I thought I had examined my life.
I’ve read so many self-help books, been in therapy multiple times, went to Peru, and done endless soul searching trying to figure out who I was and where I came from.
After I found my birth mother, I felt a calm I hadn’t felt in a while. I thought it was the turning point of my life. From here, I will go forth. Now, I know who I am. Now I know where I came from.
But the anger remains.
My younger biological sister helped me see this a few days ago as I was sharing with her how depressed I felt. I told her how it felt like everything in my life was shit – business wasn’t working, I wasn’t getting what I wanted. I didn’t know what I was doing and everything felt hopeless. Every direction I turned felt like, “What’s the point of this?”
I’ve never shared that much of my darkness with anyone before. Instead, what I do is withdraw. I hide. I don’t contact friends. I stay in and avoid contact. I come back out when I feel better.
I told her everything because she asks me for everything and won’t accept anything less. This woman, my younger sister. My blood.
When I got it all out, she just said, “I think you’re angry.”
Wasn’t expecting to hear that. I didn’t feel angry, I felt frustrated. I spent another 10 minutes trying to explain what I just dumped.
She told me again. “I think you’re angry.”
I wasn’t getting the connection.
She started explaining.
“You need to let love into your life.”
I don’t know what that means or how to do it.
But she says it with such authority. She knows. I don’t.
I tell her the story about how I’ve been searching for “the woman” to fall in love with all my life. And I tell her how I’ve failed miserably.
And she already knows the story of me trying to find my/our mother and how that didn’t turn out the way I thought.
She tells me, “Sometimes you get what you need and not what you want.”
And I say, “What’re you Mick Jagger now?”
She says, “I think you need to look at what’s right in front of you.”
What’s right in front of me: her.
She’s told me this before and now it’s hitting me differently. I see what she means. I’ve been searching my whole life for a woman (lover or mother) to give me what I want. I’ve had high expectations.
And now, here’s my sister, my blood, offering it to me. Unconditional love.
I think you need to look at what’s right in front of you.
She listens to everything I say. She listens to me complain. She internalizes my pain. She takes it all and helps me through it.
It strikes me that no one else could do this.
Even my birth mother who I thought would bring all my walls crashing down – had she been willing or alive to do it – she wouldn’t have done it. She wasn’t wired that way.
But my sister is doing it. When we talk, the things I thought were healed come up again in raw emotion. I feel the emotion, my eyes get wet, but I resist the tears.
I told my therapist once after an emotional regression, “I’m not going to cry in front of you.”
Later, that changed to, “I’m scared to cry in front of you.”
I do cry. But usually its when I’m alone. For the most part, crying has felt like weakness to me. If I’m going to be the strong one, I’m not going to cry.
I told my sister recently, I bet I stopped crying a couple days after birth. I KNOW I created a wall to protect myself after I was born and my mother was gone.
The infant version of me said, “Well, she’s not here. We’re going to do this alone.”
And I built the wall.
Only I didn’t know it was there. I didn’t know what was getting in the way of greater happiness and fulfillment until my sister came along. This girl, this woman, this wise, knowing sister is changing my life.
So many times when we talk on the phone, I feel the emotion rolling up to my eyes – then it stops. I push it back down. It’s a habit and I’m trying to unlearn it.
It’s been easier to keep it down. I’m afraid.
She would say to me, “What’s the worse that could happen?”
The worst is I think I’d feel weak. I’d be embarrassed. I’d be raw and vulnerable in a way I’ve never been before.
When I get to that edge, it’s like a small boat rocking bow to stern in an open sea. It’s shaky there. That’s how it feels.
We’ve got a song, her and I. It’s Elvis Presley and America.
Don’t you leave
Don’t you leave out part of me, then I can feel
Like I feel before
Like it hurt now, and I see the floor
If you pick me up
Bits and pieces on this floor
She talked about leaving. Cos this is hard for her, too. She’s in it now and she’s got her own story and this affects her, too.
She’s scared and she wants to run away.
The small boat rocked front to back, faster now. I felt the emotion rolling up into my eyes.
I’d told her before in the conversation that the times I go silent on the phone are when I’m letting the emotion go back down. I can’t contain it if I speak. I tell her if I talk, it’s harder not to cry.
The last time she told me she might need a break from me, from this, I said, “Okay, if that’s what you need to do.”
That’s not what she wanted to hear.
She told me later what she wanted to hear that day: “I wanted you to fight for this. I wanted you to fight for me.”
So, when she told me again she was having a hard time and she felt like leaving to protect herself, I remembered.
And with Bono in my head and tears coming through my body again, I eeked out the words, “You don’t get to leave.”
My mother left.
And now I was beginning to cry. I told her, “YOU don’t get to leave me.”
Her and I, we’ve had tough emotional lives. And here we are, helping each other. I felt instantly connected to her the moment we met.
She tells me, “I keep feeling that I’m supposed to put myself in front of you and give you love.”
And I tell her a story about castle walls around me and they’re thick and she’s sending me a message from the outside. I can hear something, but I don’t understand what it is.
I don’t want to sound like, “Woe is me,” but I really don’t understand it. Until recently, I didn’t know how it would feel to look into the eyes of a sibling and KNOW we were related.
And now she’s giving me this love and I don’t understand why.
When I ask her why, she takes a breath and says, “Because you’re my brother.” That’s all she needs. I can’t believe she doesn’t need more proof. I can’t believe I don’t have to do anything else.
She demands one thing – that I be honest.
I thought I was nearing the end of my self-examination.
Now I see that one road is completed. I know where I came from.
But now I’m beginning the process of trying to let down walls, let go of emotional toughness. For the first time, I’m showing someone all of my darkest shit, all the thoughts and actions I haven’t been proud of.
I think about going back to therapy because I think it’s unfair for my sister to be my therapist.
But she is. She’s the only one who can give me what I’m getting. I don’t want therapist garbage. I want the truth. I want love.
My sister tells me I’m worthy of it. So, that’s my mantra, during the day and when I can’t sleep. I’m practicing that thought, “I deserve love.” I know it’s the way – because my sister says so, and I trust her.
I could go on and on, but I’m already so far off track from where I started. But I don’t care.
I’ve got this person in my life who can help explain my past. I’m getting the feeling of family I always wanted to feel – with all due respect to the family I grew up with – I felt different, and now I know why.
This is where I am.
August 8, 2017 Update
Just back from my visit w/ my sister in Baltimore and to meet my nieces for first time.
I realized two important things.
One, I’m angry at my birth mother for giving me up. A picture of her and my sister together surprisingly set me to tears and then I knew it was anger.
I cried multiple times with my sister hugging me, telling me, “I know,” and asking to “let me in.”
I told her I thought our mother was selfish for not seeing me after all this time. She was too weak to confront her feelings around me and in her own life.
Logically, I understand everything she did and I had told myself it was ok. But it’s not. It’s not fucking okay to never hold your baby, to deprive him of love and comfort. It’s sure not okay to tell him “no” when he comes looking 36 years later.
I don’t care what you went through. I was the innocent one. I was the one who needed you, but all you did was think about yourself. You were selfish. I have a right to my anger and no one can make excuses for it. I need to feel it and try to let it go.
I felt physically ill Saturday night. I felt nautious. My head ached. I was chilled and felt nervous and shaky. I didn’t know how much I could take, but I cried in front of my sister and let her hold me for the first time. It was hard, but once I started, it got easier.
Sunday morning after I got out of the shower, I felt I had gotten my body back. It was a weird feeling and subtle, but I felt like I wasn’t as stiff and that I would once again be strong and that it was time to start working out and/or running.
The other thing I learned is:
This wall that comes up is still with me and now I’m more aware of it.
What happened is this – I booked a flight to surprise my sister and to meet her kids. I thought she needed to see me. I told her it was my turn to put myself in front of her.
Up until the time I booked the flight and shortly thereafter, I was excited and felt so grateful and close to her. What a connection we had and what a surprise to have a new best friend.
A couple days before the flight, I began to feel a bit of a walled off feeling. A bit of fear, maybe. A bit of just not feeling emotional. I felt distant. But I flew and saw my sister and she picked up on it and called me out on it.
And I was mixed up because this is the roller coaster. This is the thing that happens – this walled off emotion – that I don’t understand where it comes from or what triggers it. And when I’m in it, I think its truth, but its not. It’s always been confusing for me, undermining relationships with women in particular.
I feel strong emotion for someone and then I feel cold. I pull away. I withdraw.
It took hours for us to work through it. I cried and told her I was doing my best, trying to manage time with her, my other sister I grew up with and my best friend who I was staying with while in Baltimore. We had a misunderstanding about the intent of my trip. My words weren’t clear.
Logically, I know what’s going on – I get close to someone and then it becomes too much and I pull away. Then they pull away because they feel me doing it and then I chase back after them. This cycle continues and hence, the rollercoaster. This is not how I want to be.
I don’t know what triggers the feeling of “distance” nor do I presently know how to get out of it when I’m feeling it. I want to learn it at an emotional level and when I do, that’s when I think a real shift will occur for me. Its already started. I’m aware of it more than ever. I can see the patterns in my life of doing this in relationships –especially romantic relationships with women.
My therapist said I need to tell myself, “She’s not asking for all of me.” But I get these ideas in my head and I’m afraid. I feel overwhelmed. I feel like it’s going to be too much for me to handle. So I pull away.
Then I feel dishonest. I’m asked what my true emotions are: “How do you feel about me?” And I have no fucking clue. I know at one time I loved you or liked you and felt so close to you. I know that NOTHING changed overnight or from one minute to the next that I can identify that would change those feelings. And then, “BAM” I’m pulling away.
I’m feeling distant and I don’t know why. It’s so confusing for me because I don’t understand it. I don’t know what happened. But I’m so deeply in it, I can’t FEEL what I felt before. I’m insulated from those feelings. I feel cold, hard, and distant. And in that moment, that is the truth I speak, because that is what I feel.
And she accuses me of not being honest in the first place about how I felt and she accuses me of not being honest with her. And I feel small and helpless because I don’t whats going on either. I say, “I’m doing my best,” and that’s not good enough, either. So I lose. I don’t get the relationships I want. I don’t get family. I don’t get the girl. I don’t get the sister.
But that’s not true either. Because my sister says she’s sticking around. She doesn’t understand. She couldn’t. She doesn’t know whether to trust me or not, but she’s not leaving. And right now, I think that’s the only thing that matters.
I don’t know where I go from here but I KNOW this is the roller coaster. This is the thing I’ve been accused of and hated hearing. But this is the truth for any woman I’ve ever felt close to. Now I see it for what it is.
I get on the roller coaster and its exciting and I think I’m falling in love. Than its going to fast and I think she might want too much. So I slow down or get off. If she tries to come after me, it won’t work because I’ll feel smothered. That won’t work. I can’t go after her again until things slow down and she pulls away, too. Then its safe. Then I can get back on and we can speed up. But then when it gets too fast again, I have to stop. And she’s confused.
I’m confused. Why am I slowing down when everything was going good? What am I afraid of? What will I lose? Space, privacy, self?
This is where I am today. At last fully aware.
So I come with a disclaimer. I might pull away sometimes if I feel like we’re getting too close. This is my own fear and self-protection. PLEASE, try not to take it personally. I’m working on it. I might go back to therapy. I’m aware of it and know its coming from deeply learned messages I received as an infant and as a child. I know its not acceptable behavior and I see all the damage its done. I see how its in the way of keeping me from the type of relationship I seek with a woman. This is where I am today.