family encounters and dealing with difficulties
June 17, 2014 § Leave a comment
Brother1 stopped by for a short hello before heading out to the airport to fly east. It was nice to see him. I was happy to give him a hug. It was good that the visit was so short, because even in that brief instant I was triggered. My son was there and observed the entire visit. I am sure when I check in with him, he will not have noticed anything untoward in my brother’s demeanour with me. I’m sure a documentary video of the visit, even one that could capture micro-emotional expressions, would not pick up on any overt or covert words or actions that would convey a lack of caring or interest in me.
So that brings me back to the real issue, which is taking my focus off my bruised and battered family, and bringing it back to my own grounding, centring, and healing. When I am feeling overwhelmed or out of sorts the first thoughts that pop into my mind are clustered around the deficient relationships I have with my family of origin. I am able to imagine these relationships in new ways, which almost makes their current condition worse.
I know exactly when I tightened up during my visit with my brother. We were out on the sidewalk looking at our property (a work in progress) and I was showing him the modest progress we have made with the gardening. We were on the east side of the house, looking north, when I was caught by this sinking tightening feeling. All of a sudden I remembered that this was where I had last seen my brother.
Last year, a short time after my husband’s mother had passed away, my husband and I were outside working on preparing our post-renovation yard for new tenants to move in. We were struggling to erect a temporary bike shelter when we heard raucous laughter from up the street. My brother and two old family acquaintances (not my friends but friends of the family) came up to us, on their way to get dinner at a nearby restaurant. I didn’t even know my brother was on this coast, much less in the neighbourhood.
As they approached, they were making fun of us, of our attire, of our property, of our effort to put up a bike shelter. The entire experience was as if a flock of mean crows had flapped in overhead and perched on the telephone wires jeering at us as if it was some big joke. It was a horrible experience. We were freshly grieving the loss of our beloved mother and mother-in-law. We were in desperate financial shape after the renovation and working 7 days a week to get the suite ready for rental. I was burned out from an ongoing graduate degree which I now know was turning me into a victim of academic abuse. We were wholly exhausted and caught by surprise.
On a side note, our neighbours have been so encouraging and supportive of our efforts. We are used to having people pass by making kind remarks of appreciation for the work we are doing to improve this 1906 property.
Both my husband and I tried to respond but we were both blind-sided by the meanness of spirit disguised as being ‘funny’. I have never talked to my brother about this incident. In part because I have only talked to him, probably twice, in a year, and I cannot figure out how to bring up such a difficult incident when there is so little contact between us. I hate being the person who has to bring up the unpleasant experiences. I would rather not talk at all.
So, in that instant when I was standing there with my brother last evening, all those feelings came flooding back. I didn’t realize it then, I was just aware of the feeling of shrinking away from him. I don’t know if he even sensed what happened. I honestly don’t know how sensitive he is to these nuances.
I am committed to repairing these family relationships, but it is made all the more challenging when actual conversations are so few and far between. But the system is self-referential. Unpleasant experiences like that reinforce a lack of contact and communication. Lack of contact and communication reinforce the possibility of more unpleasant encounters because the initial events are never discussed and sorted out.
We put a new basement under our 1906 house, you can see the temporary bike shelter on the right hand side. It doesn’t really look that bad, I don’t think.