Here's what I've learned:
1) I've been whiny, grudgy, and unforgiving. I would like to stop being like that now. I'm going to forgive myself for it, though, because I felt my heart needed protecting and sometimes, that's a thing you gotta do.
2) I'm not at all friendless -- I've got some great friends. And I've got a mom and a mother-in-law who are there for me when I need them. That is a big au gratin heap of blessing not everyone has.
Here's the chewy part:
3) women have a special way of withholding praise, affection, and attention from each other when they are jealous. It is awful. It hurts deeply and is entirely crazy-making.
Enough with being concise. Now here's the ramble:
My older sister began shooting daggers at me the moment my parents brought me home from the hospital. Photographic evidence from the era bears this out. Since I can remember, she's been someone who I've admired tremendously, wanted to be just like, would do anything for (with the possible exception of "quit following/copying me!"), and who has seemed to love and despise me at the same time. For over three decades she's been treating with a blend of barely disguised contempt and grudging tolerance.
I have four older siblings but that relationship with my jealous big sis has been paramount for me. I've stopped following her around and copying her -- but she's still jealous of me. Pretty typical sister stuff: she thinks I have it so easy and I always get my way and I get everything I want. In many ways, this is true. Quite simply, she has battled depression most of her life and I have not.
I, for reasons no-one could possibly pinpoint, get to be happy and she does not.
I feel very guilty about this, though I know better.
When I announced my first pregnancy to her, we had this conversation:
Me: "I`ve got some exciting news. I`m pregnant."
Big Sis: "You`re kidding me."
Me: "Nope. I`m going to have a baby. I`m three months pregnant."
Big Sis: "Well that just makes me feel sick to my stomach. Hearing that makes me feel so anxious."
Me: "Um.... why?"
Big Sis: "I just don't know whether or not I should have babies. I'm worried sick about it."
Then she went on for a while about herself and how my news made her feel bad. She didn't bother with any of the clichés such as "Congratulations," "I'm happy for you," or "How are you feeling?"
I felt such an imprecise blend of longing for her approval, anger at her self-absorbedness, and despondency that she isn't able to be a better sister to me.
It's a strange grief you feel when your loved-ones have a mental illness. They are right there, but then again, they really aren't.
I wasn't up for many more chats with her that pregnancy. I had the skin of a pregnant woman -- thin.
When I called her to say I was holding my baby in my arms and that she was a girl, she said:
Big Sis: "Oh. Wow. Well I just went rollerblading. I'm freaking exhausted."
Me: "Well then, I guess I should let you go? I'm kind of tired too, actually. I just gave birth."
Big Sis: "Yes, you mentioned that. Well it was a really long rollerblade. My back has been sore and I thought the exercise would help. But it didn't at all. It feels way worse, if you can believe it. I need a bath or a massage or something."
Me: "Okay then, well... take care."
Again, the clichés of "Congratulations," "How are you?" or anything at all having to do with myself or the baby were conspicuously absent.
I cannot begin to describe how deeply this hurt me. I was raw and wide-open and tender from pregnancy and birth and got the message loud and clear that I could expect nothing even close to emotional support from my big sister. She wasn't able. For whatever reasons, she isn't emotionally healthy enough to say "Congratulations, I can't wait to meet my new niece. I'm so excited! How are you? Tell me everything...."
I think what's starting to click into place for me right now is understanding what a big deal having this very jealous and depressed big sister in my life has been and is. It's a bigger crayon then I've given it creds for, colouring pretty much everything. I'm beginning to understand why a side of guilt always arrives for me alongside an entree of success and happiness. I thought it had something to do with growing up Catholic. But I think it's an internal dialogue that comes from somewhere else. It's a "now what have you done, this wonderful thing will make your miserable sister even more miserable."
Now I'm wondering, do I manifest relationships with other jealous women so I can replay this hurtful relationship again and again in other aspects of my life?
Or are women just jealous? Cause I often feel I'm surrounded by females who would just love to see me knocked down a few rungs and to see me flat on my face. And that's when I tell myself I'm surely imagining things. But really, I'm not sure I am.
I don't get jealous, honestly. I don't think I have that gene. I have never understood for a second why women seem to snarl and scrap over happiness as if this is something you can gain by ripping it out from some other's bitches jaws.
It just doesn't work that way. In fact, it works in quite the opposite way.
When I love people, I am never sorry to hear of their success. I am always happy to hear good news from them. I want them to shine. Their success is a thrill, never a disappointment for me.
Is that the very thing that inspires other women to be jealous of me? Could be. It's not because I'm skinny.
My SIL lives in another province. When we had our third baby at home, she didn't call or send a gift. She didn't even bother to comment "cute!" on Facebook pictures. She waited until Christmas time when she could visit this month and a half old baby in person. Fine. But this is what she had to say:
SIL: "Oh my God, she has so much hair."
Me: "She does, doesn't she?"
SIL: "You should see my friend who just had a baby. She looks sooooo great. You can't even tell she had a baby. Her stomach is completely flat. She works out lots and is just naturally gorgeous. Her birth was easy too. Like, one hour and it didn't hurt. She's an amazing person. She does yoga."
Then she looked at my belly askance and said, "Maybe you should try yoga."
She didn't ask about our home birth. She didn't have anything nice to say. You'd think a "Wow, she is so beautiful," or "Hey, how is life with three babies?" would come up. Nah.
Later that day I put my snow pants on and left my jeans folded up on the sofa so I could take her daughters and my kids tobogganing. When I came back, my jeans had been moved just slightly so that the "size 12" label was sticking out. That evening she found three separate "opportunities" to bring women who wore size 12 into the conversation.
As in: "So I saw this woman wearing such an inappropriately short skirt the other day. And she was heaaaaaaavy. She must have been, oh I don't know, Size 12. It was, quite honestly, horrifying. I seriously thought I might throw up."
And so on and so on and so on.
I know, right? What a hideous person.The only rational conclusion about this relationship is that this person (my SIL) hates me and would like me to feel terrible about myself.
I've been kind to her. I've thrown her a stagette and a baby shower. I've introduced her to all my friends and invited her into my life. She's in there. My people are her people. I've babysat her children and I've spent every Christmas for over a decade with her.
People who know us well or at all say she's obviously insanely jealous of me. Even though I'm a size 12? Even so. But conceding that just makes me feel crazy. And guilty. Cause I can't help but wonder if these jealous sisters are right about me. Do I deserve less?
Fuck no! I am fundamentally opposed to the philosophy of keeping your head down and your lights dim. That does not uplift a soul.
But: A long time friend of mine is about a month shy of a scheduled C-section for her third baby. She doesn't want a C-section and her husband is recovering from an injury/surgery and her parents are splitting up and she's pregnant with two small children and all this makes me think about her and hope things go her way and want to call her and offer support by letting her know I've been there-ish and it's hard and I'm thinking about her.
I'm still cheezed at her for not being there for me when I had my third. I vowed that if she ever had a third baby, I would not be there for her.
Isn't that asinine? It is and it isn't. The SIL likes to play us women off each other and set up situations -- like for example when our boy was a wee thing we invited her and my husband's brother and daughters over for brunch. We made waffles. But they didn't come. They called to say they'd be late. Then only he showed up well after noon with his two girls and asked me to babysit them for a couple hours while he went out with his brother/my husband. Okay.
Later the SIL made sure I found out that she and the mutual friend had a girls day out together and it was wonderful, just what she needed. So. Instead of visiting her newborn nephew and sharing a meal with us -- she schlepped her kids off on me to help our mutual friend shop for yoga pants and drink lattes with her. Cause it was just what she needed.
I'm still cheezed at the mutual friend about this, though likely, she was clueless. What I did decide to do was to "unfriend" those two. Not on Facebook, that would be brash. IN REAL LIFE, yo.
It's worked and it hasn't. Our lives are too deeply interwingled to really be apart.
What's changed is that my heart is in the wrong place.
Which is where I believe their hearts are. Because I can tell that they wish I was less. And I don't want people like that in my life. They suck. And I don't want to be like that. But I've become it.
What's my point? My point is this:
1) I'm turning into the kind of bitch who witholds love and affection from people. It's taken me decades to learn how to do this. It didn't come naturally to me. Now it's part of me and I desperately wish I could unlearn it. But I don't know how. I'm all "Casserole for you, but no casserole for you, Biotch!"
2) I probably load too much on my female relationships. I want friends to be the sister I don't have and when they inevitably "fail" I am disappointed. This probably makes it hard to be my friend.
3) You can't really unfriend a sister or a sister-in-law or a sister-like friend. You can just be lifelong frenemies. I have no idea whether or not I will come around and be nice to my very pregnant friend. I don't want to be a grudgy, small person, but I don't want to be a doormat.
4) Yoga doesn't make you skinny. Don't be daft. I've been doing yoga since 1992.
Tree pose on a tree. Get it?