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This Religion Thing


R. S. Martin
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I talked with one of my sisters today and apparently my siblings were not united in their desire to allow me to eat with them at mom's funeral. That kind of thing should be forbidden on the federal or provincial level.

 

I don't know how every last one of them felt but this has brought some pretty strong surprises for me. The brother I had always liked best and who is always nice no matter what, apparently he does not think things were handled correctly; he thinks I should not have been allowed to eat with them. Even the deacon had second thoughts about having allowed me to eat with them. That explains something. His wife, whom at one time I had considered a friend, told me how glad she was that I came to the funeral. I told her how much it meant that I was allowed to eat with the family. She did not comment.

 

Deacons can be impersonal but what really makes me MAD is this brother who is always so very nice. He seems to take a neutral position regarding family issues. Seems like he tries to keep his family separated from our family issues. But this has been a very rude disillusionment. To have HIM be so very nice to my face, and say all the right things to make me feel good. But behind the scenes he's doing all he can to exclude me from the most intimate family thing possible--the funeral of our mother.

 

I can't even describe how mad I am. Maybe it will eventually come out. I'm beginning to think he must be the male image of her. She was always so very nice at the right times but so cold-hearted and cruel at exactly the times when it hurt most. One single incident made me aware that he is not to be trusted where my feelings are concerned. He called me the day after the funeral.

 

I'm not sure why he called. He told me how glad he was that I had been at the funeral. All except me and our youngest brother had been at the home for supper. I had no ride to stay and my youngest brother and his wife had a sick child in the hospital that they had to go see. I had not expected there to be any will to be taken care of because Dad is still alive. But apparently there were a few items. He mentioned those.

 

One of our sisters has spent all of her adult life living with and taking care of our parents. It is right that she should get a few extra items of Mom's things. But the things he told me she was getting made no sense. Dad is still alive so we can't just clean out all the household items just because Mom is gone.

 

Okay I'm chewing through all these details to get at what I want to say. I wanted to share with him how very glad I was that I could eat with them. I felt like I was talking to a stonewall but I said it anyway. He said something along the lines of: We siblings have had our disagreements and probably we will continue having our disagreements.

 

That felt so.....like he didn't care and that he didn't care about not caring. Like: This is the way things are and we have no choice but to accept things the way they are. This is life and that's just the way things are. And he does not care.

 

Like a warm sunny atmosphere but the heart is cold and uncaring. That is what I mean about the male aspect of mom's cold-hearted cruelty. She always, always cared about things. She was very seriously opinionated. She never had no opinion about anything. Well, this brother seems to be just as opinionated and judgmental but he keeps it under-cover so he appears nice on the outside. Mom appeared nice on the outside to people outside the home. I don't know what he's like to his wife and kids.

 

That's him. The other brother--the oldest of my three brothers, the one I never got along with even in childhood--he was the one who fought tooth and claw to get me into the family. It's been so terribly confusing. He did not fear getting contaminated from contact with me. He was the one who crossed all boundaries and hugged me. He and I cried together right there beside the coffin. Five or six of my sisters were also in the room and they were all crying for joy that I was allowed to eat with them. One sister looked totally dry-eyed and stolid. She's the spitting image of mom when it comes to personality.

 

There's something so terrible about her infancy that most of the time I just blank it out. She was not yet a year old and she would always cry loudly at the table. Dad would take her out of her highchair and spank her hard. When she just continued to wail loudly he spanked her some more. Finally mom and dad just turned the highchair away from the table so her wails were not directed at us. This happened every day.

 

The rest of us felt subdued. Dad noticed this and said this is the way it should be. If one child is punished the others should feel subdued. I never realized before, but this kind of treatment is illegal. It's outright child abuse. I guess it's not without reason that most of us disliked or even hated him. So far as I can see, the consensus among us siblings is that dad must be tolerated and cared for because he sired us.

 

In recent years I've had some pleasant conversations with him. He's different since his stroke eight years ago. Much more emotional and not as harsh. I think he has a tender heart somewhere beneath the many layers of armour. His father was a monster. I blame him for the way my father turned out. Dad was forced all his life to be something he wasn't. And he didn't have the guts to stand up to his father like I did. Religion and economics kept him in line. He was financially dependent on his father so long as the old man lived.

 

Since the funeral lots of people have asked me how Dad takes it. It never occurred to me to think about that. I mentioned it to one of my sisters in telephone conversation today. She seemed not to really know and not to care much either. She's the one who lives with him and provided primary care for mom. She always comes across to me like a really accommodating person. But she confessed today that the thought has crossed her mind a lot that she would stay only so long as mom lived. She also mentioned that since his stroke he's different. So I guess she's been feeling like this for a very long time. She does not know yet where her life will go when things get back to normal. After the funeral there was a lot of cleaning up to do because the funeral was at the house. A few of our sisters had showed up to help her get the house back in order.

 

So anyway, that's a whole batch of dirty linen. Had to get it out of my system.

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Ruby,

 

Your siblings seem to be feeling very divided and confused themselves. They are warring with their hearts over what it's telling them is right, and what they've been brainwashed with telling them it's right. You're their sister, they can't just wash you out of their lives no matter how hard they try. And vice versa. People sometimes never have contact with their families again because of irreconsilable differences, but they don't forget them.

 

About the part of being pleasant to your face and snipping behind your back to others, my mother does this to me too. The really confusing thing about that sort of two facedness is BOTH faces are genuine. If she's being sweet, she's genuinely sweet, if she's being a cold hearted bitch, that's the truth as well. Everybody actually does this...we talk about people all the time. Actually, we're doing it now, discussing your siblings, though you sound like somebody who can bring their pleasure or displeaure to someone assertively. Some people can't do that, and they become just so very good at dividing their emotions that they become like masks they switch around in a play. Then you aren't aware of it until somebody tells you the two different people are the same person, and it IS a very nasty surprise. It's the extreme of passive-aggressiveness.

 

Our first inclination is to pick one mask as the TRUE personality, but it's frustrating because we really can't do that. The best way to regard people like that is to enjoy their warmth and love when they give it, but to guard what we say. I don't tell my mother everything anymore. I give her her pleasantries right back and only discuss things that I don't care about if she repeats it. Considering we have a lot of mutual aquaintances, I can tell you right now that her two-faced issue comes around and bites her in the ass a lot. That's something I wish sometimes I could help her correct because I also see it causes her a lot of pain, but as you've seen with your own mother, it's nothing we can really do about. If some of her children are displaying the same mannerisms, then you know EXACTLY what it's going to do them.

 

That again, like with your mother, is something we have to let go and let them deal with. Take care of yourself. In the end, even though some siblings didn't agree, they still allowed you to eat with them. Apperantly the ones who have the biggest hearts cowed the ones who are more scared of their brainwashing. It sounds like they are all confused, and you've done your part admirably and with clarity even if you don't feel you did.

 

((((Ruby))))

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Kurari, THANK YOU!

 

Your emphasis on two-facedness--I feel like two different people these days. Sometimes I'm angry at mom and sometimes I want to defend her. She looked so regal in the coffin. Maybe she looked like her mother or grandmother, whom I never knew. With the curling lips and frowning brow smoothed out she was a totally different person. I really seriously struggle with all of this. But the two-facedness explanation you give makes a great deal of sense. It makes sense that both faces belong to the same person. And what you say about them dividing their feelings like that--this explains so MANY things--about both faces being real.

 

About the brother who reached out to me. I decided that he has more than one voice. Most of the time he sounds like the authoritarian dominant male. It takes a mighty strong personality to face him down. It's not possible to out-yell him. Yet he was the one who was crying--not only then but at the final viewing. So I concluded the love and tender heart is there; it just doesn't show at all times.

 

Kurari, I have a question. You said:

It's the extreme of passive-aggressiveness.

 

What does that mean? Somehow, when I am making sense of emotional stuff I need to know exactly what terms mean. Does it mean extreme passive-aggression? The extreme end of the spectrum of being aggressive/judgmental, etc. by being passive and not doing or saying anything? Then they can truly say they never did or said anything. But by NOT doing/saying anything they were being aggressive--letting the wolf devour the flock by default. Yeah, that makes sense.

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*L* Wanting to defend and kill her at the same time is totally normal. We've all got positive and negative emotions and actions. Nobody is COMPLETELY bad. Some people do more bad things than good things, and some people do more good things than bad things. But we all have compassion and maliciousness inside of us. Most people are a reasonable mix of both. It's really rough not being allowed either total immersion in a relationship or a clean break, but it helps to keep things even and from US going crazy if we remember this. Not like it's easy, but it's better than suffering constantly from confusion and pain.

 

Passive-Aggressiveness is defined as a negative but passive resistance to interpersonal or occupational situations. Instead of confronting others when there is a problem, passive-aggressive behaviour usually manifests as doing stuff like griping behind someone's back, doing stuff you know annoys the person you're upset with, not doing things you are asked to do out of resentment, carrying around grudges, or not speaking to someone.

 

From Wikipedia: "In the psychoanalytic theory of transactional analysis, many types of passive-aggressive behavior are interpreted as "games" with a hidden psychological payoff, and are classified into stereotypical scenarios with names like "See What You Made Me Do" and "Look How Hard I've Tried".

 

Christianity fosters this sort of behaviour very well. "Good" Christians and people don't go off on others or allow to appear as if they are anything less than strong and pleasent in the eyes of others and the Lord. But the truth is, they still do get angry, anxious, and upset at others and their lives, so instead of confronting it, they turn passive-aggressive and act out subvertly.

 

I'm certain my mother loves me. I can see and feel it when she talks to me. That's not going to change, and she HAS and still does do loving things for me and made sacrifices to help me, just I have for her. So, that loving face she puts on for me is true. But since she's started having more personal problems and becoming less able to manage them, and I've become an adult, we've had a lot of clashes...well, more like mindgames, mostly backbiting and slowly driving each other insane and pounding the wedge between us deeper. So, when I find out she's been talking behind my back, it gets me angry and I'm inclined to demonize her. Usually she ends up triggering a lot of the same behaviour in me as a reactionary thing (I'm also not good with confrontation). So sometimes I sit back and think, "I'm going insane with this. She's bringing out the worst in me, and I just can't handle her problems!"

 

I'm trying to change/stop that, and it's not easy. I've been reading books on dealing with anger and anxiety lately written by Buddhist nuns and they focus on trying to teach that everybody has the same feelings. We're all loving beings as well as malicious ones, and the path of Buddhism tries to find the middle of that. It's a very different way of thinking from Christianity, which tries to find a "side" to be on in order to gain grounding in what's going on. In Buddhism, the focus is more towards on not finding any sort of grounding at all. By not letting ourselves get deluded with either the good or the bad, learning not to judge ourselves or others for the feelings that come, learning to step back and observe reactions more and accept they exist, life evens out and stuff like fighting with family becomes less of a trial.

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My best wishes in making sense of this.

 

Family is always difficult, balancing love and frustration. I don't have any real advice, though.

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My best wishes in making sense of this.

 

Family is always difficult, balancing love and frustration. I don't have any real advice, though.

 

The idea of balancing love and frustration does help. I think that is what you are saying, too, Kurari. Thanks for doing all that research for me. The ideals help set goals and I think that is important because it helps in sorting the feelings. But like you say the actual walking the walk and living them can be a different story. I think my brother would defend himself, "I was just stating facts and protecting myself in case you decide to accuse me of something."

 

You know, just knowing that this is probably his motive for taking the stance he takes makes it lots more manageable. He must be scared and feel vulnerable. Somehow, I always imagine I'm the only person who feels scared and vulnerable. All the others always have answers that sound so confident.

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My best wishes in making sense of this.

 

Family is always difficult, balancing love and frustration. I don't have any real advice, though.

 

The idea of balancing love and frustration does help. I think that is what you are saying, too, Kurari. Thanks for doing all that research for me. The ideals help set goals and I think that is important because it helps in sorting the feelings. But like you say the actual walking the walk and living them can be a different story. I think my brother would defend himself, "I was just stating facts and protecting myself in case you decide to accuse me of something."

 

You know, just knowing that this is probably his motive for taking the stance he takes makes it lots more manageable. He must be scared and feel vulnerable. Somehow, I always imagine I'm the only person who feels scared and vulnerable. All the others always have answers that sound so confident.

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"Ruby, Tall and Proud"

 

Fukk'um all Ruby.. You went, paid respects to your Mom as you desired. To their hell with their stumbling traditions and stupidassed theories on "The Way Things Oughta Be".

 

You've broken loose and went your own way. Mom knew at end you had not abandoned nor forgotten her in her end. You did what you have needed done, yet respected your roots and family.

 

Brothers and sisters still caught up in the Old School shit? Oh well, it IS their life, and the way they live it.

 

I am proud that you battled and WON for the place at the table, even if it is just one symbol in a lifetime of many, you did as you wanted, and battled hundreds of years of entrenched concrete cast tradition.

 

"Ruby, the Mold Breaker"

 

You might never know how many other young OMM women you have influenced by stepping up and kicking the male elders right in the nuts and making your place known.

The younger women may never have opportunity to tell you face to face of the things they have seen or heard tell of, but your story and the things you do are worth more to the Freedom of the women following in your footsteps than gold itself..

 

You may not see yourself in the cast of the OMM women's Rosa Parks.

However this mean_old_fatman see you in a place and time of significance and brokering of a better future for the women endentured to the OMM.

 

There is no failure in this battle.

 

kL

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Nivek, thank you so much for that post. I have no idea what I will do at another funeral—if I will attend or not. Basically, I told them where they’re at; if they want to see me they have to allow me to eat with the family. If they don’t let me eat with the family I won’t attend. I should not have to fight that battle again.

 

I might add more later. Gotta go for now

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*Hugs*

 

You're right, punishing a baby is definitely child abuse. Babies have no control over when they cry. Not to mention, they are defenseless innocents. And punishing that baby in front of other children is psychological abuse to the other children.

 

I am sorry your brother had to be cold-hearted. I wonder if he is being influenced by that deacon. During emotional hardship, people can be more easily influenced by those who have some sort of power over them. Just a thought.

 

And you're right, you shouldn't have to fight any more battles with your family. You've already won the one that counts the most -- being free.

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Hey Amethyst, I'm glad you're still around. I thought you were leaving. I'm glad I was wrong.

 

No, this brother was not directly influenced by that deacon. I don't think the deacon knew yet at that point how low Mom was, and that we were looking at funeral arrangements. This brother was the only man in the original sibling conference where it was decided that I shouldn't eat with them. You know the power of men in that kind of society. It was one of our sisters, him, and his wife. Married women have higher status than single ones and none of us sisters has ever been married. Let's see, Dad was there, too, but he's less astute since his stroke eight years ago and he expected the children to make the important decisions.

 

Of my three brothers, I had expected this one to be more lenient. The one who ended up pleading for me was the one from whom I least expected any favours because we've never gotten along. And the third one, he's next to the baby of the family and would hardly have had too much weight if all the other siblings disagreed with him.

 

Another idea just hit me. Perhaps all of them believed that attending my mother's funeral would influence me to return to the faith, at least to Christianity if not to the OOM. It was late afternoon the day before the funeral. The service was at 9:00 the next morning. I was still challenging the old church rule. Obviously, being allowed to sit with my family was the only way anyone was going to get me to even attend.

 

I may never know how much that hope influenced decisions. It is even quite likely that their hope was encouraged by the way I behaved at the funeral. I wanted to see all my nieces and nephews and I made special effort to say good-bye to Dad before leaving. I understand people took note of it though that was the least of my concerns. My concern was that I would hurt Dad by forgetting to say good-bye to him on the day of his wife's (my mother's) funeral.

 

As this kind of society does, men and women were segregated. In a casual setting such as a home, they are allowed to cross boundaries as in entering a room full of people of the opposite gender to say good-bye. In the church setting this is completely outside the way to do things but not in the home.

 

Dad was sitting in a room with some of his and mom's brothers and male cousins. It never occurred to me not to say good-bye to him. Since I was in there anyway, I also said good-bye to some of the others. They were, after all, relatives. (Come to think of it, I didn't see any of my brothers in there. Maybe they were somewhere with their cousins.) Saying good-bye is the same as a hand-shake except we say "good-bye" instead of a "hello" greeting. Apparently, this was worth noting and talking about later.

 

Thus, it occurs to me that it is possible that they think I might have been positively influenced for the faith. That's not the case. I was there because I wanted to be part of my mother's funeral. It was the first funeral in our immediate family and I wanted to be part of it if I were treated right. However, after a lifetime of being treated wrong I was not going to accommodate their religion just so I could sit within earshot of the service among extended family.

 

If they were going to shove me off, I was going to choose where I would be shoved to--in my own apartment, right here in front of my computer, talking to you guys. They didn't shove me off and I don't know all the thought and heart processes behind it. Nor do I know how many of mine they guessed. Not a lot if the past is any indication. I am always amazed at this. They can always ask if they really want to know. The way they responded to my "thoughts" this past half year does not encourage me to offer them.

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Mom knew at end you had not abandoned nor forgotten her in her end.

 

And that was really important to me, given I had the opportunity to talk with her. It occurred to me that she did not know this because our last interaction had not been too positive. I think perhaps our last interaction had concerned my religious position.

 

You may not see yourself in the cast of the OMM women's Rosa Parks.

However this mean_old_fatman see you in a place and time of significance and brokering of a better future for the women endentured to the OMM.

 

The place of OOM women is not all that bad. My position was bad because I was not permitted even the opportunities that my own sisters were given. Most of them had the opportunity to try their hand as elementary school teachers. Being a teacher had been my one passion since before our church had its own schools in the 1960s. When we got our own schools it seemed like my dream might come true. For some reason I will never know, they did not think I was smart enough to manage a classroom ful of kids.

 

When a public school hired me to be playground supervisor I proved the OOM wrong. I got along with those kids just fine--or as fine as the teachers did; there are always problems, but the OOM still didn't let me try. This was outrageously ridiculous because they claimed that their own kids were so much better trained than the kids in town. I guess they found out that there always was another adult whom I could consult if there was a problem I couldn't handle so they could still make the claim that I couldn't handle a classroom full of kids. But that is a risk that must always be taken when hiring a new teacher. What they did not bother finding out was what kind of problem this was that I couldn't handle.

 

Most of the time it was problems related to the fact that the kids were under so many different adult supervisors. They had the teachers for class, me on the playground, and parents or babysitters at home. Perhaps also gym teachers, etc. Obviously, playground supervisors had to cooperate with each other and with the teachers. For example, I did not have the authority to keep a child in for last recess. I was there only for the noonhour. I had to be on the playground. If a child was unruly to the extent that he or she had to be taken off the playground, I could not be inside to make sure the kid behaved. And it wasn't my classroom in case the kid made a mess.

 

The OOM schools had no playground supervisors but neither did they have more than two or three classrooms. Teachers can be on the playground and if a kid has to be removed, it is to the classroom for which the teacher was personally responsible. Also, the teacher could leave the playground and be in with the child. I worked live-in with a lot of families with school-aged children. I could take over the care of the home when the mother went to the hospital to have another baby. One of the last families I worked for was my aunt and uncle whose ninth baby was born while I was there.

 

There were five or six kids to get off to school every morning (which meant making breakfast and lunches for their lunchboxes; the kids did a lot of this themselves but my supervision was needed), plus several little ones under school age that I was responsible for. I was also responsible for all the housekeeping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry. I never gave it a thought. The father was around, too, and I could get his advice in case something really big happened but I don't remember anything happening. His time was spent in the barn and fields when he wasn't at the hospital visiting his wife. I'm the oldest of eleven kids and the last one was born when I was sixteen. My fifteen-year-old sister and I were responsible for getting six or seven kids to school each morning and doing all the housework. I was perhaps 23 when I was working for my aunt and uncle. When she came home from the hospital with the new baby she told me that being able to look after such a houseful of kids as I had done for her was no small achievement. I was totally taken by surprise. I had done it at home and in other families. What I am trying to say here is that I proved myself capable of looking after school-aged kids and not just one or two. Wasn't good enough, I guess.

 

Back to fundies and how they treat women. Based on what I am beginning to see of true-blue fundamentalists (which the OOM are not), I think perhaps the OOM women are better off than their fundamentalist counterparts. Officially, the men are the head of the home and church. It has been rumored, though, that it's the women who are running the community. The wife of the bishop was rumored to make the final decisions and to tell her husband what to tell the church the next morning regarding the issues of the day. The very fact that this rumor existed tells me that not all the decisions were made at the minister meetings. How? Because the women would not have gotten away with spreading such rumors if the men (other ministers) knew they were wrong. They would have known only if all decisions had been made before the meetings closed. What happened between the end of those meetings and the announcements on Sunday mornings was a deep mystery that no one ever divulged.

 

If my parents were at all typical of the average OOM couple, then that rumor makes a great deal of sense. I know that my mother was not the only OOM woman who ruled her own roost. And Dad was part of that roost. I lived and worked in a lot of homes as maid and saw how other families worked on the inside. Whose word carried the most weight, or who made what decisions, in the various homes seemed to depend on the personalities of the individuals more than anything else. Some kids had to ask their fathers for stuff and some had to ask their mothers. Some men decided that they were going to go to town for something and informed the wife before leaving; others never thought of going away without talking with their wives. That's just the tidy stuff.

 

"Ruby, the Mold Breaker"

 

You might never know how many other young OMM women you have influenced by stepping up and kicking the male elders right in the nuts and making your place known.

 

That is one way of looking at it. Another, more likely, perspective is that I'm a really bad person whom no one in their right mind is going to emulate. All the same, others who were unhappy with the church have talked to me. Like you say, it's impossible to know whom one influences.

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