Saturday, February 1, 2014

The purple bedroom

So my world has slowly been imploding. That may seem dramatic, and I'll go ahead and say pregnancy hormones may be making things seem worse but truly it seems like things are falling apart on all sides. My family and my closest friends are all suffering and I can't help but take it to heart. Especially as I seem to be the rock for everyone. Which is fine, I a wouldn't want it any other way, I just wish it wasn't all at once.

So my family is coming apart at the seams. My grandparents are aging poorly and now feuding and my parents are in the beginning stages of a divorce. It has been going on for years but has really seemed to come to a head in the last 6 months. And I'm stuck in the middle of all of it.

My parents were high school sweethearts, forced into marriage at age 20 because they got pregnant with me. But through the years they've had their ups and downs and managed to see it through. I'm one of the few people I know who's parents were still together in a world full of broken homes and step-families. My parent's parents were best friends and we spent every holiday together. My mom's niece and nephew even call my dad's mom Grandma, despite no true relation, other than both families were always together. Fast forward to 2008 and all of us are now living in Florida - my parents are in the same development as my dad's mom and 6 miles down the road from my mom's parents. I'm 45 minutes south of them all. Needless to say, we spend a LOT of time together.

It started with my grandpa, who doesn't take care of himself to begin with and who barely survived colon cancer about 10 years ago. He started really going downhill in '08 and has gotten progressively worse. This in turn put a lot of stress on my grandma who has slowly but steadily been declining in both her physical and mental health. They are both in total denial about their conditions and how it has come to affect the rest of us. It has gotten worse each year and fallen on my mom to bear the brunt of the care taking, being right down the road. Her siblings all live in other states (or countries) and have made it clear that they think my mom is exaggerating or being a drama queen when she asks for their help. This has caused her a lot of stress and heartache which in turn affects her relationship with my dad. Add that last year my dad's mom was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer and underwent her own health ordeal and he and my mom are both drowning in caring for their aging and increasingly unhealthy parents.

Without going to crazy with the details I will just say that all of these issues have become a downward spiral leading to a full on melt down between all family members over this past summer, about 2 months before my wedding. The majority of is stems, in my opinion, from the fact that they all spend too much time together, they all see how the others are unhealthy but refuse to see their own dysfunction. Well, for several months my grandparents weren't speaking to each other and my mom wasn't talking to my dad's mom and my dad wasn't talking to my mom's parents. I will say that everyone involved had valid complaints but years of denial and passive aggressiveness led to a breaking point where I truly believe all relationships are beyond repair. My wedding in August was the first time everyone was in the same room together and I'll give them all credit for being on their best behavior but it was certainly strained and put a lot of extra stress on me on an already stressful day.

Since then, no one has really apologized or actually dealt with the real issues at hand but instead we all just smile and pretend things are okay when they really aren't. Birthdays and holidays have been extremely strained and unpleasant as a result. If it wasn't for my son and the fact that I know he brings joy to a group of chronically unhappy people, I would be avoiding everyone. Well, that and an extreme sense of guilt because I know that they all have limited time left and that I should really spend as much time with them as I can. But it is so hard to see how much they are all deteriorating.

All of this has really taken a toll on my parents. I will be the first to say that they both have their faults and that when I take both sides separately I can see validity in both arguments. But they have not dealt with these external stresses well and their own relationship has crumbled in front of me. It has come down to they are planning to get a divorce (to be honest, I'm not sure what they are waiting for at this point) and that they don't really speak to each other anymore and that every time I've tried to make any kind of plan that involves my family lately it has fallen apart and become more stress and work on my end than it is worth.

As much as I do not want to be in the middle or choose sides, I have been put in a position where I have to sometimes. I know better than anyone, thanks to my own divorce, that there are two sides to every story. And I know what each of my parents bring to the table in terms of their faults, weaknesses, and they way they deal with issues. I've tried to be there for each of them while maintaining impartiality and it is starting to be more than I think I'm capable of. In hearing both of their versions of what is going on I can't help but realize it is a pattern that I've been witnessing for years. They amazingly have the exact same complaints about each other. It is odd how much their versions mirror each other and yet, they can't both be right. Right? It reminds me of another situation with them, involving their purple master bedroom when they first moved to FL.

When they first came to Tampa they had a townhouse in which each room was painted a different color. There was a blue room, a green room, and the master was the purple room. All FL pastels. When they moved out my ex-husband and I lived there and then I left and my brother and his girlfriend lived there. I spent a good amount of my time "healing" from my divorce locked in that purple bedroom. My mom had mentioned that I could re-paint it if I wanted to because she never liked that color. She claimed that my dad had picked it out and she went along with it because she thought he liked it. Yet if you asked my dad, he would tell you that my mom picked it out because she always wanted a purple room and that he went along with it for her sake. So basically they both hated the color and thought the other one liked it. And rather than speak up they just went along with it to make the other person happy.

The more I hear of their complaints and reasons for moving towards a divorce, the more I realize that it is just like the purple bedroom. They think they are doing what the other one wants, that it isn't what they want but that they don't know how to make the other one happy. I have no idea how to bring this to their attention or how to point out what is clearly a pattern of non/miscommunication in their relationship. Only instead of an ugly room that could easily be re-painted, we are talking about a 37 year relationship that is about to get thrown away.

Despite being an adult and being mature enough to understand why a divorce may be the best option, it is in no way easier to be the child going through it. I feel torn between both of my parents, I feel pressure to be a good child, and unfortunately the burden of trying to split my time between the two falls on me. I'm coming to find the entire process to be traumatic, especially when trying to add the component of not letting it affect my own marriage.

Let's also throw in that my very best friend is going through the end of her own 14 year relationship after several years of dealing with her husband's addiction and abuse and another best friend is in the middle of her own life crisis (at the risk of sounding dramatic, her life really did fall apart over the summer and she is trying to put the pieces back together). Sprinkle on top that my dear cousin (he might as well be my big brother) is dealing the possibility that his wife is suffering from a fatal illness - only time will tell but it isn't looking good at the moment - and it has been nothing but doom, gloom, sadness and bad news for many months now.

My heart breaks for all of these people and I wish I could do something to help them. But at the same time I'm starting to feel guilty and angry because I feel like I can't enjoy my own life as a result. I am newly married to the love of my life, I fall more and more in love with our son every day (a smarter, cuter, more amazing little boy never existed, I swear!) and we are so excited for the upcoming birth of our second child (yeah, not even going into how physically miserable this pregnancy has been) that this should be the happiest time of my life! Even work is going really well with exciting things on the horizon for me. And I feel like I can't share my happiness with those closest to me because they are so embroiled in these terrible things. I feel guilty when I don't want to answer the phone because I know it will not be a happy conversation. I am emotionally exhausted. I know at the end of the day that these other problems aren't mine to fix but I can't help but feel like I need to at least try to be there to support the people I love the most during these awful times. Oh yeah, and pregnancy hormones.

Sorry for the short novel (I tried to keep it brief because believe me, I could write so much more in depth about what has been going on) but I really just needed to vent. The last month has by far been the worst and I have spent too much time crying lately. I thought maybe writing it all out would be cathartic in some way but it just makes me more sad thinking about everything. All I can do is try my best to enjoy the good days when they happen, add a little distance from my family when possible, and focus on keeping myself mentally healthy for the sake of my husband and our sons.

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