I think I had a break through in my thinking about my relationship with my family.
Just for some background, I do not have close relationships with my sister, mother, or father. There were domestic violence and alcohol issues when I was growing up along with the whole immigrating thing. My dad did his best to provide for us and he did that well enough. My sister was the rebel and I was the obedient one. Currently, I live 400 miles away from my dad and my sister lives on the other coast. My mom lives in the South somewhere.
Even though I don't talk to my sister, mom, or dad often, I found that I had tremendous amounts of guilt everytime I interacted with them. My dad would call me drunk and tell me to call him more often. My sister and I had a falling out a while back and haven't really talked in seven years. My mother used to live with me and that didn't work out (to put it mildly) and I recently talked to her for the first time in two years. For some reason, I feel guilty about all of this and think that I have to fix all of these relationships. NOW!
My break through came when I was talking to a close friend. She asked me a very simple question. She asked me if I knew when someone was trying to control me. I said, you mean like when people give you unsolicited advise?
I never thought of myself as growing up in a controlling environment. I mean, what kid DOESN'T grow up in a controlling environment? That's just a part of growing up, right? And in a lot of respects, I grew up with a lot of freedom that I probably should not have had. I had no curfew and regularly came home at 1 AM on the weekends after hanging out with my church friends.
But thinking back, there was a lot of unhealthy control going on in my childhood home. What dad said was law, even if he himself did not "do" what he was telling us to do. I lived in fear of the next drunken rage and the next fight between adults. I tried to make myself invisible so that I wouldn't be the cause of anything. I was told not to feel my feelings and prohibited from expressing them.
Now that I'm an adult, those dynamics don't work anymore. My parents and older sister still try to tell me what to do, even when they aren't in my life much. In other words, they try to control me. No wonder I have such negative reactions... who likes to be controlled? No one. And this, to me, also explains why I feel so guilty. Whenever they try to control me, I automatically think I need to do what they want. Yet, I don't want to do what they are telling me to do... so I feel guilty.
For a long time, I thought that this just meant that I was a "bad" daughter or a "bad" sister. I thought I wasn't fulfuilling my "familial responsibilities" or being respectful of my elders. I think it was just me feeling guilty for something that I didn't need to feel guilty about.
I hope that this realization will help me as I interact with them in the future. I want to learn how to say no gracefully and also to accept that I have no control over how others feel. And most of all, that others have no control over how I feel either, unless I give them that power.