Friday, April 04, 2008

I don't know how well I'm doing at conveying this conversation, but here's a try anyway...

So my sister calls to tell me she read my blog and it felt hurtful. Hurtful? Do you mean it was painful to read? Well, maybe hurtful is the wrong word because I don't think you meant to hurt me, but it felt -- it felt hurtful. It felt so one-sided, I mean I look like such a terrible person.

Me: It is one-sided, I mean I'm describing my emotions. Lauren: I know, I know it's about you expressing yourself but I'm just telling you how it felt -- it felt judgmental and I felt hurt. Me: Do you want to tell me what exactly felt hurtful? Lauren: I'm not in front of the computer right now, but I guess I could go there. Me: You can cry if you want to. Lauren: I know, but I don't know if I want to. Me: I'm just saying that because I can hear it in your voice, and I want to let you know that it's okay, it's okay to cry if you want to. Lauren: Well I'm at the computer now, and the first thing is that there's no understanding of the difficult position I'm in, the way I'm stuck in the middle. Me: I do understand the position you're in, but let me give you an example -- when I was in LA a year ago, and you asked me what I thought would've happened if you had asked Dad if he had sexually abused me, and I said he would have screamed at you. So I do know that, and I know how it would have felt. But yes, you're right that I’m judgmental that you couldn't have asked him anyway, even if he would have screamed at you, I am judgmental that you've chosen the middle, that's the position you've chosen. Lauren: you don't understand, there were always asking me to intervene, they wanted me to make you straight, they wanted me to make you stop doing prostitution, it was endless. Me: I know -- they wanted you to make me see that false memory syndrome therapist, they wanted you to make me come back to the family, whatever that meant, and it's kind of like what they did when we were kids -- they couldn't deal when we were close because they felt threatened, they were always playing you against me. Lauren: I don't remember that. Me: But you remember what you're talking about, it's that same pattern. Lauren: I do remember that, it's just that I felt like we grew closer from your visit, and then I read your blog and it was such a different description. Me: I also feel like we got closer, but there are a few different things -- first of all, you said you weren't going to read my blog and so you're right, I wasn't taking your needs into account at all. I mean I'm not trying to be objective. Lauren: I know -- I know, but my curiosity got the best of me, it was after my exam and I was getting distracted. Me: How did your exam go? Lauren: It went well, I passed. Me: Congratulations.

Me: I'm not interested in describing things neutrally, I'm trying to describe my emotional reality. Lauren: I'm not asking you to be neutral, I know it's part of your process and I don't want to interfere it's just that sometimes it's too much for me, like when you were visiting and it felt overwhelming to hear all of that at once and I know you’d probably been thinking about it for a while. Me: You're right, I had been thinking about all of it for a while, for several months, but my understanding of the time we talked before was that you asked me not to write about anything on my blog before I talked to you about it, I mean you didn't want to read anything that I hadn't told you first. And we don't see each other in person often, so there was a lot I wanted to say, a lot that I wanted to write about. And then you said you would rather read about it first. Lauren: I didn't mean that, I didn't want to get in the way of your process but to tell you the truth I would rather you not write about me at all, that would be my preference. Me: I am going to write about you, but I don't have to do it on my blog, it doesn't have to be that immediate. Lauren: I mean maybe that's not true, I mean I do want you to write about me it's just that it's hard when I'm portrayed so negatively. Like that phrase about how I would never do anything just because it would be helpful to you, you repeat that so many times I don't even know how many. Me: I repeat that phrase because you said it a lot, you said it several times, probably more than I write it. Lauren: I don't know how many times I've said it, but I felt like I was being pressured and the way I always react to pressure is to do the opposite of what I'm asked to do. And when you write that that was preposterous, I feel like you're being dismissive. I feel like that's a judgment. Me: I do think that's preposterous, I mean my understanding of a friendship means that you do things that would be helpful to the other person, that's just my understanding. I don't know how many times you said it either, but it definitely affected me because you kept repeating it, I definitely took what you were saying seriously. Lauren: I do try to do things for my friends just because they ask, I mean I don't like to do things that make me too uncomfortable but I do try to do things that are helpful.

And that's when she says: I wish I could've asked Dad but I wasn't able to. I wish I could've had the strength but I didn't. I wish I could've done that for you.

That's the place where I feel ready to cry, I start to cry silently with the phone to the side but then it doesn't happen -- that's the problem with distance. I say: thank you for saying that.

Lauren: I know it doesn't make sense -- I believe you and I believe him, I know that's a contradiction but I don't have any memories of the abuse, it's not that I don't believe anything you're saying it's just that I also can't believe that he would do that. I'm still a little girl and I want to maintain my relationship with my parents. Me: I know you don't have any memories, but I guess what I also want to say is that there doesn't have to be a middle, I mean one thing we can agree on is that Dad is dead, right? Lauren: you're right -- that's one thing we can agree on. Me: And I think things can change now, now that there isn't a literal possibility that he'll show up and scream at you, right? Lauren: You're right, that's not a possibility. Me: And I want to say that I'm not putting you in the same category as the rest of them, I mean no one has supported me at all except maybe Florence who originally said it must have been him, but there was never anyone else around -- but then she deliberately courted a stronger relationship with him, and I think that's despicable. And when I say that now that he's dead, things can change, I don't mean that I've seen anything change, I just mean that maybe more is possible. And when you say that you felt pressured, that was about Mom, right? Because I felt like we were saying such similar things, the things I've been telling her for a while now but no one else says anything. And I was responding to you on two levels, the first one was about you, because you were expressing frustration and I wanted you to be able to confront her with that frustration. But the second part was more about me, it felt like such an opportunity because we were basically agreeing -- I mean from different angles, but still -- and yes, I thought it would be useful to me if you were saying something to her also. Lauren: But that's when I react with the opposite, I don't like feeling pressured -- I don't think anyone does, there still is a middle -- they all pressure me, I still feel that pressure and I don't feel it from you as much but sometimes, sometimes you pressure me also and then that's how I react and I say something that I don't totally mean but it's what I feel in the moment and I feel like you're asking me to think too much. Me: I guess I am asking you to think more, I mean maybe that's a contradiction between us -- I don't think it's a problem to think more about things you're saying, even though I know what you're saying about wanting to respond in the moment I wish you could have said afterwards, later that night or the next day, that that wasn't what you actually meant. Lauren: But I wasn't thinking about it, I don't think about things like that. Me: I guess that's another difference, because I think about everything, over and over, and sometimes I do think about things too much but I guess another pattern I have is that I let people say things to me that are fucked up, and then I don't respond for a while because I want to think about it, I don't want to respond when I'm feeling attacked or angry because I don't want to say something that I'll regret. I want to be emotionally present but not so charged. But then sometimes I end up thinking and thinking, and then I don't say anything and I regret that.

It doesn't end there, it ends with a lot of talking about how I'm representing Lauren in this blog and in my writing in general and we end up with more closure but I'm having trouble conjuring that. One thing I'm thinking now is how all this pressure from our parents directed at Lauren to make me straight or make me not turn tricks or whatever -- all this pressure was about using the closeness they perceived between us to make my behavior change. Which is different from what they did when we were kids, when it was more about provoking Lauren to betray my trust, just because they felt threatened by our closeness: what else might we be concealing? I guess it's still a betrayal of trust, I mean what they were attempting, but could they really have believed that anything Lauren would have said about queerness or sex work would have changed my actions? So maybe it really is the same thing, they wanted her to try to intervene even though they knew that the only result would be a rupture between us. Because then they could be assured of her allegiance.

The other thing I'm thinking -- and we talked about this, too -- is that some of my frustration towards Lauren is based in the fact that no one in our birth family has acknowledged the abuse in any meaningful way, and I feel more hope about my relationship with Lauren than about my relationships with the rest of them, but then it reaches that wall where I feel like she's in their camp. But I don't want my frustration with her to be based on my frustration with everyone else, does that make sense? I mean I don't want to be angry at her because no one else will acknowledge the abuse.

2 comments:

Destinie said...

I just wanted to let you know I think you're amazing.

xoxo

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Oh, it's so sweet of you to say that!

Love --
mattilda