Family and mission impostible23 Dec 2013 04:58 pm

For over seven years, I’ve lived with small dread of accidentally writing the wrong name in an Anne Nahm email.   Many of the comments came in last week with my real name written in them.  Opening each and every one was like that dream where you fall, flailing armed and screaming to your certain death, only to wake at the very last moment, safe in your own bed.   It’s weird to let that longstanding pet terror go.

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My excommunicated relative emailed me, unsolicited and unwelcomed, this week.  Guess that is probably par for the course in situations like these.

It’s funny, because in the radio silence of not asking for anyone’s approval, I’ve been struggling.  A significant part of me wails daily like a colicky infant, terrorized by the sudden incommunicado.  Lack of external ‘You’re OK’ quickly becomes ‘You’re Not OK’ in the dark space of unanswered pleas.

I’ve been listening as “Am I OK?” slowly putrefies into “I am a bad kid. I am not OK at all.”  My internalized infant doesn’t give a flying fuck in regards to my own insistence that I am (or at least will be) OK.  What the hell do I know?  Most of me is, after all, clearly a big freaking freak-out baby.

What makes this funny is that this is the week I’d probably be most vulnerable to attack.  I mean, I’m miserable and I’m a day away from having to see the rest of my family face-to-face for the first time since the excommunication began.

This email (in my opinion) had a pretty direct aim to make me feel bad.  It had some other attempted hooks in it, such as apparently misunderstandings my motivations, the claim I’d hurt 3rd parties, and the threat/promise to permanently delete my email address (*sigh* one can only hope).

Thing was, I am in a place where someone could really rip me to shreds with self-doubt and guilt if they knew anything about me.  This letter didn’t hook me at all.

This excommunicated family member may have known me most of my life, but they don’t know anything about who I am, what motivates me, or where my vulnerabilities are.  They took a harsh, swinging attempt to injure and manipulate me, but their aim was so far off that the letter was practically a blessing.

It gave that quavering ‘Am I OK?’ question in me something to test itself against.  This letter (in my opinion) was all about how I was not OK.

Reading it, all I could do was smile and think, “Well, fuck all that noise.   Turns out, I’m totally OK with myself in this.”    And that OK has stuck.  The wake of silence after, of not having to answer that keening question anymore, is bring-me-to-tears grateful.

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Preparing for our upcoming reunion, I did spend time last night in my old habits – gathering up all the reasons I decided on excommunication in my mind, preparing to recite them to family members who might want to know why I had done what I’d done. In particular, I have been worried about the excommunicated member’s spouse, who is not technically excommunicated, but of whom I am obviously somewhat wary.

It’s like going to battle to remember all these points of fact to make a bullet proof argument, to convince someone else that I am appropriate in my decisions.  Is exhausting to keep them in my mind, ready to deploy if they should be needed.

Last night I realized that my NOT OK should be as valuable as my OK.  So I’m letting go of all those hurts and reasons for the excommunication.  I don’t have to keep them cataloged and remembered.  All I have to remember is that the excommunicated relative is NOT OK by my standards, and I don’t owe anyone an explanation or a play-by-play reasoning for my decision.

Here’s to hoping I can keep true to that ideal, as I head into this family gathering.  Happy Holidays, everybody.

 

13 Responses to “So I got that going for me, which is nice”

  1. on 23 Dec 2013 at 6:11 pm Liz

    OUTSTANDING. Brava. Wishing you fortitude and tranquility as you maintain your ideals during the gatherings. Happy Holidays to you, with oodles of non-stalkerish internet-transmitted love. <3

  2. on 23 Dec 2013 at 9:00 pm jill

    Yes, as I was reading, I was thinking “You don’t owe anyone an explanation.” Besides, they would just argue with you if you did explain it. So go, have a good time, and remember, less is more.

  3. on 23 Dec 2013 at 11:22 pm timberdawn

    And as I continue to repeat to myself – lots: You cannot have a rational conversation with an irrational person. Wishing you peaceful moments, the wisdom to notice them, and the delight in savoring them.

  4. on 24 Dec 2013 at 10:21 am Jennifer

    Wishing you peace and blessings. The holiday season is always a challenge. Best of luck.

  5. on 24 Dec 2013 at 5:57 pm Amanda B

    The only reason you need – is you. Period. Because you feel like it. Because your feelings are real, and they are valid, and you feel that way for a reason! Im so glad you ended this post the way you did, cuz i cannot even begin to express the anxiety i was having, wanting to shout from interwebz rooftops “BECAUSE!”

    Good for you!

  6. on 24 Dec 2013 at 7:01 pm Heather

    That is one GIGANTIC PILE OF HEALTHY THINKING.

    Go get ‘em.

  7. on 25 Dec 2013 at 4:14 am Meg

    I agree with everyone but particularly Heather. Go you.

    Having someone be an asshole to you in exactly the rightwrong way is an AWESOME Christmas present. Happy Christmas, you.

  8. on 25 Dec 2013 at 5:32 pm Jan Trembley

    What ANYONE thinks about you doesn’t matter. Take a nice slow program to losing weight — accept that it will take some time for your body to adjust to metabolism burgnigh levels. Just take it easy and take time. You go, Woman!

  9. on 25 Dec 2013 at 7:54 pm Gretchen

    I am pretty sure the Baby Jesus is very proud of you!

    Merry Christmas!!!

  10. on 25 Dec 2013 at 8:26 pm Flight Medic

    In New Mexico there’s a lovely tradition leading to Christmas Day re-enacting Joseph and Mary’s inability to find an inn. They are pilgrims, weary and She’s pregnant, and door after door is shut to the couple. (The crowd gets to yell at them to go away: children especially love this part). It reminds me how great gifts can come in the most trying circumstances.
    Best wishes for a peaceful day, and for a clear path in taking care of yourself.

  11. on 26 Dec 2013 at 1:30 pm wendy

    Good Job Anne! Because I am a huge dork right now reading Beautiful Creatures, I have to say way to go on claiming yourself.

  12. on 28 Dec 2013 at 11:38 pm bon

    Frig. I read this, and I sorta envy you the shedding of toxic relatives, what with the fun we’ve had with Christmas and the upcoming days of yet MORE familial joy.

    What a lovely gift you were given, that sweeping miss of a manipulation. I wonder though… how much is it that the excommunicated does not know you, and how much is it that they just don’t know the “you” that has grown up? The “you” that is saying “enough.”

    Not that it matters a ton, but it might matter some.

  13. on 09 Jan 2014 at 10:11 am Megan Dailey

    I lost track of myself and my favorite blogs for awhile.

    Recently, I decided to rediscover both. Catching up with The Adventures of Anne has been just what I needed.

    I am proud of you, of your Journey and of the great Coming Out. I look forward to re-acquainting myself with you and with You.

    I will now sign off before I Dramatically Capitalize again.