have made is beyond me. How an earth can you ever repent, learn or forgive?

The Pledge – 2014.

First things first: Happy New Year!

It is the first day of a brand new year. We all have a new path to follow, a clean slate, a time to build bridges, a chance to take more risks, we should embrace the opportunities before fear kicks in.

I am going to make a pledge. No resolutions. They don’t work. I can’t promise myself anything but I can aspire to be a better me. Aspiration and hope mesh together. It does not require constant monitoring or worry that you’ve betrayed yourself. Who needs that kind of anxiety? Instead, I am making a pledge of 10 hopes and aspirations for this year. 10 is an easy number to reach. It is not impossible but gives me time to fulfil them.

  1. Finish my autobiography – I began it in 2010 and it still remains the most difficult task to complete. Only because it requires me to draw up and remember the most torrid of memories, some so bad that I cannot even bring myself to blog about.
  2. Find an exercise I enjoy – I’m not a gym-goer, I’ve tried but I can’t seem to find any enjoyment in walking on a treadmill – alone, with dozens of fitness-mad people surrounding me. I’m not the greatest fan of the “outdoors”. I’m not a hiker, I hate the English weather. I haven’t tried Yoga, perhaps that’ll suit me more. I love dance. I run the school’s dance and musical theatre club at work each term so get a regular burst of exercise then. But I need to find something more consistent that I equally enjoy.
  3. Look in mirror again without fear – I need to like my reflection. I do not think this will be an easy task but if I want to overcome my BDD, this may be the only way.
  4. Take more courses – Last year I went on an Assertiveness course at City Lit in Central London. It is by far, the best thing that I did in 2013. I learnt so much, not only about myself but the way in which others treat me. I am due to take a tap-dancing workshop this month (yes hilarious! I have tap danced before though) so hopefully it will the start of many more.
  5. Say No – A follow up from my assertiveness course. It will be incredibly fulfilling if I can achieve this. It is time to put my needs first.
  6. Take a holiday – Surprisingly, this seems to be an impossible task. Money isn’t the issue; it’s time. Although I get regular breaks through the year (I work in a school), my husband cannot necessarily take the same amount off work as me. We will sort it out this year and take a much needed holiday together. Somewhere luxurious please!
  7. See my friends more – I have become a bit of a hermit. By accident more than anything. This year I must spend more time with friends. I miss them.
  8. Start writing to agents – It’s a beginning. A new one. I need to focus a little bit and have some direction. If I want something then I’m going to need to put in some work. I want to a writer. I better get on it.
  9. Celebrate my birthday – I didn’t last year. I went for a quiet dinner with my husband which resulted in a week off work with gastric flu. This year I will celebrate getting older. My life is worth celebrating.
  10. Believe in myself and what I can do – I must stay positive. I got through a lot worse all those years ago and I need to get my fight and drive back. With hope and a little confidence, I will look to the future with brighter eyes and an open heart. I am capable of many things.

Good luck with all your pledges. I hope you too set some achievable and reachable goals that make you happy.

Love Ros xx

Taking on other people’s problems.

Turning other peoples’ problems away is a big weakness of mine. It is a topic we discussed on the assertiveness course I recently took. Many of the other participants felt the same way. They too were inclined to carry other peoples’ weight on their shoulders. Even when the burden grew to be too much, the fear and anxiety of betraying them or appearing to be selfish would stop them in their tracks.

The sense of feeling needed or wanted can immerse someone with their own issues into much deeper problems. Taking on your friends’ and family’s problems and attempting to resolve their dilemmas are too much to bear. I took on my family’s issues from an early age. My sister and I have both been our parents’ confidante at some point in our lives. She once enjoyed her position so much but eventually realised how unhealthy the whole process was. My mother (the problem teller) never saw it that way. Why would she?

I have, in the past, become the inevitable: a shoulder to cry on for almost anybody around. The want to please and be accepted takes over and personal boundaries are automatically crossed. To be seen as dependable and reliable is the desire, to go against it would be like betraying myself.

However, I am human and no human can live a life like that.

The problem is that when you finally decide enough is enough and you want to please yourself from now on, the people you have been there for at their beck and call, well they don’t like the new you. They don’t like change and resentment begins to build. Questions form on how your existing relationship was originally defined. How did you so easily accept the role of adviser and life coach?

The only life you should be coaching is your own.

If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.
Jim Rohn

Next Tuesday.

A week today will be one year since the beginning of my horrific ending between my relationship with my father. This summer will be gruelling as things are still quite raw and as much as I have escaped his hold, the result of his control and mental torture still lingers inside me. 

I will be blogging each moment of my journey last year on every day that led to the end.

I hope you will all continue to read and share my experience by my side.

This will be an emotional look back and challenging to relive the memories of last year. However, it is a journey I need to take.

July 1st 2012.

This date will forever stay in my mind.

After getting married at the end of May last year, the contact between my father and I had decreased. It was deliberate as I wanted to set firm rules in our relationship in place. The 30th of June had been my best friend’s hen party and I had stayed over at her house in Essex. Another friend had given me a ride back to London. My father and I had talked the previous weekend and I mentioned what was happening. He offered to pick me up from my friend’s flat in London as it was a distance from where I actually lived. I was wary. It wasn’t often that my father wanted to help me out especially without condition. I should have anticipated trouble but like a fool I accepted his offer. After all, it was rare to receive kindness and a part of me still longed for that from him.

On July 1st 2012, my father picked me up from my friend’s flat. I made sure I was ready for him, it was a mistake to ever keep that man waiting. It was a sweltering hot day and as well as having a rather large, self-inflicted hangover, I was also very tired. I was looking forward to getting home. As it was also a Sunday, I needed to get myself organised for work the following day.

In the car my father didn’t ask me about the party he rarely took any interest in what I did. However as soon as we had set off, the trouble began. On the previous day, when he dropped me to my friend’s flat, he had mentioned about a DVD he wanted to watch but was unsure of how to use the player. I had explained how to do it to him and assumed that was the end of it. After all, he had used the home DVD player many times before. On the return journey he mentioned his problem again. I asked him if I could roll down the window, the car was like an oven. He refused and went on to tell me how ill he was (he’d been suffering with COPD, a chronic pulmonary disease for several years) and that the air would ignite his cough. I cannot say I had any empathy for him, I had been his sounding board for his complaints and ailments my whole life, I knew it was time to switch off. It may sound ruthless and cold but all he ever did was complain about life and to stay positive with someone like that can be a struggle. I allowed him to rant but I rarely paid attention.

Of course I had my concerns. Even though he repulsed me in many ways, the sound of his coughing worried me. I am not made of stone. I asked if he was okay.

“What do you care?” was his pleasant response.

I remained silent, it made sense to.

As his coughing became progressively violent, I told him to take a sip of water. He laughed and replied,

“Be quiet if you have nothing useful to say!”

I was immediately scared. His voice had deepened and the volume had increased. I felt anxious and nauseous. I forgot how much he loved to attack me in the car. It was the perfect place – no escape.

“Before I drop you back, you are coming home with me to set up the DVD.” he stated.

I faced him. I did not want to go there. I spent most of my time avoiding going back there. I certainly did not want to be alone there with him. My silence began to annoy him.

“It won’t take long; just show me how to do it. It is very important that I watch this video, do you understand?”

I didn’t understand. There were other people he could ask. The old feelings of entrapment and suffocation began to appear. I could not breathe.

“Did you hear me? We’ll go home, you can sort that out and then I’ll take you for a nice lunch”.

Now it was lunch too! What next?

“Daddy……………” I began tensely, “I’m really tired, I’ve got a terrible headache. Can I give you the instructions over the phone when I get back, that way you can learn how to do it yourself?”

There was no easy way to say ‘No’. There was no certain way of saying it that would appease him. Of course, he was instantly infuriated by my ridiculous request and once again after several years, the car was the place for him to lose all patience with me and leave me fearing for my life.

“You do not want to do anything for anyone else! You are so selfish, so mean. I never want to speak to you again! I cannot believe you are my daughter!” he screamed.

Tears streamed down my cheeks uncontrollably. Nothing had changed, he was still the same man and I was foolish to believe otherwise. I rolled down my window ignoring his previous order and inhaled the cool air. As soon as we arrived at my apartment, I got out of the car, slammed the door and didn’t look back.

The next time we spoke would be the start of the journey that changed our lives altogether.