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Yesterday my sister and I spent a good hour and a half talking. It started off with some silence, some screaming and a lot of anger and ended up somewhere reasonable. As I said to her, she is the only person in the family that I can have this sort of honest conversation with. I have spent this week feeling increasingly numb, wanting to curl up in a ball and ignore the world. It is possible that change in HRT is messing with my hormones and contributing, a consultant appointment awaits on that front.

My sister told me I was selfish, ungrateful, uncaring and downright rude and that if I really didn’t care about my parents I should cut all ties and walk away. That was the screaming bit.

It’s not about understanding that my parents are the best they can be, however inadequate they are; that my father (at least) still tries hard. We agree on that. That understanding doesn’t help me move on. Beyond making me understand that it’s their stuff and not actually about me I still haven’t moved past that low esteem although I’m better at pretending.

I said so much that I try and put to one side, trying to explain how I second guess myself on everything, that anything I do is wrong somewhere. I worry about how I respond to my children, and then I worry that I worry too much and don’t relax with them. I worry about trying to balance earning a living with looking after them, maintaining a house, and looking after me. I worry about how I’m going to manage to earn a living as my children get older and those benefits and tax credit diminish and stop. I worry about what I do with this sodding inheritance if it’s not enough to buy a house (and if it is). I worry about still feeling inadequate.

So we went through history and she eventually got that I had tried tactics for improving my relationship with my father and that they hadn’t worked and I had given up. I tried to explain that I hadn’t limitless amounts of energy to work on relationships that weren’t going anywhere and that my priorities had to be my children and my friends, those people I see or talk to on a daily or weekly basis,  with the rest of my family a distant third. No it’s not ideal but it is how it is.

I tried to explain how all these threads that go back to childhood need untangling before they can be woven into something useful. I think 1sis was very angry and resentful as a teenager and in the last ten years she has calmed down and become a lot more accepting of my parents. I remind her that I wasn’t allowed to get angry with them and I’m doing it now, that her path is different from mine.

I talked about 3son’s current personality crisis, especially after 1sis complained that he’d been rude when he answered the phone. I pointed out that his arrogance and manners was where he was now and she wasn’t getting any special treatment. I talked about his fears about being depressed, about not being happy with who he is (14 years) and that I struggle to say the right thing when I haven’t worked out all the answers. I explained how all 4 of my children had their own issues, all of which different, that being a single parent contributed, and yes, so did my attitude.

I talked about fears of my physical health, about early menopause, high blood pressure, and a hay fever that never existed ten years ago; about coming off anti-depressants after two and a half years but knowing full well I wasn’t “cured”. I talked about how we went out less as a family, how we’d all become more indoors bound, partly since 2son refused to leave the house and partly because life seems less demanding that way. Now of course the boys are all of an age when they’re happy to stay glued at a video screen all day long (and longer). I can feel guilty about that too.

The more I talked the more she listened and the more she understood. Sometimes silence is just the best thing I can offer, however rude it may appear. Yes I struggle to find things to say to my father when he visits because I can’t say any of the above. I can’t tell him how proud I am that 3son went to his tutor and said he wanted to talk to someone and why didn’t they have assemblies on mental health when they had several on bullying.

I also talked about the fact that she and I can have this conversation, that we do listen to each other, even if it does involve hanging up the phone and a bit of shouting. I did tell her how much I appreciated what she did to try and keep the family talking to each other. I told her I’d agreed to see 3sis although wasn’t expecting very much.

Eventually I ran out of things to say and we hung up. She had a different perspective and I was reminded, once again, on how difficult my parents find me and how much my father struggles to try and maintain a dialogue. I still feel numb, but more able to start catching up on the work I just shoved to one side last week.

Then I went to the pub.

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