Crazy. Sane.

Crazy has a pattern.

Sane adapts.

That epiphany came to me in the days before this second trip to Las Vegas. It was the last time I saw my mother and sister and probably will be the last time I ever see them. Thank Gods. I dreaded that first trip.

There is history for it.

They both had a pattern of ruining events that honored/featured me. That patterns was established long before I started high school, so at the time of my wedding, I expected the worst and got worse than that. There were public temper tantrums from both of them – one during the ceremony. My mother then proceeded, after the festivities were all over, to demand I make things up with the sister and apologize to her for making her HAVE to have a temper tantrum during my ceremony. It was projection – my aunt had died, my mother missed her sister. It was also wildly, deeply, profoundly inappropriate. I had dreaded that wedding, too. Then the pattern had been to promise me something – large or small, ranging from a decent winter coat to textbook support in college – and then to let me down completely. Often enough there was “no memory” of the promise made. In view of that pattern, I tried to prevent my parents from contributing anything to that wedding – to give them as little opportunity as possible to leave me in the lurch. Since *I* paid for the wedding, I figured that there was very little to worry about there.

My mother had a tantrum. She had some fantasy I have always refused to fulfill around making my wedding dress and planning my wedding. I don’t think a mother planning a daughter’s wedding is remotely appropriate – especially when the daughter is the one who has to pay for it. Besides, a chronic promise breaker is not the person you want to entrust making your wedding dress. And given her appalling aesthetics when it came to me – I am the target for ALL her self-loathing – any dress she made is not one I would want.

I believe the excuse for the wedding crappery was how I acted at my grandfather’s funeral. For the record, I was totally sober. I don’t drink much and when I do I only do around people I trust, like, feel more or less safe with. I’d never drink around my relatives.

My uncle had hidden portraits of my mother’s family and my aunt’s family that were supposed to go on my grandfather’s funeral display. I got pissed, called him Satan, and in my fury was very rude to his daughter-in-law. I regret being rude to the DIL. I do NOT regret being rude to his youngest daughter – he had set that dog on me right after my aunt’s memorial service for no discernable reason; few things are more irritating than listening to some sorority bimbo carry on about the car Daddy bought her. She thought I was jealous. I was actually disgusted at her big, wide carbon footprint.  While this time there was a reason and she elected herself in defense of her family, it was the same old shit – and somewhere in the stream of questions fired at me about when I would be finished with college I got the distinct impression that these assholes had been making plans for me. It was stressful enough explaining over and over that since my parents weren’t paying for college or even supporting me in the way they had my sister right up until she got married, that I didn’t have any obligation to them when it came to how I lived my adult life. This time, when that cousin started prattling about herself I just walked away.

Crazy has a pattern. Crazy repeats behavior. Sane adapts.

There were all sorts of resentments stated and not from these relatives about why I didn’t come back for holidays and family reunions that made me want to take my teeth out with my bare hands. That they ignored me or bored me when I was in the room with them didn’t matter. That they made no effort to interact with me, even after the advent of email, didn’t seem to matter to them.  They didn’t want to hear the facts: my parents had broken their promise to make sure I got through college (or else they really meant they would help me if I went to THEIR college and pursued THEIR academic passions.) So I was paying for college myself, less money my mother claimed after the fact she had set aside for me that at the time she said came from her retirement fund. (Who the hell knows. She lies. Rather a lot.) I didn’t have money for a car. I chose a school in Minnesota that actually had a decent mass communications Every penny I earned went to tuition, room and board. Yet Alice claimed she still expected more from me than she did my sister on the rare occasions I could gather the funds to fly home – because she still received mail for me at her address.

Nevermind my grandparents guilt tripping me for not running to visit them in Central Indiana when I went to school in Minnesota. My grandmother once accosted me as to why I never brought a boyfriend to visit. Somehow “I don’t have a car,” “I have zero money for travel, and barely any for a place to live,”  and “I don’t have a boyfriend,” didn’t register. I also suspect she may have thought I was a lesbian. She was always WAY too interested in the lesbian couple that lived on her block in Muncie. She had mentioned once that one of them was a witch. Since we never spoke directly about my conversion, I can only guess as to what conclusions she jumped to and where.

She told my sister this one Christmas, pretending I wasn’t right behind her to hear it. My sister actually agreed with this bullshit. I believe this is the visit where she had a tantrum because our parents hadn’t busted me when I lost my virginity like they had her. Her interest in a sibling’s sex life and her presumed lack thereof was always wildly inappropriate. There were many, many incidents with sexualized behavior she directed at me. None of it was OK. Even as a joke it definitely fell into low-spectrum sexual abuse. I never found ANY of it funny.

Crazy has a pattern. Sane adapts.

Supposedly the cousins were all up in arms over my behavior at my grandfather’s funeral. They talked to my mother about it. My uncle ordered her to “control her daughter.” Her adult daughter whom she didn’t support (but did try to undermine.) My grandmother tried to have a nasty phone call with me about the cousin I’d walked off on. “Well Susie – [some accomplishment of no relevance to my life.]” I answered “How nice, Good for her. I just walked home from my job at a battered women’s shelter – about five miles and it’s a hot day. I’ll talk to you later Grandma.” She really didn’t know what to say to that – I’d just trumped her pride and joy with my lifestyle. That was the last time we ever spoke. Grandma had regrets, but after all the crap she’d cascaded down on me with her parenting choices I just couldn’t give a damn.

My mother claims that the eldest cousins approached her at my grandmother’s funeral about how I behaved at my grandfather’s funeral. My sister engaged in “diplomacy” with the offended cousin. Not one of them has ever spoken to me about it… ever. At this point, some fifteen years later, it would be wildly inappropriate to do so. Yet my sister keeps on with her “diplomacy” – while completely failing to connect parties, the key of diplomatic work – and made a big deal out of being “careful” when refusing help from the oldest cousins when our father died. For some reason, being staightforward about “we got it,” was bad. Because being direct and honest was always made out to be bad in our house – my mother loved how her family was “subtle and indirect.” For those outside that nightmare, it looks like “avoiding accountability.”


So all this culture – all these patterns – when my Dad died, about 8 months before my wedding. My Dad extracted two deathbed promises:

1)that I go forward with the wedding

Because he was apparently trying to kill me and take me with him-

and 2)that I not abandon them.

Crazy has a pattern. Sane adapts.

I tried to stay in touch with them after Dad died, to check in and then I realized that at that point, the relationship was going to be completely one-sided. My sister, who had been in the habit of texting me on a regular basis found out about our father’s diagnosis and just STOPPED texting me. She would tweet during church but she couldn’t send me a text to update – and when I did call her she used her slow, dolorous “drama voice.”  When my mother called me, she used the same voice with an added simper and would tell me all these thoughts my Dad had about me – as though he and I had never talked. The “subtleties” began as the wedding approached – and it got to the point where I just forwarded the emails to Mike. I wouldn’t speak to my mother unless Mike was present, and only with the speakerphone on. There was a lot of stuff she would say followed with “Don’t tell Mike.” Half of it was stuff my father had said directly TO Mike right before he died. He liked Mike. Everybody likes Mike, really.

Perhaps it’s best to summarize the shenanigans leading up to the wedding rather than go through the whole list: my sister conveniently “forgetting” that we set the dates for our wedding in January and expecting us to reschedule around her work schedule since she’d used up all her vacation days on a trip with her BFF; lying to me about why they didn’t bring my niece along; my mother having an open temper tantrum that she very nearly took out on Mike’s family and a dear friend of mine the day after the wedding.

Mike and I agreed after the first time he met her that under no circumstances was I to be alone with my mother. She’s an active danger to me – and she always, ALWAYS pulls something at the earliest opportunity.

Because crazy has a pattern.

But sane adapts.

I really think that you can only get one deathbed promise per person. I had my wedding. I now have two memories of breaking down in tears while wearing a wedding dress: at my first wedding my parents arbitrarily decided to cater it because God forbid they look cheap to total strangers who didn’t care –  and two hours before my wedding dumped the duty of getting it from the place they ordered it from on me. So I wound up crying from stress in the middle of a grocery store, while wearing my wedding dress (it was tie-dye…but c’mon, it’s what I could afford!) The second, in my Goddess-style wedding down, tears streaming down my face because mother and sister were once again going out of their way to make me miserable.

Neither one of them checked in with how I was doing after I lost my father. Well, my mother did once – in front of her pastor, so she could look like a good mother. At the time my sister pointed to Mike as though he were responsible for all my strength and work. He wasn’t. I never actually answered. She never asked in private, because she actually didn’t give a damn.

After all that, for two years running I made most of the calls. I always felt like shit after any contact. Unheard. Like my mother was still trying to force me to be her, and on the rare occasions I spoke to my sister she continued to fictionalize or would start talking to someone in the room with her and disrupting the phone call. So I quit calling – and felt better.

They ignored it when my blog got a mention in the New York Times. They ignored it when I was sick, sad, faltering. They asked – with greed – for my support and in return I got a Star Trek Communicator my mother heard me say explicitly that I did NOT want and the usual snow job bullshit from my sister.

The last straw came on my 36th birthday – at the time, a Google analytics search with my full name and a highly offensive subject came up. This was back when GA still allowed IP searches. The IP traced back to a specific location in Highland, Indiana. It could have been my sister’s BFF that did the search, maybe an ex-boyfriend. But in all likelihood, it was my sister. When she sent me a happy birthday text worded to maximize guilt tripping I snapped back and then filtered her number.

My mother, realizing I did not answer my own phone on my birthday because I wanted to be left alone that day rather than engage in a hypocritical act with people pretending to care about me for an audience, decided to call Mike’s phone… at 7:30 am.

There were multiple phone calls all day. From my sister. From my mother. Even from my niece, who had never called, emailed or otherwise made a self-motivated effort to communicate with me in her entire life. Repeated phone calls.

Crazy has a pattern. Sane adapts.,

I changed my phone number.

I got a therapist. I have confirmed a lot of suspicions. I sometimes still feel like I have failed at solving a puzzle – what the hell was my mother’s problem with my second wedding this time? But then I realize that the fault lies with her for making it a puzzle and that she did it because what she wanted was probably all about her and had nothing to do with me. The same is true of her extended family – they have expectations despite putting no effort whatsoever into knowing me. It hasn’t registered that they’ve done nothing for me so I owe them nothing.

This second visit to Vegas brings up all these memories. I am not broken – quite the opposite. The desert has called to me ever since my 3rd degree initiation in Phoenix. Last night I heard it calling, “You are safe here. “ It repeated that a few times. This is my story to give to the desert. I am not in pain, or afraid right now. When I say the desert talks to me, it means I am about the same degree of crazy as any other religious person who doesn’t need to lock people in closets for misdemeanors.

During our wedding, one of the servers said to me, “You have a great character. I hope you continue to cultivate that.” An unusual choice of words for a bride, possibly prompted by the drama unfolding in the wedding a floor above.

The land feels happy to have me back; perhaps it spoke through the waiter that kept comping us champagne to keep from working the other wedding. When I put bare feet on land, there’s a happy buzz, like the desert is petting me back. I have yet to find any Scorpions on my shoes.

This is the right stop before I do the rebirth ceremony next month. The ritual sits half-written. This, I think, is why. I needed the desert.

I am adapting.