Friday, December 31, 2010

2011: A Continuation...

I am feeling an odd amount of pressure to do a New Year's Post. The reason, is that I do not want to post my other post I've been working on and have it lost among the NYE countdowns, and year-end review posts. I feel that is is a good post, and want it to be remembered in the series I am working on, and I do not want to omit posting today.

Moving into 2011

I do not feel a great sense of renewal as the change in the calendar year approaches. There are two other times of the year that give this inherent feeling of renewal without the pomp and circumstance. One is the Spring season itself. There is something refreshing about the return of life in the form of animals and flowers. The rain that falls is less of traffic story and more of a source of life to new environment. Spring marks a return, and emergence. It is when bears wake from hibernation, and when cabin fever gets cured by long walks with the family without taking an hour to get properly bundled up.
The other is the beginning of the school year. I recognize this time since I am a teacher, and it mark a return of hope, ambitions, faith, and determination. Wardrobes and supplies are replaced and replenished, and student minds walk into school ready and willing to prove that they can do better than before.

I am looking forward to 2011. Not because it marks a new beginning, but because it marks a continuance of the path i chose many years ago. It means that I have been headed in the right direction, and I am still committed to that path, and to who is on that path with me. So welcome 2011, I have been waiting for you.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Blood or Water - Part 2: Broken Cycle

Normally, when I start a post, I know what I want to say and how I want to say it before beginning. That is not the case here. Perhaps it is because it is a difficult topic to me, or that I have so much I think I want to say that I can't figure out just what I should say. So I have decided to just start typing, and post whatever comes out right now.

In Part 1 of this series, I mentioned the emotionally abusive nature of my brother. Something that is never considered when you are a victim of any kind of abuse, is that you have a propensity to do what happened to you. Abused children may become violent, the sexually abused can become the abusers, and on, and on. As someone who grew up in a house with abuse in it, I was subjected to emotional abuse, but it hasn't been until recently (I'm almost 30) that I realized it even was abuse. How did this kind of a childhood make me a different person today?

Detachment for Survival
As someone who experience emotional abuse, I realize that the abusers use your own emotions to control you. As long as you continue to react to them, and display these emotions, they are able to continue to control you. This is dangerous in a family setting, because how is someone supposed to remove themselves from what appears to be a loving and supportive family setting at a young age? Emotions that were stirred in me were anger, guilt, insignificance, and selfishness. Even though I did not understand why I was made to feel this way, or how I could be called any of these, I believed them and I reacted, because it was family telling me this. It wasn't until I began to detach from these emotions and refused to react that I began to see the frustration in my brother. The less I said, and the less I gave them (the more apathetic I appeared), the more i was able to ignore their attempts at controlling me through my emotions.

What this Means, is that by high school, I was increasingly becoming detached from my emotions. Instead of going through them in order to understand them, I pushed them down and ignored them, which anyone will tell you is not a healthy thing to do. I became someone who did not delve deep into my own or others' emotions, and only went as deep as the surface; I became superficial. I did not have relationships that went very deep, and I did not, nor did I know how to, invest into other people.

Me Now... What's Changed?
The only way I have been able to come to these realizations about myself, is because I have been blessed to have someone come into my life who has turned me around completely. My wife has been a catalyst for personal change (which is possibly the topic I will address next). Her example and encouragement coupled with the unconditional love of my children has created a childhood for them that I can enjoy in spite of the one from my own memory. I get to become the father that is engaged, and loving, and encouraging, and I get to be a parent who actually encourages love among siblings rather than competition and a chain-of-command. I get to share in the new memories that we are creating, and let to past remain in the past. This reality means that the emotional abuse I dealt with will not be passed on to my children, and will not be passed onto theirs. The cycle of manipulation and control has ended, and the more i grow as a husband and father, the less I understand why I had the childhood I did.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Blood or Water - Part 1: Surviving The Brotherhood

When I started drafting this blog post, I did not know it was going to be as long as it has been turning out. That is why I decided to split it up and turn it into a series that looks at only one family relationship I have had trouble with; my brother. This series will focus on a subject I don't want to hold in, and can't hold in any longer. However, these are things that I do not want to verbally talk about, or maybe I just can't get myself to physically form the words with my mouth. In any case, I'm gonna try to let this confusion in my head become something coherent for you to read and discuss.

From The Cosby Show to The Simpsons
The house I grew up in was ideal, but the house I look back on in my memories has become tainted and the characters are almost unrecognizable to me anymore. I grew up the youngest of 7 in a blended household that I grew up believing was a very safe and loving place. My closest sibling is my brother. In fact, of the 4 brothers I have, he is the only fully biological brother I have; meaning, I have a step-brother and 2 half-brothers. I looked up to my brother, and he was very, very protective.

As it turns out, this relationship with my brother has been the best and worst relationship I have ever had with anyone... EVER! I never knew it was the worst relationship until recently. If I examine my own thoughts at different occurrences, then I have the mentality of someone who experienced emotional abuse, and he has the characteristics of someone who is emotionally abusive. He was very protective of me, but it was with the mindset that No one messes with my little brother... except me! I remember him keeping others from taking advantage of my youthful willingness to please, but then he exploited that much worse.

Forgotten Example
I have endless stories of the things I experienced at my brother's whim growing up, but I'll limit them in this post to only 1:

In my brother's senior year of high school, I was in 7th grade. I was not dumb to how intense he was. While watching the TV one afternoon, he asks me if I want to walk down the street on a hot sunny day and shoot some hoops. I knew I shouldn't have, and I tried to resist. I told him that I didn't want to because I didn't want it to turn into a basketball lesson from him. He assured me it wouldn't he said he just wanted to shoot around, and wanted me to go with him. As a little brother who wanted to shoot as well as his older brother I was enticed, but still reluctant. Only shoot around, nothing else? I asked hoping for the best. He, of course, assured me that we would only shoot around, and I agreed.

Soon after arriving, the shoot-around turned into him barking out orders and yelling while I was stuck listening and trying to perform a left-handed hook shot. There came a point, when I was practicing free throw shots, and when I missed one, I had to do push-ups on the black asphalt. Why didn't I say no, and leave? Why did I stay and take the punishment? We were being raised in a militaristic household with a chain-of-command, and I was not allowed to say NO to my older siblings (it would be like disobeying a direct order from a commanding officer), and he exploited this. By the end of this boot camp-like practice session with Sargent Brother, I had blisters on my palms from doing push-ups on asphalt that you could see the heat rising from.

Conveniently, my brother has no recollection of this event, but you can see why I remember it so vividly. It was not a sad day for me when he graduated and moved out. This is not the only thing that I experienced from my brother that he has forgotten, and he tries to imply that I'm making them up, like they never happened. Like these meant nothing to him, and aren't even worth remembering.

My brother believes that the ends justify the means, and he is a great manipulator. So when I excelled at basketball, he suggested that he had a hand in it.

Part 1 Wrap-Up
My family has done more to hold me back than to help me succeed, and I don't know how I made it out with a decent head on my shoulders. I do have deeply-ingrained defense mechanisms that keep life at arm's length. But after coming to realization that this relationship was emotionally abusive, I have been able to start letting go of some of the anger I hold towards him; anger towards someone means that they control you, and I'm done being controlled.

Thanks for checking this out, I'll have the next part of the series up sometime this weekend.