Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Missing: An extra layer of skin.


That’s me.

Maybe I feel things a bit more deeply for I react more sensitively to the situations that others can toss off with a “Next!”

Not me.

I do wish I could move on and leave slights and slings and arrows behind me. Not personalize them so much. Not to feel so hurt.

I’m far too sensitive. "For God's sake," my father would explode, "Why are you always wearing your heart right there on your sleeve?"

I don't know how not to.

With one huge change: this is the stuff I used to drink and overeat over. But not today.

Today I let the feelings wash over me, and allow the flashbacks to old feelings of abandonment, rejection, never good enough, loved enough, respected enough. No stuffing anything down. Feel the feelings. Put them on stones, toss them into the ocean. When I'm ready.

I find out at the last minute my family of origin doesn’t care enough to come and celebrate a significant milestone birthday with me. A party I had planned at the beginning of the year is not going to happen now. I was so looking forward to seeing them here in Newfoundland. Showing them the sights, spending time together under happy circumstances rather than a funeral. I even called it my pre-funeral party.

And to add insult to injury, they leave it to the last minute to tell me they’re not coming. Even relatives that are living really close by to here have made other plans. A multiple whammy of rejection.

I had been sensing this coming when a huge void of silence refused to be ignored anymore. Their original enthusiasm had faded into forwarded jokey-e-mails, never anything personal and my birthday party never addressed.

Is this the emigrant experience, I ask my emigrant friends. Yes, they say, it is finally catching up with you.

I used to go back to my family of origin frequently but in the last few years I felt it was always this one-way scene, they would only come here to Canada when the visit was tied onto the end of a business trip.

I went back for weddings and christenings and just to be with them all. Sometimes several times a year.

And I know it wouldn’t matter as much if I was in a partnership. All my siblings are in partnerships where family rebuffs, real or imagined, are in turn buffered by their significant others.

I wonder about family ties. Do they exist? Is it all ephemeral? Do they just inhabit my imagination?

I’ve changed my plans. I won’t go back to Ireland in September. For the first time in my life I feel this real emotional distance from them all.

I would be staying with strangers.

I hesitated about posting this, but here I am warts 'n all (and , of course, anonymous!).

38 comments:

  1. {lots and lots of hugs} Rejection like that must be awful :-(

    This is the one thing that I'm really dreading about emigrating (UK to NZ) - my OH's mother has already said that she will not get on a plane to visit. I can imagine that my side of the family (more adventurous) will come out for the first few years or so, but then even they will stop coming out...

    I hope that the pain lessens, and that the friends that you choose to celebrate your milestone with are as close and as loving as you would wish.

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  2. I am highly sensitive myself, except this is recent. In high school I was very thick skinned, was the only way to survive, I am not really one to follow the herd. This is the worst mistake you can make in high school, as I am sure you know, so between bullies and just not really fitting in. I had a pretty rough time of it. But I learnt to blow of these minor slights, the way you learn to brush of your hands and knees, and get back up when you trip.

    Now I get deeply upset by even the most minor of slights, feeling like it is a personal attack.

    @ Jo, the internet is great. It will mean you only lose physical touch with your family, which is sad. But it is better than having no contact with them at all.

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  3. I have similar probs with my family, who only live 100 miles away from me in the UK. (In the UK 100 miles is a long distance.)

    Every year I visit Dorset several times a year for birthdays and other family gatherings.

    This year I actually *did* manage to get the majority of them (Dad, two brothers and various partners) to all travel up to London for *my* 40th birthday -- I refused to travel south -- I pointed out, why should I have my birthday down in Dorset when my life is in London?

    However, I think it will be the last time in a long while that any of them make the trip. (Ha! At least I made them make it once!)

    Of course, for you, the problem is worse because the distance is much greater and therefore the cost of flights more expensive than petrol for a 100 mile road trip.

    Whilst I understand how hurt you are and the unfairness of having done the trips back to them so many times, do allow them a little leeway regarding the cost.

    Best wishes,
    Sharon

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  4. Thanks for the kind words, Jo. My dear daughter and granddaughter will be here with me and we are going to head off to France - i.e. the St. Pierre and Miquelon Islands.
    XO
    WWW

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  5. DJM:
    In highschool I was fortunate to find other sensitive eccentrics like myself and we banded together in a group of 6 and we were largely ignored or slightly mocked by the in crowd.
    I can sympathize with your thin skin, it doesn't get thicker. Or we can pretend....
    XO
    WWW

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  6. Easier said than done, Sharon, as they are all, without exception, wealthy and at one point they were talking of chartering their own small jet to get here.
    Cost is never a consideration for them, though it always is for me.
    How great that your family made the effort for your birthday!
    XO
    WWW

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  7. Dear WWW, I too suffer from not thick enough skin and I always assume from the outset that I am not worth the effort and therefore am always pleasantly surprised when at times I am, because I expect so little.

    The people you should expect the least from, are usually your relatives, because it seems to be that these are the people who have the least knowledge and sensitivity about how important their presence and attendance is to other family members. They usually don't have a clue and don't appreciate the effort you make, but only see it as some inability of you to let go.

    The most important people are your own children and your friends and I put the emphasis on friends, because those are the people you chose and who chose you. These are the people who should matter the most to you and not your own alienated siblings whose relationship with you is probably all pear shaped anyway.

    Pay them no mind, they are not important enough, blood is not thicker than water, there is nothing magical about being related to one another. It is just a fluke of nature. Relationships with relatives can be the most painful ones of all and we put too much value on them.

    So, you are having a very important birthday, huh? Now I wished I lived close enough to come help you celebrate that one. If you tell me the date, I will drink a glass on the right moment and make a toast to you.

    You are alright, warts and all.

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  8. I feel for you in your disappointment, WWW. Can't empathise fully though because I have no siblings nor any close family left in England. I was an only child, and I'm pretty sure I could never have emigrated had a parent or grandparent still been alive.

    Oh, but what a compensation you have! A daughter and granddaughter to be your companions on a trip to Europe! Wonderful!

    You and your closest are the winners, the others are the losers.

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  9. Oh Irene:
    Thank you for your wonderful words.
    I find that the relationships with my sibs have been littered with broken promises, sometimes promises that cost me a lot of pain, not to mention money. I had forgotten about that, always expectations that they will change which is a mistake!
    I need to let go, you are absolutely right and just celebrate with whoever shows up on the day!
    August 16th, I'm a Leo can't you tell?
    XO
    WWW

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  10. Thank you, T.
    I'm already feeling the better for having put it out there. I don't like nursing disappointment and hurt as it is not good for the soul. Most of the time I wear the world very loosely but I had placed expectations on this birthday and we all know about expectations!!
    Not going to Europe - St. P. and M. are French islands off the coast of Newfoundland and I will post something about them later. And yes, we need our passports. It will more than compensate for the hooley I was planning. Of that I am certain.
    XO
    WWW

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  11. I think we'd all like to have close and loving relationships with our family but the reality is that we are often chalk and cheese and don't get on at all. In the long run, friends, partners, workmates and even chance acquaintances can give us a lot more. At least your daughter and granddaughter are visiting which should be rewarding and will still make it a special day. If the others don't want to visit you and your beautiful country, that's their loss.

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  12. As the child of irish emigrants I can recall only three significant events in my life (or that of my immediate Canadian family) at which an Irish relative was in attendance.

    The same person, my grandfather, was in attendance for all three events. He made a point of coming over every 2 years upon his retirement. We always laughed that it was the donuts that brought him over and he definitely availed of many a coffee shop whilst he was over.

    As a child I remember looking longingly at my italian/portuguese peers and wondering what a celebration in a houseful of blood relatives might be like. For a long time I thought of the absence of blood relatives as a huge hole in my life.

    Now I see that there was never a hole. There were always people around and available to celebrate life's milestones with me and my family.

    Just as I have helped celebrate with my fellow emigrant children....I've been exposed to *many* cultures over my 41 years in Canada.

    And I *did* have the good fortune to form a relationship with my grandfather on this side of the pond and there are many memories I will carry to my Canadian grave of him.

    and oh ya....France certainly doesn't sound like a hole to me ;)

    xo

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  13. Perhaps being an exile makes us invest more in our memories of where we came from and the family we left there, than they would have for those who left. Since I left my roots in the north of England I found myself keener to maintain ties there than those remaining - sort of holding onto my past. Anxiety too is a classic effect of exile as you move to somewhere new that isn't the same home you once felt secure in - you never quite know the ropes so instinctively - I still feel a stranger in London after 30 years. But you're right - there's no need to go back anymore if you don't want to. You're in Newfoundland after all.
    PS do you know the song Kilkelly? Written from letters a father wrote to his son in America after he emigrated - and never saw again. It's from the other angle. Very poignant

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  14. Oh sweetheart, how very ouchy for you. A very wise counsellor of mine, said that people could never be too sensitive because the other side of sensitivity is being in touch with the totality of feelings.

    Sending you big hugs and kisses. How sad and, as Nick says, their loss.

    I love the picture, it's almost as beautiful as I picture you to be.

    xxxxxxxxxxx

    Hulla

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  15. Maybe I'm too young to have any real perspective on this but let me try.

    I love my parents dearly, but sometimes they drive me insane, dad more so than mum. However just as I'm about to reach my breaking point, they redeem themselves.

    But relationship with family members can be very frought. I am the youngest of 3 brothers, my eldest brother and me get along brilliantly, but then we have in common the fact we are both gay.

    My middle brother is 10 years older than me and the 2 of us put our parents through hell. Our childhood was basically a war, there were no rules, no deed was too under-handed. Even now civility towards each other requires a huge deal of effort.

    There is still unresolved tension between us, as his now wife noticed, the 1st time the 3 of us, plus mum and dad, were in the same room as each other. Sweet, lovely girl that she is, felt the need to ask, "What is wrong with those 2, you can actually feel the tension in the air."

    However I know my middle brother would be the 1st person to come to my rescue, he already has. A few weeks after I came out I encountered some homophobic bullies and he was there to back me up. Without my having to request his help.

    In some ways, blood is thicker than water. You don't chose your family, they might be like the Waltons or the Simpsons. In a strange way they will always be part of your life, your pretty much stuck with them, an unfortunate, but sometimes pleasant consequence of birth.

    Friends and Lovers, are the people you chose to be with. Which makes them infinitly more miraculous, with 6,000,000,000 people in the world, finding a small group with whom you have any common ground, is a miracle.

    Cherish your friends, your husband/wife and your children. Those you chose to have in your life, but don't turn your back on your parents and siblings. Because they may suprise you and if they don't - well I can't finish that sentence, maybe when I'm older I'll be able to.

    But for now don't lose heart! I'll be sure to wish you a happy birthday when the time comes, hope you enjoy yourself. Whatever you do.

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  16. By the way I love they way your personality leaps off the screen, when I visit your blog, I hope my blog becomes as interesting as yours. You don't seem like a lady in her 60's, not that age has any bearing on these things, you seem like a very cool girl in her 20's

    If you were younger and I was straight, I'd totally - I'm not gonna finish that thought incase it's too vulgar.

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  17. Nick:
    Oh I so agree with you, we are given so much more by our chosen families, as I like to call them, our dear friends.
    And it will all be for the best anyway, I know that.
    I guess I was giving my family a chance to get together under happy circumstances, my pipe dream!
    XO
    WWW

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  18. Orla:
    It was the dream I was attached to of course, not the reality which always falls short.
    And I do remember a phrase of yours which has helped me:
    "No surprises" and that is so true. The surprise would have been if they all came.
    And France, the western version, is going to be great!
    XO
    WWW

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  19. OF:
    How true, we invest so much in our past being exiles (and I prefer this word to emigrant). We are the vanished ones to those left behind who go about their lives without us. We try and fit in around the edges of their lives when we go back, whereas we have no place for them either in our new lives, no continuity.
    No, I am not familiar with the song, have you posted it on your music blog?
    Some exile songs make me cry, othes such as what I call the "Paddywackery" type leave me chilled....:^)
    XO
    WWW

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  20. Thank you, Hull, I am now so glad I made the post to find such understanding out there and such support is a real balm to the soul.
    I've mentally moved now apart from the little stone ceremony I will have tomorrow.
    XO
    WWW

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  21. DJM:
    Well the parents are dead, I know my parents' dream was that we all stay close, but we were not close to begin with if the truth were known, we all wished we were at one point but little alliances are formed within a family of 6. The two brothers I am closest to are both parents to newborns (they have grandchildren much older than their babies) so their attention is elsewhere.
    I guess I am just grieving what never was and never will be. I know you get that.
    I am blessed with my daughter and granddaughter and more friends than I can count on one hand and adding to them out here.
    And thank you for your wonderfully kind comments on my blog, I am most incredibly flattered & honoured at your words!
    XO
    WWW

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  22. Sorry to hear about this. You must be feeling angry as well as sad, I expect, and that can be hard to express to relatives. You ask about family ties - I think they come and go over time, sometimes we are close and at other times not, with various relatives being more or less important to us over the years. I didn't have much contact with my Canadian relatives for years, but now they come to NI every year and I visit Toronto in December.

    So just hold your head up and create some distance... and happy significant birthday!

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  23. we cannot choose our families. you don't need that extra layer of skin; it would harm your writer soul. but distance... yes, i think distance is a wise idea.

    i have a brother i am deeply estranged from. i do not know why; he won't talk about whatever hurt or slight he feels. (he will not talk about feelings at all.) it's a terrible pain to me, because i keep thinking of him as a young boy and what a sweet brother he was in many ways.

    but he is not that person anymore. your family, too, they are not who they were.

    it's hard to let go of that old picture, though, isn't it?

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  24. www -- RE YOUR REPLY:

    "they are all, without exception, wealthy and at one point they were talking of chartering their own small jet to get here"

    Oh, I see (ooops!).

    I think I was assuming that your family were probably only of average means, of course I was not aware of the actual circumstances.

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  25. Please check out my new blog post, your opinions are always so interesting and I'd love to what you think on this one.

    Especially, since your perspective would be very different from anyone else's. You would be able to appreciate both sides of the argument I think.

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  26. It's an old but honest adage that you can choose your friends but you're stuck with your family (well, words to that effect!)
    I'm not sure that family ties are necessarily stronger than those of friendship. I'm happy my family are 4500 miles away. My father is 93 and my mother 86, and while I'll miss them when they're gone, seeing them only once a year while they're still alive is fine by me.
    Enjoy your daughter and grand-daughter's company, and don't give a thought to the rest of them. They're obviously busy living their own lives.
    (Maybe I'll open an "Auntie RJ's Agony Column" on Sparrow Chat) ;-)

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  27. Yes, you are so right Jenny, family ties wax and wane over the years. My godmother who lived in London (England)and I had some really close telephone conversations before she died. I clearly saw then that attachment to some family members can distance us from those others who are more available.
    How lovely for you that you found such treasure in your Canadian family!
    XO
    WWW

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  28. Laurie:
    yes that old picture I used to call it "Walton's Mountain" - remember that TV show. I had this romantic notion of great gatherings of rellies, all friendly, all caring, etc.
    The writer/artist in me.
    Reality is so different and I should know that from my writing, which is quite dark at times.
    I'm sorry to hear about your bro. Maybe he will open up as to carry that kind of baggage is not good for his soul.
    XO
    WWW

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  29. Sharon:
    You weren't to know that until I said.
    Money has never been an issue for them in adulthood.
    I wish I could say the same for me!!!
    XO
    WWW

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  30. DJM:
    I'll head over there very soon!!
    XO
    WWW

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  31. RJA:
    A part of me recognizes all that and even more so since I've processed the rejection. I am closer to my friends than my family and am so completely blessed with my beautiful daughter and granddaughter.
    And dammit we're going to have a great great time!!!
    Yes maybe have a separate "Agony Aunt" or hey - "Unctious Uncle" column??
    Unctious Uncle, I really love the sound of that!!
    XO
    WWW

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  32. Yes Ive now posted Kilkelly on my music blog.
    OF

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  33. WWW, I'll bet that right now we're wearing exactly the same t-shirts.

    Our son lives just a couple of miles away, or less. For I don't know how many years now the only time he phones or arrives in person is when HE has a problem. When things are going weel for him, which is most of the time, he doesn't know whether his mother and I are dead or alive.

    I'm always saying to my missus that if ever anything does happen to her, I am not going to let him know. I'll just wait until he next phones or arrives, then when he asks about her I'll simply say: "Oh! Your mother? I buried her a while back.

    Thankfully, our (disabled, wheelchairbound but ultra independent) daughter phones at least a couple of times a week. Most weeks she also meets her mother in town and they go a meal and do some shopping together.

    Even though she lives a lot further away than her brother, she comes to ours for the Sunday roast.

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  34. Oh, I forgot to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY ... and St**f 'em all. ;^)

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  35. Of:
    Thank you, I'm heading over there to play it now.
    XO
    WWW
    Richard:
    Oh I am so sorry to hear this, how painful for you. He must be the father of your beloved Sophie, I would think?
    I have a daughter living who knows where in Europe who has turned her back on everyone, all her family, friends in Canada, etc. I think about her every day so I can totally relate to your pain.
    I also have one dear daughter and granddaughter who are all I could wish for. I try and focus on the positives in my life but now and again I crumble, like recently but I am in the Republic of Feckem at the moment so all is well.
    I like our matching T-shirts!
    XO
    WWW

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  36. Yep, you're he IS Sophie's dad. Of course, she now lives in Germany with her mother and new step-dad.

    But guess what? She comes over here one week today for 10/11 days. She and her mother plan the dates because, can you believe, Sophie and I share the same birthday on 20th.

    At least life's been good to me for most of my time. Can you possibly imagine ANY greater birthday gift than the one I received, 13 years ago? :^)

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  37. What a birthday gift and how generous of her Mum to let her share it with you!!
    My granddaughter is 13 as well - tho she'll be 14 in October.
    Have a wonderful time with Sophie as I will when my precious arrives here next Wednesday for 20 days. Yippee!!
    XO
    WWW

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