Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nervous November

It's been a long time, and it seems like I've been stockpiling things to be nervous about. I'm feeling like the worry-meter is about to go into the red, which means it's time to vent some troubles before I pull out my hair and run screaming into the night. Or something.

(And I apologize, internet, if you're there - for being a bad weather type friend when it comes to writing. And then just writing about how I feel bad about it.)

What's weighing heaviest on my mind right now is family. The Holidaze are coming up, and it seems like every year for the last - I don't know, at least 4-5 years? - something messed up happens, usually involving my brother, which sort of puts a damper on things. Did I mention he's in prison now? He went in around this time last year, and will be getting out right before Thanksgiving. And apparently, will be heading to our town (it's where both my mom and I are located, but not where he was living previously.) I guess that shouldn't necessarily sound ominous, he's not a violent criminal, but I'm feeling very uneasy about it nonetheless. He won't have probation from what I understand, and I don't necessarily think that's a good thing. I have a bad feeling that his ideas about where his life will go now are *shrug* and "I'll just show up and see what happens."

My mom has agreed to take him in, but for a short time only, and sounds like she's in tough-love mode. I mean, he is 35, and has pretty much put her through hell for the last... well, she estimated 20 years. But she has a one bedroom apartment, and I have a house. Granted, we don't have an extra bed or a guest room set up, but I'm just trying to prepare myself if people start looking my way like "Why couldn't you take him in?" I feel really shitty for feeling this way, but I just don't think I can. When I see my brother (which is rare) I usually end up feeling like I need to take care of him, but mostly I've kept my distance. At this point, I honestly don't think I'd be comfortable having him stay over or even having much alone time with him. I'm not feeling too good about him staying with my mom, either.

Are there, or have there been people in your life that you just can't be around because the dynamic is too dysfunctional? I feel like the general consensus is that it's never okay to break ties with family, or stop communicating. I haven't written to him since he's been incarcerated, though I did send money a couple times, because honestly I felt horrible thinking about him being in there, but also didn't know what to say to him (and I guess I still don't.) I somehow don't think that the time in there will have necessarily scared him straight or cured him, I can only imagine that you go into survival mode while there and hopefully don't have an even more warped, hateful outlook afterward.

What makes me feel bad is that he's getting out, he's supposed to get integrated back into society, but he has nothing. He actually has negative nothing when you consider that: he owes back child support (not to mention parental support), he's burned too many bridges with family and friends, he's got addiction/behavior/emotional issues, he's had cancer and related treatments and there's always ongoing health concerns with that, his track record is going to look pretty bad to just about any employer, he hasn't had a car or a place of his own in who knows how long, etc. etc. Maybe not having people to fall back on will be what changes him? But don't you hear about these people and think, "Damn, can't his family or somebody do something about that for society's sake?" But even though we all feel bad about it, what I've learned from what my parents have been through, is that we can't fix it for him. They have certainly tried. Given the circumstances, I think it's understandable that there's a lot of hurt and mistrust. But there's also the GUILT of turning away, so... what do you do?


Swistle said...

I think the parent-child relationship is SO different from the sibling relationship, I definitely wouldn't wonder why it was your mom taking him in and not you, no matter the square footage. A parent is always a parent, and can go back into that role if the child needs more work.

And if it helps, I never think that about families: I would think something more like "Can't society do something about that for the family's sake?" And I would feel sympathy for the family.

Fluffycat said...

Wow, that's really tough. My brother is more of the over-achiever type, hard to imagine the thought of sending him money or whatnot.

I think that it's perfectly fine to cut ties with anyone in your life who is super dysfunctional, relatives or not. I have scaled back a lot of communication with relatives on my dad's side about this, and am on the whole happier and mentally healthier since I've done that. Admittedly it's easier being geographically distant.

Nervous said...

Thanks so much to both of you for sharing your thoughts, I really appreciate it!

Swistle - I like the way you put it, "if the child needs more work" -definitely true. One thing I find interesting about the parent/child dynamic is that he probably could've used a lot more parenting around age 15, and that's the age he seems to regress back to when he's around my parents, even now - i.e. they want to know his whereabouts and plans and get suspicious of what he's doing, and he gets all secretive and defiant and does something to "act out" against them/society.

Fluffycat - I know, it has been a bit easier to keep a distance emotionally when we've also been physically distant from each other. If he does stay in town though - I guess I'm afraid of having to confront the issue of "I'm not ready to have much contact with you now" - but like you said, it is important to my mental health/happiness to not get sucked into more dysfunction.