It's about 4:30 on a sunny Oregon Monday afternoon in the park. I'm lying on the grass with a couple of old friends (our daughters were babies together) and a new one. The girls are running back and forth between the little water park and the sand volleyball court, doing things with sand and water and laughter. Yep, it was as wonderful as it sounds.
Conversation has ranged over all sorts of topics, as it usually does. At this moment, we're enjoying Oregon Writer (OW) tell of her upcoming trip to parts south; she then recounts one of those "shake your head" stories about a sibling and the thought comes to me in a blaze. I blurt out,
"Don't you wish we could buy an island and send our problem siblings there?"
The talk comes fast and furious from all corners.
"Cool. The Island of the Broken Siblings!"
"And they could stay there forever."
"I have one, too. Do you?"
" Yep. Everybody does, I think."
"Narcissistic Personality Disorder"
"Republican" [That, from me, elicits a moment of sympathetic silence.]
Just think about it....all those people who make the lives of others difficult forced to fend for themselves for a change. Completely. Without Mercy. Lord of the Flies.
When I first began this blog, I promised "nothing but a view into life on the verge of fifty." Over the last year, a spate of friend's parent's deaths, illnesses in my family and those of my friends, and various assorted life changes in the worlds of those I hold dear have made a few things very clear to me.
And here's one of them: every family needs one person who can get things done, no matter what, with no expectation of appreciation. After seeing a friend though a crisis last fall, I even joked that this might even be a great business idea, a franchise thing - The Responsible Daughter.
Say there's a death in the family. People are flying in from all over. There's only about a cup of milk left. The widow's (or widower's) good black shoes need a little work. Wouldn't be a bad idea to call a cleaning service. And where are we going to put everyone? Hotels? Extra bedrooms? Are the sheets clean? With one call to The Responsible Daughter, you can have all those practicalities taken care of so you can do the things only true family can do. If had even one entrepreneurial cell in my body....
I know I sound flippant, but I don't mean to offend. And, yes, there's maybe a tiny little squeak of resentment in all of this. After all, what would it be like to be the one who falls apart? Who dissolves into incapability? Who gets taken care of? Sure, all of us have our breakdown moments, but some of us put down the tissue box and then go unload the dishwasher before we go to bed and get up the next day and get on with it. Pull weeds. Earn money. Cook food. Write Blogs.
I'm teetering on the edge of self-righteousness here, and that would be a valid criticism if I believed the ability to forge ahead was the result of effort or superior character. At an earlier time of my life, I might have thought so. "Why doesn't X do more?" "Why does B always have to do everything for C? Isn't D an adult, too?" But with every year, it becomes clearer that this may be more a matter of temperament, of hardwiring, than of will. Our siblings' passports probably were stamped for this particular Fantasy Island at birth, or at least fairly early on.
Some spend energy on fights, trauma, or individuals long in the past or on situations they have no hope of remedying or even influencing. To what end? To spread poison and negativity into the lives of those around them? I really don't think that is their intent, but it is often the result. Others, though neediness, histrionics, or inaction, insure that what needs to get done for their well being gets done. And difficult family dynamics are born. Such actions glue both groups to their misery...but, of course, in that misery lies their identity, no?
And the rest of us just keep going.
* A footnote: This is not an indictment of individuals with bi-polar disorder; it is a statement made by a friend during a conversation, describing a particular relative of hers, and as such was embedded in context unavailable in this post. BPD is a treatable illness. I know folks who manage this illness with grace and who would never, ever be sold a ticket to the island described in this post.