Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It Becomes Her (or so she thinks)

"Shrinking away from death is something unhealthy and abnormal which robs the second half of life of its purpose."
         ~Carl Jung

While I do believe there is something to growing old gracefully, I don't exactly prescribe to the idea of embracing death as the underlying purpose of the second half of my life. I am more of a do not go gentle/rage against the dying of the light type of gal.

Lala, it seems, has an affinity for the dark.

If in a rose garden I happened upon Death and saw that he was beckoning me, I no doubt would run screaming, without pause to ascertain that it was me he wanted.

Lala, I think, would take special care to prick her fingers on the thorns while pruning a dozen of the finest blooms, offering the flowers and her blood as tokens of gratitude. 

~end metaphor~

I think she is killing herself by willing herself to die.

Seven or so years ago after invasive testing, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. I do not underestimate how debilitating this condition can be. I have seen Lala weak with illness, struggling against severe digestive issues to keep her weight up. Though she was terribly ill when she first received the diagnosis, the symptoms were quickly brought under control with strong medications. She was given an effective, self-managed treatment plan to follow for daily maintenance and an alternative medication plan to follow if her symptoms began to flare up again.

Emphasis: self-managed.
She has a tendency to "forget" to take her medications as prescribed.

Flare-ups can be triggered by stress.

A strong suit of mine (if I do say so myself) is objectivity. I tend to be annoyed when people get into pissing matches over their personal stressors (You think you've got problems?). Oneupmanship and belitting do not have places in the sharing of problems.Your stressors are yours. My stressors are mine.


Lala is a victim of self-imposed stress. The Universe feels no need to take a random shit on her like it does with the rest of us, because Lala already considers her life to be in the toilet.

It's not, but she perceives it to be.

Blahblahblahpeople'sperceptionsaretheirrealitiesblahblahblah. Translation:

If you haven't already noticed, processing my thoughts about my sister is a clash of contradictory thoughts. On one hand this, but on the other hand, that. Objective vs. subjective.

Subjective (Shadow is an asshole): I think she makes herself sick. Mind over matter, be damned. She gets herself so worked up over the smallest of things that she ends up sick. Not fake sick, but flare-up sick, the type which makes her speak in whimpers and keeps her running to the bathroom every 30 minutes. I'M GOING TO FILL OUT APPLICATIONS EVERYWHERE TOMORROW! GO, ME! On second thought, no I'm not. Because I'm siiiick. I need ginger ale. Do I have a fever? I'm just. so. tired.*whimper*  

Objective (Shadow has a heart and really does care despite all the bitchy rage): Well, to some degree, who hasn't experienced psychosomatic illnesses before? There have been times where I've been so suddenly nervous or frightened that my insides instantly liquefy and my half-digested lunch goes rushing towards the nearest exit. We've all been there. Lala's stressors keep her in an almost-constant state of illness.

Subective Asshole: Bull.Shit. Grow a set and get a life.

Bottom line of both frames of mind -- Lala is in serious need of counseling. Even if it is passive (as previously discussed, inaction is her mode of choice), I believe that she has suicidal tendencies. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago on SO that she recently spent a week in the hospital due to a severe mystery infection that circulated through her blood, so severe that she needed a transfusion. The doctors quite literally feared for her life.

Whether it was the flurry of attention rallied around her or the pleasing, but sorely mistaken idea that her brush near THE END gives her (yet another) extension to continue her chronic joblessness, I think she liked it. 

According to Jung, Lala is way ahead of schedule.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Failure to Launch

How did it come to be that we Tron became our fifth child? Below is a copy/paste of two entries that I put up more than a year ago on SO:


One sunny summer afternoon, my mom looked away from the dishes in the sink and out the window towards the playground, and was startled to see that my sister Lala, then age 4, was beating the crap out of a boy twice her size and age. Also age 8, I stood idly by, watching tiny Lala pummel the poor kid into submission. Mom ran outside and pulled her off of the bruised boy, who had been cowering under his arms and had tears and snot dripping from his face. She shouted at Lala, "What are you doing!?!" Lala's simple, flat reply was, "He was picking on Shadow and she told me to beat him up so I did." Enraged, Mom whirled around to me and shouted, "You fight your own battles or you fight together. You don't send your little sister in to fight your battles for you. What were you thinking?"

That is one of my top five Shadow's in Big Trouble moments, but it is also one of the moments in which I am most proud of Lala. That's how things were back then; I was the timid, meek one and Lala was the ballsy one who didn't seem to be afraid of anything. I was proud of her, not for fighting, but for being a fighter. She always seemed to have a courage that I did not, and though she was my little sister, I looked up to her for that.
Curled in blankets with my chin propped on a pillow, I buried myself in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as Lala labored through the night. The youngest of us three and age 13 at the time, Bean was the makeshift doula that I could not be, trading shifts of back rubbing and whispered soothing with my mother. I wanted to be there, needed to be there, but I also needed to keep somewhat of an emotional wall between myself and the delivery for which I had felt both excitement and dread.

The next morning, exhausted from overstimulation from the contraction-inducing Cervidil and pitocin, Lala had barely dilated to a 3 despite having a regular, back-to-back contraction pattern. The doctor dialed back the pitocin and gave Lala an epidural to space out the contractions and allow Lala the chance to rest. When he said it would likely be another 7 or 8 hours before she delivered, Mom and Bean went out to pick up a few things for our longer hospital stay since Lala was having a longer labor than expected.

The removal of her pain seemed to remove some of mine, and as I sat next to her on the bed, it was almost easy to forget that she was in labor. I joked around with her and made her laugh to lighten the mood and help her relax. She doesn't know it, but that time is one of my most cherished moments with her. 

After an hour or so a nurse came in to check her progression. She asked Lala if she felt like she had to push, to which Lala responded that she didn't. The nurse tilted her head and gave a curt, "Hmm," then hustled out of the room. The urgency of her steps indicated to us that delivery must have been a lot closer than forecast. The nurse returned a few minutes later pushing a cart of sterile medical instruments before her and as she turned up the brightness of the lights and began adjusting the bed into delivery mode, she explained that Lala had gone from 3 cm to 9.5 cm in just over an hour and that it was almost time for her to start pushing. She also turned down the epidural so that Lala could feel the contractions and know when to push, and almost immediately Lala was again in pain.

Mom didn't yet have a cell phone, so I had no way to contact her. Worried that our mother wouldn't make it back in time for her delivery, Lala's panic seemed to rise with each increasingly difficult contraction. Finally, the OB arrived and took his place on the stool at the foot of the bed. I was instructed to stand at Lala's left side and pull back on her leg. In calm tones, the doctor and nurses encouraged her to push with each contraction. She arched her back against the contractions instead of curling into them; it was apparent that Lala wasn't putting forth enough effort, as she was fearful the impending change, and fearful of making that change into a mother without hers at her side. She turned her sweat-dampened face to me and whimpered, "I can't." I locked eyes with her and with a deep, forceful voice urged, "You can, and you will. Now, push!" Finally, she took a deep breath, tucked her chin, and bore down, and I could see the baby's head inching further out than before.

Within the next five minutes Mom and Bean arrived, both saying that they had been standing in the aisle of the store when they were suddenly overcome with the need to get back to the hospital. They had rushed out, not knowing, but sensing that they were needed. Their arrival further bolstered Lala's confidence, and within minutes of them getting back Tron was born. It was an overwhelming moment. However, as the weeks and months after his birth passed, it soon became apparent that the moment he left her body, so did the fighter in her.
Now, it seems that Lala is the one who is timid and meek, too frightened of the world to step out into it and fight. I am fighting the motherhood battles that she should. Time has folded over on itself and in the present we are eight years in the past - me willing her to push and she in labor, now giving birth to herself.

It might seem that Lala is the bane of my existence. When I speak of her, it is usually in reference to the span of time that she was pregnant at age 17, which collided with my second unfulfilled year of trying to conceive. The reality is that she is highly intelligent, articulate, and has a lot of potential; the trouble is that she doesn't know it. This potential is being wasted away, atrophied by her fear of moving forward, up, and out.

By moving out, I mean both figuratively and literally. She is nearly 26 years of age and though she has earned a Bachelor's degree in a marketable and potentially lucrative field, she has yet to put it to use with a career or even actively looked for employment. Even the job offers that fell into her lap - which ranged from technical college instructor to convenience store cashier - she let slide to the floor with slippery excuses that were lubricated by her fear of independence.

Nearly a year ago, Miguel and I accepted guardianship of my eight year old nephew Tron after Lala announced, in a family meeting at my kitchen table, her plans to move to an unfamiliar city three hours north of here. In her heart of hearts, she knew that at least for the time being and possibly for longer, she could not be the mother that Tron deserved to have. Her inability to turn decisions into actions did not hinder her from doing what was best for her son. However, this tendency to inaction has left her here, still in my mother's apartment with half-packed boxes from the relocation that never came to fruition. She's unmoved, unemployed, and unable to make steps towards starting her life.


She's unmoved, unemployed, and unable to make steps towards starting her life.


I wrote those entries over a year ago and there has not been one difference.

Not. One.

We love Tron  - fiercely so - and neither one of us can even begin to understand how she can do this to him. Allow me to clarify - fact that we are raising him (likely for forever) is not the issue here. When she made the decision to let us parent him, we told her that there was no expiration date on Tron's time here. We told her that when she got herself financially stable, we wouldn't be impatiently tapping our feet waiting for her to come get Tron, and that if she determined that the best place for him really was with us, then he would always be welcome here.

What is the issue, however,  is that her actions, better yet, her inactions are whittling layers of him away. The first year that he was here, she would tell him that once she moved north and got a job, she would come for him. The thing is, she never left. It took a year for her to realize that the "lover" who was supposed to be coming to get her so they could start their life together (which supposedly was to be the very next weekend after that meeting at the kitchen table) never had any intentions of doing so in the first place. A whole, flippin' year. No longer waiting for the move that was never going to happen, she let another year slip by. Two years of nothing.

Tron doesn't ask when she's going to move and get a job so that he can be with her anymore.

We use our love and nurturing to smooth away the brittle edges she cracks in his fragile surface, and we do a good job of it. To answer Lori's question, despite his circumstances, Tron is well-adjusted, smart, funny, and settled, but sometimes...well, Lala comes to visit for a few days and when she leaves, he falls apart. Miguel and I put the pieces of his heart back together again, but he's getting older. Age brings increasing levels of maturity and comprehension, and we can see his heart breaking in different ways as he realizes for himself all the things about his mother that we already know.

The unconditional part of his love for her is eroding, and the sad thing is that I'm not even sure if she sees that.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My Own Worst Enemy

"The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves."

"On the Psychology of the Unconscious" (1912). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P. 35

I couldn't get pregnant, but something inside of me still managed to take root and grow. Perhaps it had always been there. Perhaps it had slumbered unknown, like a dormant virus lying in wait for the right (or wrong) type of stimulus. Whatever it was, it revolted me. It was an oily, amorphous mass, a sickening blackness with poisoned tentacles that invaded every fiber of me. I didn't like it, this dark creature inside, but it was mine.

When my 17-year old sister became pregnant at the end of my second year trying, it was a violent ripping of myself into contradictions. I had to be there for her, but doing so threatened to kill me.

I became the hero.
I became the anti-hero.

I showed up. I attended OB appointments. I cleaned vomit off of the floors. I bought maternity clothes. I planned and hosted the baby shower. I took the tour of the labor and delivery floor. I bought the stroller, bottles, and layette. I waited. I planned. I organized. I supported.

It was my oxygen.
It was my kryptonite.

It was an affront to the monster within, and the dull ache of my barrenness sharpened into a thousand steely knives. I didn't want to nurture it but it grew just the same, feeding on the bitter bile of discontent that I painfully choked back day after day.

At night, I cried.
It should have been me. He should have been mine.

Now, nine years later, it is me. He is mine.

He shouldn't be.

The darkness inside burns hot with a barely-checked rage towards my sister.

I don't hate that he is my child.
I hate that she isn't his mother.
It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses- and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster; and each individual is only one tiny cell in the monster's body, so that for better or worse he must accompany it on its bloody rampages and even assist it to the utmost. Having a dark suspicion of these grim possibilities, man turns a blind eye to the shadow-side of human nature. Blindly he strives against the salutary dogma of original sin, which is yet so prodigiously true. Yes, he even hesitates to admit the conflict of which he is so painfully aware.
Beneath the benevolent superhero exterior, I am angry.

How I wish I didn't feel so guilty and so sad because of it.

Shadow Games

Things that I can't say there, I'll say here.
And oh, is there a lot to say.
This is an open blog to friends, but a private blog to family. When you're in the realm of superheroes, please avoid references to this realm of shadows.

For future reference, here, I'll use the pseudonym Shadow.

husband: Miguel (his middle name)
twin girl: Belle
twin boy: J-Rock
singleton boy: JoJo
singleton girl: K-Bop
nephew: Tron