I am often indecisive about whether or not I should share my personal story about abuse. Some people believe that we ought to never share any negative story about anyone. Others believe that in sharing our stories, we can help others through similar struggles. I think both are true. I mean, on the one hand, I understand about being careful about what we share. On the other hand, if people had not shared with me their personal stories of abuse, I don’t know where I’d be today. And often when I share my story, I hear from others how much it helped them. It’s because people have the courage to share their painful stories, their heartbreaking stories, their courageous stories, that we are able to recognize abuse and to gain the courage to escape it. I’m thankful for stories. So sometimes I share mine. I do try to limit details.
We had a rough week. EJ’s family got upset with us for limiting contact with his brother. We had done so because of his toxic behavior when he lived with us for a short time twelve years ago, and particularly because of one incident that involved our then 9-year-old son. None of the extended family was even aware that there was a problem between us and the brother all these years or that we had limited contact because we had made it an undramatic nonissue. We kept the grievance private, didn’t speak negatively of his brother, didn’t stir up trouble so that the family took “sides,” were polite whenever the brother attended a family gathering, and didn’t expect anyone to adhere to our personal boundaries. In fact, EJ interacted with his brother on FB. However, he didn’t give him our address when we moved. I blocked him at FB and didn’t add him to our family Facebook group which I was the admin of.
When the family recently discovered our limited contact, they didn’t respect our boundaries. They were very angry with us for limiting contact. And that has caused a lot of problems and hurt feelings.
With all the heartbreak I experienced with my own family, and with all the PTSD symptoms we have experienced from abuse and cancer, this was very stressful. It was stressful enough that I talked over the situation with experts at an abuse website, telling them what we had done, why we had done it, the family’s response, and exact details of the incident that had alarmed us so many years ago. They replied that we had done well, and that the only thing that they would have done differently would be to warn the family–because the brother’s actions were typical victim-grooming behavior. Warning them would help protect others in the family. So I warned the family–but as often happens, most of them leaped to the brother’s defense and were angry with us. There has been no censure directed at the brother. The family thinks it’s terrible that we have excluded him and aren’t unconditionally loving and forgiving him. This is very stressful, but we know that our boundaries are wise and that we did the right thing in warning the family.
I grew up not understanding healthy boundaries, but after I experienced my family’s abuse, I educated myself about abuse and began learning how to set healthy boundaries. Even though it’s hard, each time I set a boundary, I grow stronger and it becomes easier. We know now that if we allow anyone to disrespect our boundaries, they will only grow to disrespect them more, so we are remaining firm.
I hear–and have experienced–a lot of very sad stories about the horrible abuse that occurs in some families. I think family love and support is important, but that includes respecting each other’s boundaries and giving each other the freedom to be different and to make different choices. I also think that it’s more important to do the right thing and to respect each other than to have blind family loyalty that defends a person who is wrong or hurtful just because he is related.
Now, on to other news:
Last weekend JJ burst into the house when he got home from work saying that he had run over a large snake at the bottom of the driveway. It was a sandy area so the snake wasn’t hurt and quickly slithered away. JJ described it and EJ thinks it might have been a Blue Racer. We all walked down to see if we could get a glimpse of it, but it was gone. I hope the snake won’t consider our chickens “lunch.”
After we didn’t see the snake, JJ and I returned to the house, but EJ continued on to get the mail. That was when he met our nearest neighbors. Since this is their vacation home, they are absent all winter and here only occasionally during the summer. EJ had quite a chat with the neighbor and he learned that the man had actually worked with his Dad years ago in Flint. They used to play cards together on their lunch hour. It really is a small world.
Danny actually had met our neighbors before EJ did. The neighbor asked EJ if we owned a black dog with long hair. Yup. He said that Danny had appeared out of the forest, let them pat him a couple of times, and then he left. Danny is not supposed to go into the forest alone [bad dog!], but he loves people. He doesn’t meet many people up here like he did at our old house.
The neighbor guy said that the woman who used to live in our house had guinea hens. Apparently, the first day she let them out to free range, they refused to return and she never again got them back. Coyotes picked them off, one by one, until they were all eaten. We are now thinking about keeping our birdies safely in their pen. We couldn’t bear it if they were eaten.
We have had a very dry Spring. It’s been so dry that the grass was turning yellow. Our county banned all burning. We are surrounded by forests and it would be very bad if there was a forest fire. Very bad. We have finally gotten a bit of rain. Yay!
JJ told me the other day that our new home feels more like “home” than the old house ever did. He loves it here. “It’s the best decision we ever made!” he exclaimed. I’m glad. EJ and I love it here too.