The Power of Silence

If I had to choose one word to describe my week long visit with my mother, father and my in-laws I would choose: Silence.  Because I didn’t say much for most of the trip.  And even DH seemed to be more silent than usual – he talks more in group situations than I do (in general).

Our trip started with a few days with my parents in Chicago.  The visit with my mother and father was nothing new.  She didn’t ask anything about me, barely spoke to me, didn’t look me in the eye.  My cousin was there – she barely asked about us (DH and I) and we had to do all the question asking.  At one point I stopped and felt good about doing that when I saw that she wasn’t inquisitive into my life as I was in hers (We haven’t seen each other since we were kids).  I let silence fill our conversations.  Silence was my friend.  When silence usually can feel awkward, it felt like my new best friend and it comforted me. It gave my mind time to think.  And I thought about you guys in these periods of silence.  I thought about things you guys had said, advice, support and specific posts you have written*.  And it brought back the things that can easily be forgotten when dealing with Ns.  You and silence stood by me in my parent’s apartment.  It felt really good when all this toxicity was coming my way.

My dad (who is very ill) looked better actually.  It was great to see him and see that he was looking a lot better.  He has trouble speaking and so we don’t really get to talk and we went for a walk since it was nice outside that day.  It was good to see him and when I left I wonder if it will be the last time I see him.

Then, came the in-laws.  Perhaps, I am just used to my mother’s behaviours – in some ways, I have her figured out.  And it feels easier to deal with her.  My in-laws are so subtle, there is still a lot of ‘figuring’ out I have to do.  However, I realised that even if I can’t see stuff in real time I still have Silence and with Silence I found the answers with your help.

Most of the time was spent with BiL and FiL.  SiL flew in for one day.  BiL was the same – behaved selfishly, self-centredly and I found that I didn’t speak that much with him.  I decided – he doesn’t ask about me, I don’t need to ask about him.  I found that I just didn’t care enough to ask about SiL either.  And I realised that I actually don’t care about the answer – I had come to the point of true acceptance with them.  That is how they behave all the time – nothing is going to change except me.

FiL deserves a separate post.  For the first time I was able to see what he was saying that was so terrible.  I could see all this toxic behaviours in real time.  Silence let me see them.  I stayed silent until there was a question asked of me.  Which there never was – so I remained silent.  And the silence allowed me to hear his very toxic words, his dangerous words.  (I’ll write a follow up post)

And then SiL came.  I noticed that DH wasn’t in any hurry to get over to FiL’s apartment from the hotel that morning.  His behaviours said more than his words.  I can tell you exactly the kind of conversation we had – none.  When we first saw her, DH asked her how she was and I thought, great, I don’t have to ask because it would be fake – I don’t care how she is doing.  Then, DH asked her a few questions about her flight that morning, etc.  I remained silent.  She didn’t ask anything about us.  DH even stopped with the questions, he (I imagine) was starting to realise he was doing all the asking and the answers never led to conversation.

In my monkly state, I began to see things in SiL and BiL I hadn’t noticed before.  BiL would say something and then immediately contradict himself.  I started to pay closer attention and I saw that there was communication going on between BiL and SiL – the use of slight head nods and shifting eyes she was telling him if she disliked or liked what he was saying.  If he got the ever so slight head shake of NO he then would change his opinion.  (I tape recorded our conversations – I have to go through it and type up the transcripts, so I will post on this later)

Mall of America with no people - Silence is what you hear!

Mall of America with no people – Silence is what you hear!

I did take a break from this vow of silence with true friends.  We did have time to relax and have fun with them.  The highlight of the trip no doubt.  I played with my friends’ kids and just caught up with the people I love and the people that I want to hear their stories and they want to hear mine.  Because life is great because of this?

Overall, the visits went better than how I thought they would.  Their behaviours were the same but mine were different.  The one thing I’m beginning to notice is that although I change how I handle Ns in my life I still need a recovery time after it.  There is still toxicity after all – I just don’t crash for as long because my behaviours didn’t play into their scripts for continued toxicity.  But the toxicity is still there and my body was exposed to it for 8 days.  It felt the beating.

Thank you for your continued support, it helped so much during the visit.

*Here are the posts that I scrolled in my head when I was silent:

The Project: Me by Judy – Stand on the Rock on FB – this picture represents how I feel when dealing with them and reminds me that it is real.

Brave New Kitty – Reactivity

Caliban’s Sisters – Passive Agression, a Primer

Through the Looking Glass – Don’t Panic: A Guide for ACoNs

Hugs to you all,

TR

Sister Act

Thank you so much for the all the comments and thoughts of support regarding the visit of my SiL and BiL.  Your comments helped me get through the aftermath of dealing with all of it that much easier.  Hugs to you all.

The past few weeks have been difficult.  I sat in shame immediately after the visit.  I had to forget that emotion to get ready for my language exam and thereafter, a holiday break.  When I came back I relived the events, played the tapes.  After some distance it is amazing on what you pick up, what you now see so clearly.  As I peeled the layers of shame I meet anger and grief (for not having a sister within SiL).  I was alone at home (DH was traveling for work) and they were my companions this past week.

Although shame is a more recent emotion for me, I move through it a lot faster than grief and anger.  I don’t know why?  Maybe grief feels more raw to me because I think I have always had shame along side me – I think I have been able to ‘handle’ it because that was a common emotion my mother tried to instil in me.  Grief and anger were not allowed to be expressed at home.

And for me, grief and anger seem to be a more outward emotion.  Whereas shame, although a release, feels more internal and more of an exhale in the end.  Grief, for me, I need to cry, let the tears out and anger, I need to vocalise it, yell a bit (not at anyone) just get the words out of my mouth.

And it was nice to be alone to deal with my shame and grief but anger didn’t erupt until DH came home.  I needed a person in front of me to hear my story, hear my anger.  It came out at once and I was surprised at what came out of me.  Well, as one can imagine, it wasn’t pretty.

Among the name calling, I found myself saying things that really surprised me.  This one, in particular, took me and DH by surprise:

She is so dangerous, she is the danger that you don’t see coming.

Not that danger has signs but there are some dangers that have some warning signs.  And in my SiL’s case she is one that we don’t expect there to be a danger just from her presentation of herself.

DH asked me why I thought she was dangerous.  It would be easy to say that she is dangerous to my emotional well-being but I don’t believe that to be the case, nor do I suspect others reading this do either.  And the danger I meant had everything to do in the physical state of being.

I retold DH about our trip home for MiL’s funeral and when we were visiting with DH’s aunt and uncle and cousins.  We were all in the living room of FiL’s apartment and SiL was sitting in MiL’s chair (ironically) and she found a small pill bottle tucked between the cushion and the arm rest.  She read the medicine label (she’s an MD) and looked at it and said across the room to FiL – what are you taking this for?

I could already tell FiL did not want to get into this discussion in front of the family by his response – He said it was for high blood pressure.  SiL said that this is not the medicine he should be taking and that this has the opposite effect.  FiL asked for the capsule and she brought it over.  He looked at it and put it in his pocket.  SiL continues to tell him he should go talk to his doctor to make sure he is getting the right medication and that he should in no way be taking this medicine if he is having high blood pressure.  FiL just shrugged and didn’t respond.  There was silence and I looked straight at SiL and I saw her eyes look around the room.

I remember the only thing I could do was watch SiL because she was the one behaving in such a way that initially had scared me.  There were many things I am now taking away from this and one of those things is danger.

Kara and CS and in the comments have started insightful discussions in their recent posts on the relationship between emotions and our physical health.  And the emotional distress unhealthy people have on us is not spoken about often in terms of specific physical repercussions or root problems.  I only wonder now, if Ns have more of a direct impact on our physical health when dealing with Dr. Narcissistic SiL.

xxoo TR