I have conflicting opinions, emotions and theories regarding my younger brother. Growing up he was always the darling child, doted on if any of us were, and he was indeed charming. Funny, cute, knowing just how to get in the good graces of his audience.
Then I moved away and played the role of the protector from afar. I would receive calls asking that I resolve or monitor a conflict between him, my mom and my dad. I’d listen, give my advice, lecture, correct and encourage, only to hang up and ask, “Well, who the hell was parenting me? Who was my advocate? No wonder I have problems.”
My brother’s recent pleas to call the parents on his behalf, to set the record straight on the facts of recent conflicts brought back the memory of those calls from thirty years ago. Well what do you know, here I am playing go-between in the advocate role once again. I’m not a huge fan of the role, but I guess I’m willing to step in when necessary because I wonder who else would. Who will be there for him? Everyone needs to know there is at least one person available out there somewhere to listen and help if possible, when necessary. And I worry about him. He is not always stable, it takes very little to set him off on a ranting rage where he vents endlessly about all the wrongs against him. Usually if he is heard out it can pass fairly quickly with him landing in a safe mental space once again. I watched this play out over and over again during the week I packed up the house with him last month. Like the morning my older brother decided it was appropriate to text him a berating message on his lack of responsibility. The text came early in the morning as I was getting ready to leave for the house to begin work, promoting a call from my younger brother raging about my older brother’s words. I put him on hold and sent a quick pleading text to my older brother, dude, I get it, and I agree with a lot you are saying, but not now please. I’m here in the middle of the storm, trying to keep him stable, in a good state of mind and focused on the goal of getting everything sorted, packed and loaded by the quickly approaching deadline. Can you back off until then? Please?
I got a “yes, sorry” reply and then went on to hear my younger brother vent as I got in the car to make the drive over to the house, finally listening long enough to where he began to calm down. And upon my arrival we had another productive day.
And regarding my post yesterday and his birthday disaster, today I picked up the phone to hear my mom recount a different retelling of events from the day and their visit to the campground. Where is the reality? I know the truth lies somewhere between the two, his and theirs. I tend to take his side because I have compassion for and an understanding of the mistreatment he has received from them, on top of the abuse from childhood on. My experiences have been different from his but at the same time incredibly similar. How can I turn my back on someone who has been hurt as I have by the same parents? Of course I have to have compassion and be there for him. But at the same him I have to maintain some clarity of thinking and not get wrapped up into his abuse, and I have been the target of his rage and abuse on a few occasions. So I have to be careful, it is a tricky dance of providing assistance and staying vigilant.
One thing that did become very clear through my processing the events of that move out week was an understanding of my brother’s way of being in the world, he needs an adversary. During the week of packing it was the realtors, the buyers, mom and dad. After my older brother texted towards the end of the week the adversary became him for a day. Sometimes it is another relative or someone he has recently had contact with, but it’s key in his functioning to have a person that he can direct all his anger at, blaming that person for where he currently finds himself in his life, in the world. The number of times I have heard the same rundown of why he is in his current situation and who is to blame was like a song on a loop playing over and over for those seven long days. And it is a powerful tool. If you know without a doubt that you are where you are at because this person did that, and that your state of being has nothing to do with your own actions, it is powerful medicine allowing complete avoidance of a responsibility for one’s own life. Once the move was complete I got a call from my younger brother that the berating messages had just resumed via my older brother’s texts. Okay, thanks, you held off as I asked, but seriously, is this necessary? It’s not going to help him. So I sent off a text to the older brother saying I had an observation, that having an adversary is key in our brother’s life, in allowing him to direct blame elsewhere and perhaps the most helpful thing we can do at this point is not provide him with an easy adversary. If all adversaries where to be removed he would be left with the reality of his life and then what? Would he then have a chance to see? Now it’s up to me, where I go and what I create from here is all mine.
I can only wish that for him. But in the meantime what I can do is apply that lesson to myself. In these stories I have a lot of rage myself, a lot of hurt to process and a lot of craziness to try to make sense of through the telling of my stories. But if the only purpose is the vent then I’ve lost the point of telling, the power that lies in the telling. If through the the very telling I am able to remove my own adversaries and reclaim my own life, and make it right going forward, then I will have learned the lessons I am trying so hard to learn.