November 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
Yesterday I made arrangements to take one of my brothers, Brother2, out for an early brunch with our mother. Her birthday is today, November 1, but I knew I would be too busy to attend the event organized by my other siblings. Brother2 has been working with me after joining our company in early September. We have been forging a new relationship post mid-life apocalypse. It was a wonderful outing.
Brother2 has a fraternal twin, Brother3. I have never been particularly close to either of them as I was a few years older and second daughter. Brother2 and Brother3 were very close, a bonded pair, growing up. Their lives have their own narrative and trajectories of which I was never a part. It was only in 1996, when I came back to my home city after two decades away, that I reconnected with Brother2.
At that time he was in a very tough situation. He was renovating his house to accommodate a new baby, and build a rental suite to help with the mortgage. He was under a great deal of pressure, internally and externally, and he was coping by disappearing to drink at a local pub. Since that time I have seen him descend into the depths of alcoholism and witnessed the damage inflicted on his sons, my nephews, by his unexplained absences and intoxicated behaviour.
I was new to recovery in 1996 myself, and coping with my own challenges of learning to deal with my own co-dependence, anxiety and depression, as well as the devastation of a lifetime coping with PTSD, particularly on my own prospects for education, shelter and financial security. In the intervening years I admit that I have judged Brother2 harshly, and been unkind, at times, unsympathetic to his struggles, and his response to the challenges he faced.
In the last year, with both of us in the latter half of our fifth decade, we have both turned a corner, and now, due to happenstance, find ourselves working together to earn a living. I cannot describe the joy that attends being united with a family member. It is not that he is some perfectly impressive specimen of humanity. It is that I have been able to open up my heart to him, to his foibles, to his courage, to his persistence, and I have been able to suspend my judgement. In doing this, I have been able to interrupt my own inclination to micromanage, to be suspicious, to attempt to control that which cannot be controlled.
In order to adopt a new attitude and a new approach with my family members, I have been forced to confront the internal structures of logic and belief that perpetuated the same destructive judgemental values against myself. If I did not love myself, if I was not compassionate to my own struggles, if I did not forgive myself for past transgressions, I was not going to be able to extend the same to my brother. That has been the hard grief work that I have undertaken as I came to accept that my relationships with my immediate family were broken and they were not going to be repaired in a vacuum.
Yesterday I gave Brother2 an early birthday present, we went to the work wear house store and purchased him new construction grade rubber boots and leather boots. I had noticed he was lining his boots with plastic bags to keep his feet from getting wet. When I offered this early birthday present he accepted and we planned our outing. At the work wear house he gave me tips on which were the best rubber boots for construction, and I bought myself a pair, too, because the boots I had were not up to standard. As we left the store, Brother2 said, “You have no idea what this means to me.” I answered, “I am so grateful that you let me do this.” And we both wiped tears of joy from our eyes as we loaded ourselves back into the truck.
For me and my siblings, we were unmothered for different portions of our early childhood. For example, my older sister was seven years old when my youngest brother was born. My mother suffered from post partum depression that developed into paranoid schizophrenia. For my youngest brother, his entire life was conditioned by her mental and emotional absence. For my sister, her middle childhood was changed forever by the loss. My point is that we were each unmothered in our own ways, and we each coped with the reality in different ways.
The act of purchasing necessary footwear to contribute to our financial security and economic wellbeing, was a form of mothering. For me, it was a recovery of my ability to mother that I believed, at one point, to be forever damaged because of my failing to mother my own children. For my brother, it was a recovery of his ability to allow himself to be mothered, that he could trust me enough to allow himself to open up his vulnerability, that he could be loved and taken care of, that it would not be taken away.
After our shopping trip, we went and picked up our Mom, and took her out for her early 85th birthday brunch. It was another moment of profound recovery, as both my brother and I were able to accept our mother as she is, enjoy her presence as she is, and have a lovely meal together.
It is difficult to fathom the depths of meaning and significance these simple acts entail. Suffice to say, in the aftermath, a deep and pervading sense of calm prevails. Where the rest of the neighbourhood is recovering from sugar hang overs and hours of explosions last night, I am preparing to take my dog out for a walk and enjoy the wet, crisp air of the first of November.
I am a grateful recovering addict, if I had not undertaken this difficult and perilous journey I would not be where I am today. I thank my brother and mother, that we were all able to survive the turmoil of each our individual mental and emotional illness, and our collective wounding as a family.
Thank you for your toughness.