Sunday, March 13, 2005


That is the number one reason I have worked hard at getting my life on track or, a different cycle. Once I separated the co-dependency from the empathy, I set out on this journey to change my attitude, change my life, change the way I looked at life, the people in it, and to become comfortable in my own skin and my ability to make good choices. Once I had a name for it, I felt like I could fight it or embrace it, which ever worked better. Empathy is innate. It can be controlled or turned off, but what fun is that? Co-dependency is a learned response. I had to re-learn healthy responses to situations. I had to re-learn boundaries. I had to learn to recognize the triggers which invoked unhealthy responses. The biggest of those is the fear of abandonment. I’m sure a lot of people believe abandonment is a physical manifestation. Someone in your life walks away. The reality is that its also an emotional stiff arm. They withdraw and become moody, no affection, won’t speak to you, if you do try, they will say, "Its not like you care," or other similar things. This conditions a response to acquiesce to their demands, to "give in" so as not to lose that person or to quiet the home. I’m not sure about other people, but that started very early in my life. I was very young and can remember being put in the position of my mother’s emotional crutch. The guilt trips, the sobbing, the alienation between my father and I because I had to be on "her side," the manipulation of my feelings by her telling me liked my brother better... it all boiled down into how I responded to situations. Its always easy to blame someone isn’t it? My mother was merely continuing the cycle from her family, as her mom or dad did from their family and back to wherever it started. My mom is what reformed alcoholics call "a dry drunk." She carries the characteristics of alcoholics, but doesn’t drink. Given the number of alcoholics in my extended family... I can see this very clearly. She was conditioned and she passed it along. When I recognized the cycle, I recognized my son as being "at risk." Regardless of how much we don’t want to, it is a learned behavior, and it will be passed on unless the cycle is broken. Until I learned to think differently, until I learned to react differently, I was going to pass it on. I was going to sentence my son to my own prison. Its bad enough his dad is an alcoholic, let’s not add insult to injury. No one is going to have a charmed life. Anyone who says they do is hiding something sinister in their soul. They’re the normal guy next door who turns out to be a serial killer or the lady who kills her kids. I was going to put this off and perhaps not even write about it. I knew why I had done what I had done. It was as much for me as for Nate. What drove it home though, was the death of my cousin. Little Gabriel, who I blogged about in September of last year. He was born severely premature and had numerous problems. Bowel blockages, laser surgery on his retinas, and a host of other medical conditions inherent to premature infants. When privileged to the intimacies of familial relationships, it is quite evident, starting with Gabriel’s great-great grandmother (my paternal grandmother), the cycle which has perpetually repeated itself. My grandmother, according to her sister, became a different woman when she was told at the age of 18, the man she believed to be her father, a man she loved, respected, and by all accounts, adored, was not her biological father. My grandmother was the oldest of several children, the exact number fails me and was placed in charge of her younger siblings while her mother entered into marriage after marriage (ending with number 5). I can’t imagine what effect this would have had on her. I just know what kind of woman she was. Hard and harsh; loving came much later and much too late. She in turn had six children in seven or eight years and her eldest daughter, my dad’s sister, was placed in charge of them and basically raised them even at her young age. She married young to escape that responsibility, stepping right into a relationship with a man who was merely the male version of her mother. She stepped right into the responsibility of having her own children, stair steps themselves, and again, placed the care of those children onto her eldest daughter and first child, my cousin Jo, while she catered to the psychologically and physically abusive, emotionally withdrawn wretch of a husband. Jo married young and had her first child by 17 or 18. Her husband was an alcoholic, abusive piece of shit. I can remember Grandma and us, my mom, brother and I, going to pick Jo up because Ray was threatening to kill her with a shotgun. My Grandma always drove a Cadillac... the monster Cadillac with the bench seat in the back big enough for all of her 13 grandchildren (at least it seemed to a 9 or 10 year old). Jo eventually left him but didn’t take her son because Ray, again, threatened to kill her. He lost custody of Scottie a number of years later to the State and he was adopted by another family. Jo went on to marry three more times and have two more children. Her second son committed suicide about three years ago, maybe four, when he became depressed over his inability to provide for himself and his pregnant girlfriend. Her daughter, Gabriel’s mother, was born severely premature herself, and likewise had both of her sons’ prematurely. Jo and her daughter, as a great number of mothers and daughters, have a love-hate relationship. They believe in self-medicating what ails them by whatever means available. Let’s say that Jo used to and Angela has taken over that position. Angela’s first son (he’s two or three years old) has been sexually abused by his father and he’s currently facing charges on that. And while little Gabriel lay dying in his crib, his mother was so screwed up on drugs, she had no idea her son was in mortal peril. At this point, I don’t have enough details to rule out the possibility she PUT him in that mortal peril. I’m disgusted. I’m saddened. Perhaps little Gabe is better off. Its a recipe for disaster when you have a special needs child and an immature, drug abusing, reality bending, parent. I’m also angry that the State would put him back in his mother’s custody. But, we should all realize how difficult it is to place such a special child, even though Jo was more than willing to take him, like she’s taken his brother to protect him. Jo can see what is happening. She’s street wise and has finally woke up to what is happening and what has happened. The weight of it is slowly killing her. Her grandmother took no responsibility and gave no love. Neither did her mother. Neither does her daughter. Her grandchildren are innocent. She’s standing in the middle, watching it revolve around her. Where will it stop? For me, it stops here. No ones life is perfect. We cannot create a perfect existence for our children. We can only give them our support and the tools in which to make informed decisions, to hopefully make the right choices, to be self-aware, to dodge the worst of situations, to not repeat our patterns, while still giving them the space they need to make their mistakes and learn from them. How can something that sounds so simple, be so difficult? Good in theory, harsh in reality? Life is certainly not for the squeamish.
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