Today I’m thinking about elevator pitches. thinking about how I define myself.
My business persona, my “Linked In Profile” is an entrepreneur – someone who’s worked for myself for a long time. I am a business professional and what I’m doing now is building websites as part of a marketing plan for my clients. That sounds pretty good and I feel good about that.
My elevator pitch for my personal life – my “Facebook Profile” is also pretty great. I love the fact that I have a wonderful husband who is interesting, smart, caring and who I have been married to for over 25 years. I love our two amazing children who we love to spend time with and who seem to enjoy our company as well. They’re talented, responsible and independent adults. I love our home in the Washington DC suburbs where there’s so much to do and so many great people to interact with from all over the country and the world.
Those are two ways that I can define myself – my “Professional/LinkedIn Profile” and my “Personal/Facebook Profile.”
Yet there’s an underlying persona – an underlying definition of myself that I feel always has to creep out at some point in conversation with someone. I’ve been asking myself a lot about why that is, and the fact that I’m so self-conscious about this being part of who I am – admitting it, talking about it – and yet wanting to run away from it and let it go.
My “Hidden Profile” is that for over 30 years my family has dealt with the addiction of my younger brother, who is now 46 years old. Starting with marijuana when he was high school, this has evolved to on and off relapsing on crack cocaine. He has absolutely no way to support himself except for my parents. He is legally blind from birth and a felon. He has two children. His ex-wife has been out of the picture for a long time – she is mentally ill and also an addict. My parents have helped raise my brother’s two children while also supporting him. Now in their 70’s, they are exhausted and unhappy.
I don’t know why this defines me as much as it does – why it eats away at my insides. I wish that they weren’t part of my life but at the same time I want to help them. It’s not MY life. I recently realized that while this is part of my family history and my past, it doesn’t have to be part of my life anymore.
I have played a role of mediator, of counselor advisor, listener. I am addicted to the constant state of Crisis in which my parents and brother live. Any free time I had walking my dog, riding in the car, bored, would be a time for me to call and hear from any one of them about the latest crisis from their perspective. I would feel good about being the The Listener and the person who would give wise counsel (or what I thought was wise counsel even though I had no basis for knowing what was right or wrong). At the same time, I felt heartbroken for them, I felt awful and powerless to help or change anything. I felt angry at the complete lack of responsibility, remorse or motivation from my brother. And nothing ever changed no matter how much I listened and sympathized. I realized that I can’t change it – it’s not a situation that’s under my control.
I’ve tried to help my niece and nephew – tried to be part of their lives from far away. As they’ve grown up and grown away from any responsible parenting, I’ve tried to be a positive influence for them. It recently became harder and harder, and it was clear that I was resented by them for reaching, trying to inspire and motivate them to be successful.
This is part of my story – my elevator pitch.
It’s hard to live with.
So I’m writing this because I think I need to finally broadcast it instead of adding this into conversation after getting to know someone just enough that I felt the need to reveal this in order for them to really know me. But I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I want this to be it.
I want to lay it out here as part of my profile so anyone can see and know about me and I don’t have to tell someone about it or feel compelled for people to know this about me because it doesn’t really make up who I am.
But it says something about how I view the world.
I’ve decided that I want to focus on my personal family life – the life that I’ve been able to have a direct impact on and I can continue to have a direct impact on rather than spinning my wheels trying to help people who don’t really want my help and don’t really change.
I’ve always believed there’s a heartache behind every door so I think sometimes I share this story so that other people can share their experiences with me. We can comfort each other; misery loves company. Sometimes I feel like no one I know could possibly have the experiences that I’ve had: phone calls from jail from their younger sibling; rediscoveries over and over again that someone you thought was doing okay was actually using drugs and lying to you and taking advantage of your kindness; realizing the only sibling you have is someone you do not want to have contact with – ever again.
I’m being honest. I just wish that I can forget about them and move on with my life. I know that can’t happen and shouldn’t happen completely. But for now I need a break and they need to change because they want to change, not because I want them to.
I have to have faith they’ll figure out the life they want to have with or without me.
This is a blog post I wrote in October, 2017. I never published it. Sadly, nothing has changed since I wrote this 10 months ago. It makes me sad now to revisit this almost a year later and to see that I was not able to sustain a “break” from my parents, nephew, and niece, and for the past 9 months have been consumed by helping my nephew, and by extension, my parents.It hasn’t gone all the way great, but it has been encouraging and heartening to have seen some positive progress in an 18 year old who is struggling with some serious mental health and maturity issues that he refuses to deal with. Yet, I have faced the reality that I can’t inspire or force someone to grow up, become responsible or help themself – especially from a distance.
So now I return, full circle, to where I was a year ago. Racked with guilt about my parent’s sad life, and my unwillingness to sacrifice my own family and relationships to completely take over guardianship of my brother’s children. Last year, when I stepped away, things continued on a serious downward spiral and my nephew almost did not graduate from high school. I “swooped in” and felt empowered by being an angel in the nick of time. I scraped up the bits and assembled them into a ball of possibilities for my nephew, hoping he will take that ball and run, or even walk with it. At this moment, I am pretty much out of confidence that will happen, and feel like an angel without wings.
His sister, my niece, is 14 and already has a criminal record. She treats my parents, her guardians, horribly and lies and steals. Her life is scarred by so many things, most notably the absence of her mother and poor treatment by her father, and I cannot make up for that.
I know I am not alone, and there are so many ways this could be worse. I am torn between helping, knowing it is likely in vain, and walking away. My own family – my husband and children – have been inordinately patient and supportive. They are not a footnote here. They deserve more of my attention than I have given them. They are part of this story too – the best part and I don’t take for granted how important they are too me and how much they have helped me. I also have a wonderfully supportive group of friends who have listened to me on morning runs, over coffee and glasses of wine.
It’s up to me to change this time. I hope that next year I will have something positive to say about it, as I know it will still be on my mind, if not as much a part of my life.