Friday, 17 April 2009

Arts and Crafts

In 1986 we moved house. Actually, in pretty much every year from the time I was born, we moved house.

We were packing for the 1986 move when I came across a Christmas ornament I had made at some arts and crafts session, either at school or church or the local library. It consisted of a styrofoam ball completely covered with sequinned white marshmallows. It had been fun making it, a quiet rainy day activity.

Pick up a pin, a green or red sequin, a white marshmallow …
Put the pin through the sequin …
Spear the little marshmallow through its centre …
Push the marshmallow right down to the end of the pin …
Push the embellished pin into the styrofoam ball …

Covering the ball, one small centimetre at a time until it was uniformly covered … a little disco ball of sweet sequinned goodness.

The ornament was clearly destined for the trash now.

My dad had abandoned us all for his God studies by this point, so the entirety of the manpower of the house move was my ailing mother and us three kids. As we went through everything in the house, my mother would pick up one thing after another and toss it in a rubbish bag saying, “Rubbish … Crap … More rubbish … “

Years later I saw my sister doing the same thing while sorting through stuff, and I felt sad.

In the midst of all the crap, I sat with my musty handmade ornament. I started to pull it apart, carefully, painstakingly. It was a slow and tedious process. The pins had gone rusty. The marshmallow was no longer soft. I pulled out one pin after another, separating out neat piles of rusty pins, slightly rusty goopy sequins, and marshmallow remains.

Nobody paid any attention to what I was doing until I pricked a finger with one of the pins. “Ouch!”


Suddenly my mother’s muttering stopped. My sister’s soft mimicking of my mother stopped. My brother’s general noisiness stopped. (He was somehow able to constantly generate a lot of noise without saying or doing anything.)

And that was that.

We all hoped it wasn’t the case, but feared that it was. My mother had all the provocation she needed to vent her rage, her frustration, her bitterness. She had wanted a reason, and I had provided it. It was child’s play for her to find fault with me. In fact, it became all too apparent that I was the most evil, wicked child ever to have existed. I found out that I had been waywardly unhelpful with packing for the move. I had deliberately been spending my time doing something utterly useless, and most likely my actions had been directly, maliciously undertaken to spite my mother.

I was too busy begging for mercy and trying to block out the pain of the beating to think about what my mother was saying. Survival was top of the list. Damage control.

Twenty-two years later, that afternoon and evening come back to me. (My mother’s rage venting lasted till late that evening as my sister, brother and I cowered before her.) I’m dumbfounded by the gaping disparity between what I did and the abuse I received (supposedly as a consequence of what I did).

I carefully examine the events. There is no causal link that can be made between my actions and my mother’s, without going to great efforts to contort reality.

An 11 year old child who grows distracted while packing, spends ten minutes tidily dismantling an old craft project, and pricks herself by accident while doing so, does not in any way merit hours of screamed verbal abuse and violence to the point of bleeding from her mother.

That is simply a fact. There is no way around that.

My mother’s actions that day are in no way justified.

Twenty-two years later, I email my sister who lives in the USA. I ask if she might do me a favour and order some menswear online from a US seller for my husband, and forward it on to me. Of course, I say, I would completely understand if it is too much bother for her. I just thought I would ask as the menswear I want is only available to USA residents.

A few days prior to that she has told me that she has some US Dollars from my mother, given to her two months earlier to pass on to me electronically, to use towards a birthday gift for my baby. It is two weeks after my baby’s birthday. She tells me that if my mother asks me if I have received the money, I am to say that I have. She tells me that her husband will email the funds over soon.

I tell her that if she is happy to go ahead and do me the favour, she can simply keep the money that my mother has given her and reimburse her costs from that. And this way we wouldn’t have to pay the fees for the money transfer either.

The next day I receive a reply.

She is livid. She tells me that:

1) She is too busy.
2) Her husband may have already initiated the electronic money transfer.

All very reasonable. But then, suddenly the email takes another tack. Unfortunately it goes in a direction that my sister is too liable to head whenever she wants to take out her frustrations on me (and she is perpetually frustrated). It becomes a rambling rant, spanning a whole page of attempts to explain how evil I am and how great she is. She says:

3) She is sending the money from my mother because she honours my mother (unlike myself). She is not sending it for me.
4) My mother is so thoughtful and lovely to want to send a gift for my baby. I am truly evil as I obviously am intending to spend it in ways unintended by my mother. In my pure evilness, I will tell my baby when he is older that his grandmother did not get a him a gift for his first birthday. I am dishonouring my mother and her gift. She refuses to be complicit in this heinous act.
5) The money transfer fees are petty, and I am petty to mention them.

She ends her email with, “Love you. I know you're going to be spitting mad about anything you think is a criticism of your behavior. This is not. It's to let you know I can't be a part of this.”

What a tool.

I'm not 'spitting mad'. But I do think she's a tool. Her email is offensive, not because she is criticising me, but because she is spewing abuse, accusations, and insults at me.

She doesn't want to do me the favour. I don't mind at all. But I do mind her making a detour in her reply to accuse me of being evil and dishonouring to my mother. She so loves to accuse me of that, and I am so sick of her trying to weave that into every single conversation and email. And the very last point, the casual insult, telling me that I am being petty. She so loves to insult me and then tell me that she is telling me things for my own good, and because she loves me. And she always ends with something lofty and self-righteous. I think she does this in order to remain in a state of denial over how abusive she is being. This way she doesn't feel she needs to change.

The straightforward, sane bit of the email (where she says she's too busy to do me the favour and that the money transfer may be in process already) is completely overshadowed by her insanity.

The email diversion reeks of the same old pattern. Frustrated bitterness and rage finding an outlet … finding someone to blame … twisting any available recent events around until they are unrecognisable … turning the most innocuous words into proofs of reprehensible, unforgivable wickedness.

The pattern is so familiar. It is practically a template for my childhood. My mother used to be in a constant state of profound anger and frustration. And she would regularly vent it on us and find fault with us as she pleased. In order for my mother's world to make sense to her, our wickedness had to be commensurate with the intensity of her rage and actions, so over the course of hours, she would gradually work reality round and round until she could somehow twist our images and actions into a semblance of the devil.

And now, for years and years, my sister has replicated the pattern, living in a state of constant inner turmoil and unresolved rage, constantly looking for a way to somehow blame it on others, especially me.

Communicating with my sister is like walking through a minefield. It is like my childhood.

I thank God that I am not under her authority, and I am not in her vicinity. Her attacks come via email and phone and from time to time when it gets too vicious, I impose a time out. She does not seem able to see that her behaviour is insane. Like my mother.

I wonder as I write this, how deeply am I infected with the same insanity? I see traces of it in my behaviour, in times when my response to my husband’s mistakes or shortcomings are disproportionate to his misdeeds. The only way forward is to confess it, repent of it, to change …

Thursday, 16 April 2009

How to Spot a Crazy Sister

You know your sis is crazy when she only speaks to you in code, and the code is basically like this:

Your sis says: something about herself
Your sis means: "I am so awesome. You suck."

Your sis asks: something about your hubby or b/f
Your sis means: "Your hubby sucks. Mine is awesome."

Your sis asks: something about you
Your sis means: "You suck."

It's usually pretty easy to spot if your sis is speaking in the above code, but if you have any doubts, you can do the following quiz to check:

1) Did your sis not talk to you for over 7 years and only start talking to you after you had a baby? And does she now only email to tell you what you're doing wrong with your baby?

2) When you tell your sis that your baby loves grapes, does she email you loads of articles on how grapes are a choking hazard?

3) Does your sister seem lost and unhappy in every conversation, unless she finds an opp to tell you that you suck?

4) Does your sister uninvitedly and habitually tell you what to do with your life, and take offense if you don't go and do it immediately?

5) Whenever your sister finds out that your baby is ill, does she tell you it's your fault?

If the answer to one or more of the above questions is 'yes', then there is a good chance that your sister is speaking in crazy code, and that she is clinically crazy.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Every day I wonder, ...

Why is my sister so crazy?

She is almost 40. She hasn't asked me anything about me or my life in over 15 years. She knows nothing about me, how I spend my days, the things I care about, my relationships ...

But she is obsessed with telling me how evil I am, and how much better she is than me.

A couple of weeks ago she sent me an email out of the blue saying she'd read a Bible verse that made her think of me. Alarm bells went off in my head. It was a verse about how disapointment makes a person sad (sick at heart).

The funny thing is, it was an amazingly apt verse. I am always so sad over her critical, judgemental, insane missives. And I've hoped for a long time that things would get better between us, and I've been disappointed time and again.

But somehow, reading this verse recently made her think it would be a great way into telling me that my life is a failure.

She sent me a great big long email all about how deeply and truly grieved she was at what a failure my life was, and how she needed to tell me because she loved me so. Truth be told, she's a very unloving person in general, and doesn't give a flying fig about most people. In fact, she gets a kick out of seeing others suffer, especially if she sees it as a direct punishment for failing to serve her adequately. But anyway, she made it clear to me in her email that I am not one of the blessed many that she really couldn't care less about. Nope. She actually loves me and cares for me deeply, and thus must tell me what a failure I am.

I don't mind that she thinks I'm a failure. The thing that boggles my mind is that she can make that judgement when she knows virtually nothing about me. I thought that kind of ignorant censure only happened to celebs.

If she's going to decide if I'm a failure or not, I think she should make an informed decision.

So tonight I've decided to start this blog for two reasons -- 1) to talk about how crazy my sister is -- and 2) in the highly unlikely event that she ever runs across this blog, maybe she'll find out a little bit about me!