Sunday, November 9, 2014

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

This Halloween wasn't all about my costume (although my costume was pretty awesome because I basically dressed up as  health insurance processing joke). It wasn't about the cool prizes I put into a draw for my colleagues (although those candy bars were pretty nifty). It wasn't even about the teensy chocolate bars (although I did learn that waiting until the last minute means all the best minis will be sold out by the time you get to the store).

This year, Halloween was about my younger brother getting on an airplane and flying to the United States of America for true love. He's moved down there to live, in wedded bliss, forever.

I'm so, so happy for him. They truly are very well-matched.

People keep asking me if I'll miss him. And the thing is, we're not really that close. Oh sure, we have inside jokes, and the intimacy that comes with growing up in the same home with the same people, and being able to blackmail one another should the need ever arise. But my brother and I grew up to be very, very different people. The truth is, if we weren't related, I doubt we'd want to be friends.

He can be quite cruel, abusive even, in ridiculing people whose beliefs are different than his -- and that, of course, includes me. He has a way of keeping on going when he's clearly gone too far. He makes rape jokes in front of me all the time, as if it will ever be funny, or I'll ever want to hear it. He has said some of the cruelest things I've ever heard from anyone in my life: he has a way of figuring out people's vulnerabilities and cutting right to the quick. He's not really that interested in people who aren't directly relevant to him -- even people he's known for years. The outcome of other people's lives is largely a matter of indifference. Things roll off him in a way I can't imagine, and he seems to have a lot more inner-peace than I do because of it. Or maybe it's emptiness. Sometimes I really envy him, but the truth is I wouldn't want to be that person if it came down to making a choice about it.

Will I miss him? I will and I won't, if that makes any sense. I do know that I spent the week in between his goodbye dinner and his Halloween departure eating every piece of food in sight. This is unusual for me because, prior to the recovery period from this major depression, I've never done anything like that. The whole binge-eating thing has always been kind of a mystery, because I don't like eating that much to begin with. Yet here I am, eating (terrifyingly) large amounts of food to comfort myself, feeling out-of-control, So there must be something going on here, something more powerful than I realized.

At first I thought it must be that I was feeling bad because I was going to miss him a lot and I didn't know how to express that kind of emotion. But I thought about it a lot, and I think I was wrong. I think I'm feeling jealous that he gets to escape our family and I don't. I'm still here, and he's left me alone to be responsible for my parents. It won't be easy to ever miss a holiday if I'm their only option. I've seen them go to my father's parents every year because they're all alone otherwise, and I'm afraid of that happening to me. I feel like he's dropped all the responsibility for them onto me, and I'm not the kind of person who easily says no, even when it means protecting myself. I guess I've always felt he was selfish for making me be responsible for my mother but then never protecting me from her, and that now he's done it again, but on a much larger scale.

I guess my next life-lesson project should be working on convincing myself that I'm not responsible for anyone else but me! And that maybe -- maybe -- this is the time in my life to put myself first even if that means letting people down, and feeling less-than-perfect, less-than-enough, and learning to be okay with that.


  1. Putting yourself first is never easy. At least, not for people who actually care about other people. But as much as you may not want to let others down, not putting yourself first is letting yourself down. You DESERVE to put yourself first for a change!

  2. In my own experience, deciding to put myself first for a change (after a lifetime of being the "responsible one"), was the best decision I ever made. And coincidentally enough, it also started when I was 31.

    That was when I took a long hard look at my life (my stressful job in retail, my never-ending debt, stuck living with my parents because it was all I could afford) and decided that I could spend a decade still stuck in that situation, if I didn't take a chance on what I truly wanted, for a change.

    So we decided to have a baby and start a family, even if we weren't financially stable yet. And then I gambled on quitting that soul-crushing job to pursue my teaching career again, even if it meant dropping everything and moving 12 hours away from what I'd always called home, to make it happen. Even this year, in deciding that we wanted a second kid, even if logic was telling me that our apartment was too small, that our job security wasn't good enough yet, etc. The old me would have stopped short of all these choices, because they just weren't the safe route that everyone would expect me to take. It wasn't "responsible".

    I sometimes think that my religious faith played a part in me allowing myself to take some risks, believing that someone would look after me. But at the same time, I think more than anything, it was me deciding to have some faith in *myself* too. That worse comes to worse, I might be more capable than I gave myself credit for. Believing that I deserved to have some of my dreams come true, too. And wouldn't you know, they pretty much have. Life isn't perfect, but it's a million times more satisfying than it was only a short time ago.

    So good luck if you decide it's finally time to chase a dream or two of your own! Putting yourself first, even if it means being a bit selfish and irresponsible in the eyes of some, can be the most liberating thing in the world.

  3. I'm at that point of learning that I'm not responsible for my mother's actions. I don't have to be the adult. That's not my job in that relationship and guilt doesn't have a place. It's not an easy one but it's liberating. I know for me, giving myself permission to take care of myself before my mother and others is still something I am learning and have to remind myself I need to do. But it needs to be done.