grateful vs resentful

I struggle with this one a LOT. More than I would ever like to admit to anyone. I find it hard to be grateful for what people choose to give me, and seem to become resentful towards them, for when they choose to withhold from me.

I can remember resenting my Momma, when she flat-out turned me down, at my offer to have her babysit Rebecca. Rebecca was an infant, and I was a tired brand-new mother. Momma was still working full-time as a teacher. After teaching 135 children all day, coming home to a screaming kid, was not her idea of a good time. I can’t say that I blame her. Yet, I do remember resenting the fact that I had no help in those days.

As the babies kept coming, Daphne just a year later. Then Bronwyn 3 after that. Each time asking my folks if they wanted to attend the baby’s birth, or to be there to help out, I was told, “No thank you.” By the time Russell came along, I didn’t even make the offer. Resentment settled in as I watched them traveling 672 miles to my sister’s side each time she gave birth, yet couldn’t travel the 23 miles to my home.

I used to joke that I could count on 1 hand how many occasions my parents had babysat for my children. 1 hand. That’s less than 5. Over the course of my having 4 children spaced 8 and 1/2 years apart. Yes, there was a lot of resentment built up there.

In recent years though, my parent’s attitude towards grandparenting changed, as well as their commitments towards being teachers of children. They have taken care of my children on so many occasions I can no longer keep the count. I know that it must look strange to outsiders, and feel even stranger to my parents when I gush and gush and gush my gratitude towards them, each time that they help me out. Phone calls, texts messages, even taking one or both of them out for a meal, to show my thankfulness. I know that had I not spent those years being turned down, I would not appreciate it half as much, as I do.

Along with that lesson I think that is why it is so very hard for me to actually ask for things. I’ve become so accustomed to being told, “No.” that I don’t feel, that I deserve very much in life. Instead I find myself just trying to do everything on my own, and having to work twice as hard, because of these chains.

Maybe the lesson isn’t so much as to be grateful for what I get, but to also keep in the forefront of my mind — don’t ask, don’t assume, just accept what you get and be thankful for that.

I don’t know what its like to not have a thought.

I hear people respond to me with: “Nothing.” When I ask them, “What are you thinking?”

Nothing?

How can that be? You have to be thinking SomeThing. Even just the thought “I’m not thinking anything right now.”

Nope.

Turns out that for some people, the majority even, there are times when their brains are really Not thinking anything at all. They aren’t worried about something. Remembering something. Figuring out something. Making a list of things that they are trying to remember, to not worry about. Their brains are completely silent.

I literally have NO Idea what that is like.

At all.

I have been thinking thoughts for my whole life. Or remembering thoughts, that I’ve already had. Or making a mental list of thoughts that I have had. Or ones that I have to think up yet. LoL

My brain has never shut down. Ever.

Turns out that there is a chemical in our brains that helps us to think. Dopamine. It turns your brain on, and keeps it running. Like gas in a car. Or food in a body. Or carbon dioxide in the plant life around us. Without it… there is no activity.

For those people who’s levels of Dopamine never shut down… they have a different way of dealing with every day life. Some people become frustrated and lash out in their frustrations, over not being able to finish a thought, or a task. Some people have so many thoughts in their brains, that they are afraid that one of them might be important; and so they speak all of them out loud. Some people just shut down, and let their brains wander all over the place, without speaking to anyone around them. Some people have an inability to sit still with all of these thoughts running around in their heads. Some people are able to multi-task, because they are able to think more than one thing at a time. Some people can’t cope with so many thoughts at once, and try to organize the rest of their world with preciseness.

I do some of the above things. I won’t mentions which ones apply to me directly. But there’s more than one of them.

My brain can not shut down on its own. It just can’t. I can however, function in a modern day world because I have over my life been taught to do so. I have been taught to sit down, and get my homework done; because my mother would beat my butt, when I didn’t. This was a form of what is now known as “Behaviour Modification”. Or as my father would do: Take his belt strap to the backs of my thighs, when I failed to clean up the playroom, in a timely manner (of several hours). Most times this was because I would get distracted by something. And one thing would lead to another thing. Which would lead to another thing.

Its not that I want to be distracted, or that I don’t want to finish a task. Its just that my brain gets all worked up and some times its hard to get it to slow down. To find that quiet place where I can just think about 1 thing and not have it then lead to 12 more things. Which is actually better than when my brain gets all worked up over just 1 problem, and the 12 different ways that each choice / decision in the problem, can then lead down 12 more different ways. And so forth, and so on.

Example of how my brain operates on a daily basis:
I’m hungry.
I want something hot to eat.
There’s leftover Chinese in the fridge I could heat up.
I remember when went to China for 2 weeks, and we ate Chinese every freaking day, and I swore I would never eat Chinese again, so long as I lived.
Did I ever tell you the story about when I went to China?
Scott was only a baby, so he really doesn’t remember going to China.
Or even the Egypt trip.
Or the Hawaii one.
Or the England one.
He really got screwed out on those times and places, because he was so young.
But he got all the luxury too, because he was spoiled by the natives.
He once ran wandered through the security in the Tokyo airport. Daddy had an awful time trying to get the people to let him go through, and then back again, because we didn’t have visas for Toyko. We were only stopping through.
Though I have to say that some of the visa stamps are really beautiful pieces of art. Not like now a days.
I wish that I had kept my passports, from back then.
I wonder if my Dad still has our old ones?
Or course if he did they would be in the old lockbox that he keeps.
Or at least used too.
I don’t know if he keeps it any more since their house was broken into back a few years ago.
I should call him and ask if he has them.
He is probably at Zellie’s about now though.
Which reminds me… I am hungry.

The above took all of 4 minutes to type out. It is actually edited down from ALL of the thoughts that I just had, because I don’t type as fast as I think. And I have learned to stop, when my brain gets off track this way. Or as Ozzy would say: on the Crazy Train.

Yes, my brain can be like riding on the wheels of the Crazy Train. With little to no stopping.

And so it begins.
Time is fleeting.
Looking around,
at the uneasy stares of beloved family members.
Each of us scared.
Each of us wondering.
Who will be first?
Not wanting to be “it”.
Nor wanting anyone else to be “it”, either.
and so it begins… this next chapter of our lives. —with a heart full of grief, the size of which I don’t know how to measure.

Mary Martha Ziegler dropped her robes yesterday.… leaving behind 5 of her 6 siblings.

There are 13 of us cousins left… and each of us must be wondering, “Which of use loses our parent first? Which one of us has to face this certainty?” I know for me that I don’t want to be first. Nor do I want one of my cousins to be first either. One of us has to be first. Now with our aunt’s passing it has to be something that each of us is facing.

Aunt Marti, as she was known, didn’t leave behind any children of her own. She was the matriarch of her own little family of friends. She had the 14 of us, and our spouses, and our own growing families full of children to love up on. Which was enough for her. She was everybody’s favorite aunt.

She was the one that many of us thought would be here long after the others. She was the one that was supposed to take care of our financial arrangements. She wasn’t supposed to leave first. None of them are supposed to be leaving yet. They can’t possibly be old enough to be dying. Not our aunts. Not our uncles. Not the people who are, our parents.

Yet she did.

Still, that doesn’t make her passing any easier for any of us. Nor does it make the reality of what we are all facing now, any easier.

What is it that people say, about blindness? Refusing to see what they don’t want too. I think this is my parent’s problem. I don’t understand how they could raise me to be someone who takes responsibility for their actions, and yet, take none for their own. Why would you raise me to be a strong, independent woman, and then dislike me for it?

My Father’s response to my letter: “Can we get together after work then?”

Huh?

Dear Daddy,

Did you read my email? You just reiterated your desire to meet giving no reason, much less persuasive argument, why I should, given my stated position. I don’t see what meeting with you would resolve, plain and simple.

Will it change the way that my family supports my Ex husband, instead of me?
I don’t think so.

I made the painful decision, wrote Momma and you about it in some detail, and you seemingly think that the situation can be solved with one face to face meeting. You have given me nothing new to think about. My decision still stands.

Ya’ll have made your choice, of whom you value more. Frankly, I am tired of being reminded of that.

I wish you the best in the relationships you chose over me.

Respectfully,
Marcella

I understand that my family is a bunch of stubborn people. But you know what, that doesn’t mean that I have to hang out with them. I don’t have to be constantly reminded, of how much they dislike my choices. Of how perfect Barry is. Of how much they hate to see what I’ve done to fuck up his life.

I know this though – I am grateful for who they are. How they have behaved. For it shows me, how I want to be for my own children. I will never ever tell them that, the person abusing them is justified. I will never choose someone else over them. Ever.

My children will always come First~!

Daddy,

I got your message the other day. First of all, the days you mentioned conflict with already scheduled events. The kids and I will be away camping this Saturday and Sunday. Beyond which, I have informed Momma about why I am not coming to your party. That decision is final.

So, I don’t know what issues between us can be solved by one dinner meeting. I found the strength to call an end to Barry’s “Bullshit”… his telling me how worthless I am and trying to drag me down to his level. Barry’s attitude is “Poor me. The world is stacked against me.” He had opportunities to pull himself up. He had enough opportunities to work full time, to make more money. But he chose to take out his frustration on me and the kids. It was always somebody else’ fault.

You and Momma gave me no support, (“this is your fault for involving the police Marcella, I can’t help you”) even when Barry was arrested and charged with domestic violence. Which by the way, the State gets to determine; not me. They based the charges upon the evidence of what they found. From police reports, the 911 call, the children’s statements of what they saw. I didn’t tell them what to charge him with. And in this state, do not get to make that decision (“see what a mess you’ve made of his life because you had to call the police”). You directly supported Barry, though it all. With bail money and a place to stay during the court ordered physical separation. You may not remember Mother’s Day, but I had to wait until he left, to even see my own mother that day (“well this is his home now because of you. I won’t make him leave”). As well as, my children, because they were court-ordered to be with him on the weekends; at your home. I was family, and my own family chose him over me.

In this struggle, I have found that I am a STRONG WOMAN! I would have hoped that you would be proud of me, and my strength. I can remember your lessons, to me as a child, of the importance of doing things on my own (“carry your own luggage and what you choose to pack”). You taught me that being able to make my own money, (“if you want to go to that out of state school you’ll need to get a job”). Solving my own problems (“figure it out for yourself”). Caring for my own needs; and those that I am responsible for, like my children, (“don’t ever think about coming home pregnant”). That being a responsible adult was something that I should become. That you found admirable.

Beyond the lessons of taking care of myself, I have not asked my family for any financial help; partly due to the fact that every time I have brought up the subject of divorce, in the past, in trying to obtain your support, I was quickly lectured on the importance of marriage (“we don’t get divorced in this family”). Of its impact on children’s ability to even do well in school (“I see kids all the time that are doing badly because their parents divorced”). You would be happy to know, that the months following the divorce, each of the children had teachers telling me that they were all doing so much better in school.

So I am making my own way with my kids. Barry’s financial support is the minimum he can get away with under the law; but that, along with my salary and bartering skills, is enough, to keep the house over our heads, and food on the table. I am thankful. Unlike many women, I wasn’t forced by economics to stay in an unhealthy situation, physically and psychologically unhealthy, both for my kids and me.

My family did not support me, nor consider my feelings, during the divorce. Evidently you didn’t feel I was justified in getting a divorce, because you continued social contacts with Barry, some behind my back. I was terribly hurt by this, and, at one time, I might have crumbled under the pressure. However, today I will not crumble.

I respect you as my father, because I was taught this, just as I was taught to be a strong woman. But I don’t have to like who you are, or the choices you’ve made (“I love you but I don’t like what you’re doing”). Nor do I have to spend time with someone who can’t support me, in my choices. Or even respect me for them.

In loving respect,
Marcella

Well that didn’t take long.

Momma replied. And not once did she address any reason why I might be upset. Instead she does what she does. She took no responsibility for anything, and laid the whole problem at the feet of my father. Not that he doesn’t have his own shit to account for. But seriously? Not even now, almost a year after the divorce, I can’t even get her to admit that maybe I might be right for having gotten a divorce.

*sigh*

Dear Marcella,

I will relay your message to Daddy and let you know what he decides.
Not sure if I want Barry there but it will be daddys decision.
Have a good day
Love you , Momma

My mother called me a few days ago, to tell me that Daddy was finally deciding on a birthday celebration. He had decided that we would all come up to his house, and have a quiet dinner. There was no “asking” me if I would be coming. There was no “requesting” that I come. There was, as always, the assumption, that he and she would state what would happen; and I would jump.

Pfft!!!

I am so freaking tired of these little Family Gatherings; where I get to be reminded of my divorce, from the man they consider a saint!

So you know what?! I’m no freaking going.

I wrote her a letter instead.

Momma,

I have thought, long and hard, about whether I should go to Daddy’s Birthday Dinner. In my opinion, I don’t think it would be a good idea. These are the factors I considered:

First, it is Barry’s weekend with the kids. Barry, and working with him to modify the schedule for family events, and the like is not as easy as it seems. There is generally too much drama attached to it, so I reserve it for major things like last year’s Thanksgiving; and when he wanted to take Rebecca and Daphne to CA, in May; which as you know had its own repercussions. When its his weekend, its HIS weekend. Just this past weekend, I didn’t get to share in the excitement, or help in the prep, of the two older girls’ Homecoming Dance. All I got were some photos.

Second, I think that the children should see Daddy on his birthday. It is important for grand kids to have a relationship with their Grandparents. Since it is Barry’s weekend to have the children, you should probably invite Barry, too. But his presence would certainly make it uncomfortable for me and possibly the children, especially if there is a rehash of the argument we had on Facebook. I still wonder about that. No names were mentioned, I didn’t even indicate that I was involved personally in any way, but you and others made it about me, the justification for my divorce, and your “blamelessness” for your behavior because you never were overtly told. Which was not true.

Lastly, Daddy’s Birthday should be all about him. I honestly feel that my presence would be a distraction from his day. The tension between me and the rest of the family, including my “Ex”, is just too great to risk ruining his day. I will send Daddy a separate note wishing him a Happy Birthday!

Marcella