You can’t get water from an empty well.
This is what a therapist told me in my twenties in regards to my relationship with my mother. She was right and yet I here I am in my late forties and I have yet to master that truth. Not with my mother, who passed on years ago, but with my sister.
In my last post I detailed the latest problems with my sister, and how I realized that I can’t fix the problems in our relationship all by myself because I didn’t create all those problems alone.
You would think that I would be relieved to learn that I am not responsible for every grievance my sister holds against me. In a way yes, I feel better. But in a way I don’t feel good about this at all.
Why? Because as long as I thought everything was my fault then I could hold onto the hope that I would be able to change things between us.
The truth is, just as the Serenity Prayer says, there are just some things that are out of my control.
I feel that 90% of our problems have to do with poor communication and jumping to conclusions about each other. But in her mind, when I say this I am making excuses, even when I am admitting that I have been guilty of that also. Because she believes that I am a bad person to the core and no amount of proof to the contrary will change that.
In the past several years it has become evident to me that she holds grudges about things that I could not have possibly known that she was upset about. While I realize that siblings are going to argue at times, I have decided that it is impossible for me to continue a relationship where I am under the gimlet gaze of someone who is looking to find fault with everything I do.
A couple of years ago, I asked for my sister’s help in picking up a prescription at Walmart. I happened to make a big mistake that day of taking an over-the-counter anti-histamine together with cogentin, a prescription medication. I usually try to keep track of possible medication interactions, but I dropped the ball on this one. When she came to pick me up I was in a confused state and I kept falling down as I was trying to walk. She dropped me off at the store and I did my grocery shopping and got my prescription. When I came out I put the groceries in her car, but when I went to put my cart away something really strange happened. I blacked out for a few seconds and when I came to I was just wandering in the parking lot with no idea of where I was or why I was there. My sister called out to me and I came to my senses.
I told my sister what had happened and she seemed to accept my explanation.
About a year later she attacked me for “taking advantage” of her. Not only did I not know what she was talking about but she didn’t give me much of a clue to even figure out what incident she was upset about. I had to guess.
According to her I “tricked” her because she only agreed to help me with my prescription, not a full shopping trip. I, on the other hand, had thought that I had brought up both things with her.
The most obvious explanation was that I was mentally impaired that day. She saw and acknowledged that I was in a bad state, and yet she still thought I had enough wits about me to deceive her?
The truth is that I was confused and not responsible for my actions. Also my sister had previously complained to our dad about me saying that I should only ask her for help if I was going to do a full shopping trip. She felt it was a waste of her time for me to go for just one item.
I guess the thing that irritates me that most people would look at that and think, “Wow she was acting really strange and out of character that day.” I am not in the habit of taking advantage of anyone, much less my sister and so I should have been given the benefit of the doubt.
The fact is that I was trying to do exactly what I thought my sister wanted.
I grew up with a mother who ascribed all sorts of bad intentions to my behavior that were not true. I think the nuttiest was when at the age of 16, when so many of my peers were doing drugs or getting pregnant, I wanted to learn to do my own laundry.
Yes you read that correctly. Laundry! My mom screamed at me and said I was spoiled and selfish for asking her to show me how to do my own laundry.
I wasn’t always that innocent but I was certainly nowhere near an evil child.
I should give my mother credit where credit is due because she did go into therapy with me so a lot of these behaviors stopped but she really never gave me an explanation as to why she thought I was such a bad child. I am not sure that she even knew.
Now I am dealing with the same crap with my sister and what I want to know from her is “Why?”
Maybe she doesn’t have an answer either.
All I know is that I cannot expect her to be anything other that what she is. I can’t change her. She has never been there for me and she never will. For whatever reason, she is incapable of showing me any kind of understanding or empathy.
One of the funny things about my family, is that we always have said “I love you” freely to each other. Yet I feel that with my upbringing saying that phrase was often a cover for unloving behavior. My mother always said that right after she had finished telling me what a horrible child I was for making her so miserable. I feel the same way with my sister.
LOVE IS A VERB. PERIOD.
- Family: When We Recover But They Don’t (or Won’t) (bipolarlessons.com)