Strength From Around and Within

Last Saturday after yet another mentally exhausting week, I trudged over to my friends’ places in Rittenhouse Square. By the time I had gotten there, I was in tears.

I am so sick of fighting with my family. I am breaking down. I feel so alone.

Okay, let me rephrase that.

I am so sick of feeling like the only one that is fighting with my family.

I had just departed my boyfriend’s place in Washington West; my left knee was slightly hurting, but deep inside, I was hurting like no tomorrow. I never would have imagined that more and more I am relying on my friends for the support I need to get through every day. My present relationship I feel is going through slight challenges (emphasis on slight, folks) but I find this more stimulating and inspiring me to be a better person and to make things work, whereas my relationship with my family is flat out daunting and draining.

As for Jeff, with a six-week vacation, it proves to be another challenge. Travel time plus varying interests on both our ends had already been a challenge. But in spite of the challenges, both of us cared about each other to continue to make it work.

I can live with this challenge. I’m not going to change my beliefs, but I am willing to change my behaviour. There’s a huge difference. I won’t compromise my beliefs, but before Jeff, I had not dated for seven years. I had been in survival mode for that time. As a result, I am still getting used to the giving and taking, that I will admit. Even so, our approaches to a lot of things are quite different. I subscribe to a “work hard, play hard” mentality; he is just the opposite “work hard, relax hard” as he put it.

Personally I was glad this was addressed. It’s cool. I have no issues. Deep down, I knew there were a number of reasons for this. I only wished I’d communicated certain elements on my end a bit sooner. For that I was kicking myself in the behind. I made this same mistake in university, I need to be more proactive with my concerns. But even then we’re going to make it work. I’m learning again about life and love, and I am grateful for this. Even if it doesn’t work out in the end, I think it’s safe to say we’ll both be of stronger characters for it.

Even then, I want to feel I can vent to someone like Jeff when I need to. Or any of my friends for that matter. Yet even in spite of my friends and Jeff himself, I’m starting to think I may need a support group of some sort because I am continuously finding myself not only foundering with every twist and turn in the family drama saga but more and more afraid of the stigma. I also fear that those that cannot relate will get sick of me venting. Then again I know I have a self-confidence issue. I should be able to trust my friends, but there are days you find you can’t trust some people the hard way. It’s happened enough, and I hate that feeling.

There are days I feel alone. And I am working on building (or in some cases, rebuilding) relationships with others. My friends are valuable, but my family – what should be the ultimate bedrock – is becoming increasingly unreliable if not detrimental to my life.

I dread the holidays more and more. The screaming, the fighting. Upon venting, my friend Angela had told me to listen to Katy Perry’s Firework – at first I thought she was crazy, but upon listening to the lyrics closer, she had a point.

Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

[…]

You don’t have to feel like a waste of space
You’re original, cannot be replaced
If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow

Maybe you’re reason why all the doors are closed
So you can open one that leads you to the perfect road

Katy Perry was singing THIS???? I listened more intently.

Ultimately, the song drew me to tears and the music video (when I watched it later) even more so upon seeing the screaming between the parents. The two children taking cover in the adjacent room reminded me of Marcus and myself dodging the family fights.

Watch “Firework” on YouTube.

Then again, tonight, after I closed the office down with Sergio, I was reminded that no, I am not alone. At this point, he may as well be my older brother. As blunt and a fighter as my younger brother Marcus is, that’s how he is as well. Except in Sergio’s case, coming from a very traditional, upper-class conservative Jewish family, both his parents were on his case, and today his father is still on his case about his personal life. Who he is dating. What his girlfriend’s career is like and how much she is making. I keep telling him that I want to spare him from my “woe is me” stories, but he only encourages me to get it out.

The chatter tonight started out about our upcoming half marathons; Sergio will run his next half in Miami 30 January and then I had brought up ShamrockFest occurring in the middle of my family’s vacation – and the start of my mother’s ridiculously long break.

It was then Sergio then asked about my family, to which I indicated that visits home were now becoming more heated than conference calls with my current client.

“Trust me,” he commiserated with me on the walk home from work today, “I know ALL about this. We both need interventions badly. You need to get it out. Because if you don’t it’s going to kill you. Don’t let it kill you. Let it out and laugh it off. Anyone who thinks it’s your fault you’re in this situation is an idiot. Laugh at the ignorance of everyone in your family dealing the way they are. I can get through this, and so can you. You are smarter and more insightful than they ever will be. You will have the last laugh.”

“I’m not proud of my situation,” I said in frustration. “I’m not proud of throwing family out the window. I look at everyone else but I am so [flipping] ashamed. I am so frustrated I’m getting increasingly close to my breaking point.”

“You’re not going to be proud,” he replied, “I’ve been there. I have cut my family off for months when they’ve crossed the line. My father tears down my girlfriend every chance he gets, and I won’t take any of his [garbage].”

I stopped short. Did he just say he cut his family off? He never mentioned this to me before.

“You’ve survived twelve years of this horse [manure],” Sergio replied, “but you are being forced to choose between bad and worse. Your sanity and mental health come first, second, and third.”

Hold on a second. Why was this sounding familiar all of a sudden? God, Jeff had only told me the same thing Saturday night.

There was just one key difference now: I was hearing it from someone that had experienced the hell almost as bad if not worse than I had.

Maybe this is what I needed, hearing this from someone who had actually walked a little in my shoes. To some extent it was easing the fear of the unknown for me, that my colleague was a living example that getting through it is possible.

depressed woman Pictures, Images and Photos

Make no mistake, Sergio is hurting, but he’s carrying on. He’s pushing on – with a smile on his face, with a vengeance, all whilst being realistic.

You can get through this. Yes you can.

The next five months of my life are going to be critical. Marcus is saying Phoebe will be bogged down by work commitments through mid-March to be able to harp on me. The next six weeks after that will be a long vacation for her, the latter four will take her abroad to Sri Lanka. That is six weeks of paradise for me. But all that will vanish come May.

Marcus feels he’s got four months to push back against my mother before free time opens up for her and all hell breaks loose.

Whilst I applaud his efforts, and I love him all the more for it, I admit deep down the odds are against him trying to pull something off in four months that I had been unable to do for twelve years.

“The irony here,” Marcus quipped, “is for someone that claims to be family-oriented, she is destroying the family by doing this to you.”

“Yeah, but if I don’t follow the path, I’m not part of the family, I’m a cancer instead. You heard her.”

Four months. I’m going to get through this, and I’m going to need every ounce of strength and support that I can get from my brother, my cousins and my friends. Every grain.

And now that I know, I plan on picking Sergio’s brain a little more for pointers, to the extent he remains comfortable. Then again, what if my venting opened him up? Hmmm…

I’m going to survive with the help of others, even if it means I have to walk out on my family for good. I think I might just be able to do this.

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