Tuesday, 3 April 2007

The hornet's nest

I don’t think anger is useful in the long term. I have heard the phrase, “anger is like cancer”, but I rather think that CANCER is materialised anger and other negative emotions; albeit deep-seeded, old, stale anger, and anger, which is no longer identifiable, justifiable or comprehendable, regarding its originating source.

I carry that kind of anger around in me. I wish I didn’t. I have tried to rid myself of it, run from it, avoid it, but try as I might, I can’t let it go and it worries me that this anger will manifest and take over my inner self; eat away at my internal organs, sabotage my efforts to move forward, and drain me of the life force.

Something happened three years ago.

My daughter was born, and two days after my release from hospital, my sister-in-law (SIL) called me. I had only seen her five days prior, when she, her boyfriend and my mother-in-law (MIL) visited me in the hospital. When they visited SIL looked withdrawn, dishevelled and unhappy, prompting me to ask if she were ok. She said she was.

Later, when SIL called, she was in a bit of a state. A woman from her church was with her. Apparently SIL had fled from her, allegedly abusive boyfriend, whom she had only recently moved in with. She tried to return home to her mother, but SIL was urged to sort it out with him. I listened to what SIL had to say. She was crying. She said she was afraid, and asked if she could stay with us for a while, since the boyfriend didn’t know our address. I should have said “No”…..

I know that doesn’t sound very compassionate, but seriously…I should have just said, “No. I understand this is a difficult time for you right now, but this is kind of a difficult time for us too - what with the new baby and all. I am sorry. I care about you, but I just can’t help you right now.”

If I had taken this line; been selfish; turned my back on family - this girl, I regarded as Sister, then I wouldn’t be feeling this rage right now – old rage; the type of rage that stirs occasionally, like a hornet’s nest that has just received a beating.

I won’t go into the particularities of the entire sordid story, but we were basically screwed over. SIL made some outlandish claims about the boyfriend; some that made my skin crawl, and I heard other things about this guy that, as a parent, were so frightening that I felt inclined to state very clearly to SIL and MIL, that this guy was, under no circumstances, welcome in our home or near our children.

While SIL was staying with us, we were bombarded by constant, lengthy calls from my MIL, sometimes till three in the morning, and then coupled calls from members of SIL’s church. MIL is not right in the head. I say this not out of disrespect, but fact. She has some undiagnosed psychiatric issues, and is an extremely manipulative person.

I used to excuse her behaviour, laugh it off, be offended by her insensitivity, and annoyed by her frustrating, self defeating antics for a day or so, but I used to get over it. During this time however, she crossed the line, and no matter how much I vent and rage, and spew forth the toxic outpourings of my soul concerning the crap we have endured because of this woman, I am left heaving, and feeling as though I have barely scraped the surface, when it comes to my anger toward her.

My Grandpa died while SIL was staying with us; just two weeks after my daughter was born. My Grandpa had suffered a lengthy battle with cancer – three years - but the final four months had taken their toll on my family and they were worn down, tired and even traumatised by his final weeks – they requested a small, private, “immediate family only” funeral for him…so SIL stayed home. Minutes after we had backed out of the driveway, on our way to my Grandpa’s funeral, SIL rang MIL. MIL suggested that she talk to the boyfriend, so while we were supposedly secretly harbouring SIL – at her request mind you- MIL gave out our phone number and address to the scary boyfriend, whom we have just been clued up on, and now believed to be an unstable, predatory psycho.

Apparently they met up and began plotting their reunion, which MIL knew all about; a process that strategically took place over the course of the next couple of weeks. We found this out months later, when MIL could bare the guilt concerning her part in the deception, no longer.

Despite SIL being an adult, and certainly not being forced to stay with us, SIL still felt it necessary to persist with the idea that she no longer wanted the boyfriend in her life, and had been abused by him. She had a cast of people running after her at this point in time: us, various crisis agencies, members of her church congregation and her friends – her best friend (BF) even offering her home to her - they were reportedly excited at the prospect of becoming house mates together.

When we dropped SIL off at her BF’s house, SIL thanked us for what we had done for her and seemed upbeat and hopeful. Nevertheless, I checked up on her regularly via phone, to make sure she was ok. After being really open with me at first, she became increasingly distant and secretive with each conversation, until finally I called one day, and her BF told me she had moved back home with her Mum, and it was back on with the boyfriend.

The news disappointed me, but I was not surprised. I think the average number of times a partner leaves an abusive situation before finally leaving forever, is seven. So I let it go, it was her life, and that was that.

It was only later that I learnt all this other stuff – the MIL inspired meeting and pressure for SIL to reunite with the boyfriend. MIL even telling SIL that HE was her only chance of marriage – she was only 23 at the time. MIL decided to defend the boyfriend for reasons beyond my comprehension, “I am the only one who understands him”, she creepily swooned.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, SIL told people that she made up all that crap about The Boyfriend because she “just needed a break” (gee, thanks). Then she changed her story to say that the church made up lies about her boyfriend (why would they want to do that?). Now no one is really straight with us on this one, but the Boyfriend (now SIL’s husband and father of one, and one on the way) has been demanding, for a couple of years now, an apology from us. I have no idea what we are supposed to have done to warrant such a request; so far we have not obliged.

MIL once took the stand that she wouldn’t be visiting us until we apologised to him, accepted him into our home and played happy families, because she “just didn’t feel comfortable around us anymore”. I told her she “had no right to make such demands regarding who we welcomed into our own home” …among other things. But she held out for five months, basically missing out on seeing the kids all that time. It really hurt us to think that she was prepared to emotionally blackmail us and reject mere babes, in order to get her way.

Every time we have spoken to her over the past three years, whether it be in person; alone or with company, or over the phone, she has brought up the SIL and boyfriend incident. Frankly, Ashley and I are sick to DEATH over it. We don’t want to hear another word about it, and were pretty comfortable with the idea of never seeing any of them again…so, all in all I was glad to leave all that shit behind and move overseas – not that they were the reason for us leaving.

Then at the end of November last year, I received a letter from SIL. She apologised for what happened and said she wanted to make amends, but still claimed that the church made up all that tripe about the boyfriend, in an attempt to break them up (again, what for?).

I was actually happy to get SIL’s letter and wrote back expressing as much, but relating my confusion about the church thing, not declaring her claims as deluded BS but instead saying that church must be filled with nutters to do something like that –subtler words to that effect, of course (LOL). Then I expressed a willingness and want to start over with the boyfriend come husband. I sent that letter, thinking I had created a sensitively written response.

MIL informed us that the letter didn’t go down too well. Apparently I was an asshole for even responding to those aspects of the letter. I should have just nodded with a blank, glaze-eyed stare, and bowed down before them for even acknowledging my existence and cried “all is forgiven, I am at your mercy! Please forgive me. I am the Devil”. Anger boiled in me at this news, and they all basically got the “screw you” line, although they couldn’t hear me in Canada.

Over the course of the last 5 or so months, the undiffused anger settled to the bottom of my inner tank, waiting to be stirred up again.

I received another letter from SIL today. In it, SIL told me she “needed to forgive me” - blood boiling point number one. Then she said the boyfriend come husband was still very angry about how the church had treated him, and was still requiring an apology from ME – I have never even been to, nor associated with that damn church in any way shape or form. The hornet’s nest has now been beaten to a dusty pulp. The hornets are banging furiously against the inside of my rib cage – I can feel them. I am so angry that I feel like writing a letter back to them, simply advising them to “go to hell” - don't worry, I won't.

As I said at the start of this lengthy post, I am carrying this anger that never completely goes away, but rather smolders for a time, like hot coals under a charred piece of tree stump. The wind only need pick up momentarily, and the entire forest might suddenly be set ablaze.

I can't handle this anger in me anymore, but I don’t know how to let it go.


Scotty said...

Hiya strauss,
as a firefighter, I can understand the analogy of the wind and the forest and the blaze waiting to happen. Here's hoping that some metaphorical rain happens soon...

Susan Abraham said...

Hi Strauss,

That letter did it for you, didn't it. In a way, it's good that it's all come out into the open.
It sounded like you had a lot to take on with the birth of your baby.

I wonder if the church is a Pentecostal one. I have been there before you see.Their teachings on Christianity are strange to outsiders and they do practice the notion that because Christ preached forgiveness, they have to follow the same route but these are sometimes conducted in strange ways.
I mean it's normal for an individual to really do something nasty or weird and then months or years later, you get letters from them asking for forgiviness.
She may have changed and realised how she may hurt you before. Her boyfriend could have changed too. There is a chance you may find them completely different people. I do believe that her letter on forgiveness may be her way of closure and receiving peace from an otherwise, stirring conscience.

Take care now. :-)

Kimberly said...

I don't have any advice to offer, because I'd be feeling the exact same anger as you had I been put through all that. The woman lied to you and you're supposed to apologize for believing her is what it sounds like to me.

Anger and hatred are poisons though, and forgiveness is the only way to expel them. As to how to go about forgiving, I've no earthly idea. ~sigh~

Kathleen said...

Well.....I certainly hope you feel better for the telling of it. Perhaps, like me, you can find a bit of purging in writing down what's been eating at you for so long.
Harboring all that anger inside of you is not a good thing. You don't need me to confirm that for you. It's not doing a thing to change those people you're angry at, and it's doing a lot to YOUR life...none of it good. Try, try, try to let it go. Don't read their mail...use it to start fires, or return in unopened. I know it's complicated when it's hubby's family, but apparently he's not happy with the situation either. Sucks!
But bottom line is, you are LETTING these people cause you pain in your life, and they are SO not worth that. I pray you can find a way to let it go.

Miscellaneous-Mum said...

Oh, wow, what a fix. Like you, I'd be so livid. This is not how a family dynamic should work. Mind, it does sound like SIL has serious issues, which you would have to take into consideration.

I don't know what else to say, except to hang in there.

strauss said...

Scotty - some metaphorical rain woudl be great, I have plenty of the real stuff over here, I hear you are need of it over there, what with the drought and all.
Susan - yep, way too much with a new baby as well. I nearly cried when SIL was dropped off to us and I was told to make sure I take good care of her, becasue she had been through so much. It is very possible that SIL and husband have changed, we'll see when we meet up next. MIL - unfortnately she is a differnt kettle of fish.
Kimberly - I really do have to let it go...I am trying.
Kathleen - I know I am letting them effect me when they appear to be having a grand ole time - this is why I am eager to let it go.
Misc Mum - there sure are issues abound. I have to stand firm against them, not be sucked into their every drama in attempt to "help".
Thanks everyone for gently listening to my vent, it has actually helped to get it out.

Tracey said...

I sat here with my mouth agape, shaking my head, when I read this, and I can understand what you mean about the anger inside. (And it's 'hurt' too, because you have been and still are basically being manipulated by them...)

Like the others I don't quite know what to suggest... Very tempting to suggest writing a letter back saying that you don't believe you did anything wrong except believe what she told you at the time, (and attempt to support her at what was a very difficult time in your own life, what with a new baby and all...)...
And suggest that if she needs to forgive you for believing her, if that is what will make her feel better, then whatever, go right ahead! 'Forgiving' is her action, not yours. (Heh.. maybe tell her you forgive her for using you, and telling you lies, and.. and...)

But I guess that's not the way to go!! Tearing any letters up and giving yourself permission to dismiss them as nutters! is probably the only way to go.

By unloading here and finding a range of unassociated people understanding YOU, you are also validating your gut feeling that you're not the crazy one here!

The only other thing would be to treat yourself to a counselling session so you can get it all off your chest. I once went to a counsellor when I was really upset about how a friend had been really insensitive during and after when I lost a baby during pregnancy. When I described her to the counsellor, the counsellor basically let me know that it was ok to 'move on' from people - that you don't have to 'like' them anymore even! Somehow that helped me let all the hurt and anger go... to not take it personally but to just shake my head and think 'she's just insensitive and self-centred - which isn't my problem!' (I did avoid her for many years then, but finally, in recent years, I've been able to catch up with her occasionally, with no gut-stirring hurt left within me. I know it's nothing as loopy as what in laws are doing to you (and I know harder to avoid family).. but maybe it might help!


jeanie said...

Oh Strauss - I know how it is to be unwittingly involved in someone else's drama.

My advice - a postcard, preferably free and ill-chosen, with a large "Get OVER yourselves" scrawled across it.

How dare they. I know, I know, victims of abuse and drama, but really - get a grip, folks. Its not everyone else's crap to deal with.

Marcia said...

I wrote you half a book just now, and erased it, now it may only be a page or two -- your responsibility as a human is first to yourself so you CAN be alive and healthy to help others, kind of like on the airplane putting your oxygen mask on first so you CAN help your children. Anger is supposed to be merely an expression of frustration, I had my own "relative hell" and it took me too many years to stop the vast majority of the anger. I think a lot of it is that unconsciously we want to help the world, each individual, we can shove that aside to a point, accepting that history has proven as individuals we can't, not really, but when it is someone we know, then the need or obligation to make it all right becomes something our unconscious refuses to ignore. I think once we get to that part of ourselves, whether through experience, counseling, or just plain thinking it out, we can readjust our subconscious to accept we can't do it all, that eliminates enough of the frustration that we can deal with the remaining frustration of not being able to change that person, because we can only guide, not force changes.

As important as family and some tolerance are, accepting constant upheaval caused by anyone cannot possibly be healthy, once you realize it is your right not to put up with it, another layer of frustration will go.

(I go by instinct, not by training,so take this as just my humble opinion. I feel for you, my situation was different, in some ways better, in some it felt worse.
It was not a happy ending in totality by any means. . . but time did help, partially because I was able to look inward and accept that everyone can't like everything I do anymore than I like everyone else, and I was able to emotionally disassociate from them. I hope with all my heart it gets better... And yes, I suppose it is obvious that it require venting, I guess I still am in my own way, just writing this. . . but it sure doesn't hurt the way it did.)