Confessions of a Children's Author

Friday, September 22, 2006

Hitting Bottom

Huh, I don't even know where to start. Things are bad, in a way I couldn't have imagined a year ago...actually, never mind a year, I couldn't have imagined this two months ago. Within the past month, I observed both my birthday and my mother's. I won't say "celebrated," because I was far from in a festive mood. For my birthday, my husband took me to Las Vegas, in large part to get out of town, away from being reminded that I wouldn't get a call or card from my mother, away from my in-laws' persistence (insistence?) that a birthday should always be celebrated among lots of people, whether the birthday person wishes that or not. Most of them called me--though they were more obligatory calls than anything else. One sister-in-law, from whom I haven't heard since before my mother's death, actually said "Oh, I haven't heard from you in so long!" as if I've been inconsiderate to not pick up a phone. I won't get into other particulars, mostly because I can already feel the knots forming in my stomach.

For Labor Day weekend, we took a trip up the Eastern side of California, stopping at Manzanar, Bodie Ghost Town, and other points of interest before arriving in Reno and Lake Tahoe for a few nights. The day after we got back, it was my mother's birthday. Much more emotionally difficult than my birthday, or even than I'd expected it to be. During this time, not a peep from my aunt. Then this week, unbeknownst to me, my husband decided to call her--not to mediate, but simply to ask her to please call me to discuss things, especially since it was so hurtful to not hear from her on days that were particularly meaningful and difficult. Well, apparently the call didn't go well--she went off on him, barely allowing him to get a word in, obviously unleashing the anger she feels towards me onto him. She told him that she didn't call me because she's giving me space to calm down and call HER to apologize. They hung up, but DH was bothered by her one-sidedness, so he called her back. She responded with "I don't need this anger in my life," and hung up on him. So, in her mind, she's allowed to bully me and make offensive comments (my brother was even more offended, so it wasn't just me), and if I tell her how I feel, in a thought-out, citing-specific-examples, no-name-calling letter to which she doesn't respond (so in theory I have no idea what she's specifically upset about), then I'm the one who's supposed to apologize.

I guess part of what's bothering me so much about it is that if she was so upset about my letter, why didn't she call to talk about it? Why is it easier to write me off--does she not care enough about her relationship with me to even discuss it and hopefully get past it eventually? I don't need people to totally understand what I'm going through (I have my bereavement group for that), but feeling out of the loop is what's hurting most. That, and the overwhelming desire to want to call my mother and say "Your sister is behaving like a teenager and desperately hurting me." Not that I'd even want my mother to step in for me, just that I want someone to know how much pain I'm in by being shunted aside.

Another thing that's not helping is that one of our cats may be sick. As in cancer. The vet is going to do an ultrasound next week "because I right now I can't rule out cancer," which are the exact words that my mother used when she told me there was a "shadow" on her x-ray. I've had this cat since she was 5 weeks old--she predates my husband, the apartment I'm living in now, and even some of my friends. I just don't know if I can handle her being sick right now. I had a little "talk" with her after my mother died--I said "Please stay healthy for at least a year." I know it's not up to the cat, but my God, I wish I could just catch a break lately. I really don't know how much more I can take, especially after what happened yesterday.

One of my sisters-in-law called yesterday afternoon. The sister-in-law with whom I probably have the closest relationship with, in that she's made plans with just me, we've gone out to lunch and shopping several times, and we've had what I thought were some heart-to-heart talks, something I really can't do with anyone else in the family. She had seen my husband at a family brunch last weekend (which I did not attend), and when he told her that I wasn't doing too well lately, she said she'd give me a call. Well, she did. Though not to make me feel better (though she may have thought in some twisted way that what she said would make me feel better). The gist of it was to tell me that I should make more of an attempt to be around the family to "try to cheer up for a little while," that even though her mother's increasing insistence on seeing me makes me feel more uncomfortable, I should just get together with her parents for a quick dinner or something because her "mother just really wants to see you", and the real kicker: when she told me that when she saw my husband at brunch and didn't think he looked very good, she said "I know that your 'situation' is probably having an effect on him, too, but I would hate to see that prevent you guys from coming to family things and just trying to be happy for an hour or two." My "situation" is that my mother died--excuse me for being SAD!!! And now it's my fault if my husband is sad??? (Maybe he was sad about something that had nothing to do with me!!) I replied that I have nothing to do with my husband attending things or not, that each situation is his own decision. So, basically I'm not allowed to be sad because it affects my husband and it may make him not want to attend family things??? My mother died 7 1/2 months ago--there's a reason that the traditional period of mourning is a year. Because you don't just "get over it". And if some days I'm sadder than others or I don't feel comfortable in large family situations (a "small" get-together in my in-laws' family is usually a minimum of 10 people), then that's MY business, isn't it??? If she called to say "I'm sorry you're upset but I don't know what to do," that would be fine. But she crossed a line, invading my personal space and my life by telling me how I should act and that what I'm doing is somehow wrong. I should see her parents because it would make her mother happy. I should be less sad because it would make my husband happy. I should come to family things becasue it would make everybody else happy. How, in any universe, is it okay to tell someone whose parent died that they should be focusing on making everyone else happy?!?!?!?!?! The insensitivity of that call is just...baffling, for lack of a better word.

I feel like I ended up at the bottom of a well, and the sides are steep and straight. I'm really not asking for anyone to help me out, or even throw me a rope--all I need right now is for someone to shout down encouraging words while I'm down there, so I don't feel quite so panicked.


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