The Tangled Christmas Lights

Imagine. It is Christmastime. The one really joyful time of the year. Time to festively decorate, for the turkey has been dutifully consumed. Dig out all the ornaments and decorations from storage. Some has been kept through the years. Ahh, there it is.

The bundle of Christmas lights. The lights you know you definitely had carefully coiled up, and now is a tangled mess. Looking at that strand, you can smell the good memories of Christmas celebrations long past.

Time to test the strand. Hunker down on the floor with the strand, and the box of bulbs. Reach over to plug in the lights, and sure enough. Many dead bulbs. What do you do? Is it time to throw out the entire strand? Is good enough to just go through and replace the bulbs, even though they are in the majority?

You really do not want to get rid of the strand simply because you are sentimental, no other reason. However, the wires are frayed in spots. They could become a danger to you, and to your well being. What do you do?

Within the past week, I have had scheduled appointments with my psychologist, my psychiatrist, and today with my EMDR therapist. A lot of the discussion has been how my siblings have played a key role in my early emotional trauma. That nagging want of mine to be connected with them. After all, I grew up influenced by the Brady Bunch where the siblings were always together.

Also within the past couple weeks, articles have been popping up on my Facebook feed discussing the various anxieties brought upon by fragile relations with family members. Two articles in particular truly resonated with my troubled soul: “Rehab and Life After Christmas“, by C. J. Hardee; and “Anxiety Disorders typically caused by exposure to Narcissistic Abuse“, on the Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Flying Monkeys blog.

A few statements from the Narcissistic Abuse article that have rang true in my inner being:

“ … Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) involves high levels of anxiety, fear and avoidance of social situations due to feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness and concern about being judged or viewed negatively by others. … ”

“ … Folks who actively abuse and enable other abusers love telling their abuse victims that they are somehow socially, emotionally, and intellectually deficient. They are huge fans of abusing the crap out of their target, then when caught or confronted about their behavior choices they love nothing more than playing the victim. … ”

And from Rehab and Life, these quotes:

“ … Feeling and seeing what to me seems to be pure hypocrisy, and me feeling so much like an outcast and so obviously aware that everyone was sitting by their partner whom they love, yet the person whom I love is not allowed in my parents home. … ”

“ … A million other moments, some good, some challenging and hurtful, that show that I am “set apart” of the family. … ”

“ … I know that time, time, time. I must give them time, but I am not currently living in the future, I am living in the now. I can see how far they’ve come, and I rejoice for that, but it is the now, the present that I am living in that burns like hot coals into my heart. … ”

I should share this with a few of my siblings. Start with the brother-in-law who threatened to kill me for being gay, and hasn’t spoken to me since then. Or the sister and her husband who are shamed because people in their town knows their brother is gay. Or maybe the brother who perpetually posts/sends anti-gay material. What with the continued DADT silence from most of the other family members, is it any wonder why I cling to my chosen family of friends.

I simply have to acknowledge that yes, our family is not perfect. No family is perfect. However, how can I keep on continuing to excuse away their slights? Why don’t I just talk to them, you ask? Historically speaking, each time I bring up any of my emotional thoughts or such, I am shushed down and they toss it back at me because of my being gay. There isn’t an open line of communication, at least not a productive two-way conversation.

Cousins, nieces and nephews want to remind me that the brothers and sisters do love me, so I should give them a chance. How many more chances? They have known me for 51 years. Friends who have known me for much less time involve themselves in my life much more than my siblings. Yes, even friends who do have their own personal concerns with homosexuality. Being gay is just one of a thousand many different facets in my life. For what reason are the siblings unwilling to join with, or keep a distance from, my life?

Is it because they longer can control their baby brother? Is it because I did not adhere to their philosophies with life, and grew to discover my own? Will I ever know.

Growing up, it was never any physical abuse, just the psychological(?) control, and the emotional distance. The only time it ever became anything physical was when I was at the bottom of a dog-pile, and getting tickled unmercifully.

My psychiatrist believes that is where my touch-flinch comes from. I long for receiving physical, human touch. However, whenever someone purposefully does — reaching to hold my hand, or putting an arm around my shoulder, or even just simple body contact from sitting next to each other — I instinctively and slightly flinch. My mind screams at my body to stop doing that, because the emotional side is begging for the person to not stop, to not retreat.

Now to today’s EMDR session. The current round of EMDR has been trying to discover a source of my loneliness, and what to do with it. It seems to center around the want for, and the lack of validation. In one realm, it is that lack of validation from a few of the siblings. Today, we worked on what/where to go from here.

Many memories were uncovered through the session. Not many from the distant past, but from within the past decade or so. Being told that I could not bring my boyfriend to the Farmstead, while nieces and nephews brought their current lovers. Being in fear of my life when one brother invited me to go deer hunting with he and his family, something that he has never, ever done. Having a father-friend brother perform a complete 180 on me and inform me that he has never approved of me.

There was once I tried to discuss the topic of disconnect in our family after Mom died. My eldest brother, and my middle sister, we three had discussed how being the singles in the family, and everyone else having growing families, we feel often accidentally forgotten. So, I took it upon myself to broach this subject with the siblings in an email to all. That was a mistake. The gist of most of the emails back to me were centered around my bringing this up because they don’t approve of me being gay.

Or what about the time after Mom’s burial, the family gathered for family photos on the church steps? After several shots, it was a cousin who noticed that I wasn’t there, that I was still at the graveside. Really, will they even know that I have stepped away from their presence now? Of course they will attempt to heap shame upon me for making such a decision.

With the few of whom I know want to be a part together with life, I will stay connected. It is always a grateful time to be with Kristine and Kenny up at the Farmstead. A few nephews and their wives do give a warm welcome. They just seem to get me, and I them.

It would be great to have a one long-term friend who periodically would drop by to go out for coffee to check up on me. Then again, it is far, far easier for me to give that kind of concern, and not so much as receiving it. So, not knowing of any one consistent friend who will not hush me, or try to change the subject to talk about their life, who will just let me talk or sit in silence, these are my thoughts spilled out into an online blog for it is safer here.

There I sit with the tangled Christmas lights, and the burned out light bulbs. I wonder if I am to keep them, for the light and joy has dimmed. Sentimental nostalgia, it will get you every time.