Tuesday, December 18, 2012

...and then you grow up

I have a very blended family.  My Mom had me and my oldest sister Tanya from her first marriage, the man I have called Dad all my life (but was biologically speaking - not related to me) had two children from his first marriage.  I have always called Georgie and Jenny my brother and sister regardless of how many genes we share.  My Mom and Dad then had two additional children in their marriage - Jackie and Deanna. So there are six of us, divided up into three biological sets, but we are all siblings regardless.

All siblings squabble from time to time.  Some more than others, and some a bit less than others.  Compared to my own childhood, my children hardly ever have issues with each other except Charlie and David.  They are too rough and too close in age and this causes conflict, but I still have hope they'll become friends as they age.

Growing up I was quite close to my sister Tanya, and my baby sister Deanna.  Due to distance I wasn't as close to Georgie or Jenny, but both are people I consider to be on good terms with.  There was really only one sibling that I squabbled over and over with. We just didn't get along.  We had our standard sibling squabble, but it went far past just your standard squabbling.  We genuinely did not like one another.  I felt slighted when it came to punishments, parental attention, ect.  Quite frequently, as I've heard from my other siblings as well, whenever a fight occurred with Jackie we knew that we would be the one punished.  This created feelings of jealousy in me, and in return my attitude towards her grew quite soured.

As we aged we did not, as our parents had hoped, become friends.  Certain things occurred in my early adult life that intensified my feelings of dislike as well as my perception that our she was favored over myself and my other siblings.  Over the next half decade we hardly spoke online, never on the phone, and got into fights quite a bit with each other.  At one time she deleted AND blocked me on facebook for nearly my entire pregnancy with my youngest.

We simply didn't know how to communicate with each other, and due to our past histories of hurting one another, we perceived any and all comments as an insult - even when there was no intention of this. Unfortunately, this also extended into our new families as her husband would come to her defense at times with some, erm, colorful language at times.  As I had not ever really gotten to know him in real life this colored my perception of him.  It was this never ending cycle.  Someone would feel hurt and in turn would hurt back and meanwhile our dislike for one another was growing at an alarming rate.

Since we were both adults at this point we were not forced into each others company, and this meant that either one of us could cut off communication - permanently - if need be.  Jackie did do this once or twice, but eventually would return to communication with me.  I have a really hard time cutting people out of my life.  I have always been the one who will constantly give people chance after chance even when others were telling me over and over again that they didn't deserve it.  I was always OPEN for communication but I wasn't changing HOW I communicated.  I wanted HER to change while I kept as I was.  Obviously, that wasn't going to work, but I was stubborn and I felt that I was in the right while she was in the wrong.

This wasn't the first major family member I had needed to repair ties with.  After 5 years of not speaking to Chris's mom we both grew up enough to apologize to each other, and to forge a relationship that at this point in time is pretty great.  I just can't cut people out permanently.

Everything changed when Jackie's husband, my brother in law, Danny received orders to PCS (permanent change of station - basically he was ordered by the military to move) from the East coast to the West coast.
Knowing they would have to pass through close to my neck of the woods I messaged Jackie and extended an invite.  Chris was bewildered.  He knew about our rocky relationship and he did not want to deal with my anxiety leading up to the visit, or any fights that erupted during the visit.  I told him that family was family and we were going to try.

The weeks leading up to the visit were filled with speculation: Will we fight? Am I going to be able to control my anxiety and panic attacks during the visit? Will it end up with constant verbal sparring? This was the first time I was going to see her since she became a mother, how was I going to react to that?

Chris was on TDY and wasn't set to return from it until they had already arrived and I was extremely nervous to not have him here.  As luck, or unluck, would have it, I fell a few days before they arrived and sprained every joint and muscle in my left leg leaving me unable to walk or move much at all.  Chris was sent home the very next night after my fall to take care of me.

After they arrived and I carried my very adorable niece through the house on a tour there were a few awkward moments.  I had no idea if the animosity that I so often encountered with Danny would continue in person - even though my baby sister and my mom assured me he was a very nice guy.  I had no idea if I would be able to communicate with Jackie with being offended or offending her.  We sat on the couch for about 10 minutes in complete silence until my brain told me to stop acting like a damn child and just TALK, something that anyone who knows me knows I have no problem doing. Once I began talking, asking questions, I realized I really didn't know Jackie or Danny at all.  I'm sure at times they felt as if I were interviewing them, lol.

I won't say the visit went perfectly. We had a few hiccups, but I always quick to apologize if I felt anything I said could be misconstrued as rude or mean.  Only one time did I need to leave the room to deal with a panic attack and had a good cry over feeling as if I had been attacked or insulted.  One time for a 3+ day visit is pretty damn good, I'd say.  As far as I know she didn't feel attacked, or if she did she hid it well.

It took me 27 years to figure out, AND listen to the old saying, "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?"  I wanted this visit to be a happy one.  One that was on the path to repairing a relationship that was 23 years in the making.  I realized that my "new" brother in law - who will be known from this moment on as just my brother (as I've done with all my non biological that I love as if they were my biological family) is a pretty cool guy.  We got along pretty well, and I look forward to getting to know him better.  I also, finally, began to learn my sisters language.  I don't think you could find two siblings more different than us, but we are starting to learn how to talk to one another.

Will Jackie and I become best friends? Who knows.  We are both young, and I think as long as we continue to put aside our past and learn how to speak to each other NOW we stand to have, at the very least, a decent relationship.  Perhaps by the time we get to visit with each other again we'll be on much better terms and there won't be as much tension leading up to the visit.

I have no idea where her head was prior to the visit, or where it is now after the visit, but I know that *I* finally grew up and decided to allow the past remain in the past.  I finally did what my parents always hoped I could - I spent 5 days in the company of my sister and we parted on good terms.  I'm looking forward to seeing how this relationship grows.

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