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She’s Out!

December 24, 2012

Yesterday I talked to my sister, Vivian on the phone and it didn’t end well. Vivian just got out of jail. She completed a 18-month sentence on December 20. She went home to a household of a daughter who just graduated college, a son who hasn’t spoken to her in all that time and an estranged husband who is divorcing her.

The first few days haven’t gone well at all. Talking to her yesterday I could hear the frantic panic in her voice. The instability. The crazy. She’s in a bad place. Vivian is a drug addict. She was a nurse with chronic back pain. Access. Addiction. Motive. Felony. It’s a common formula. But with Vivian it’s so much more than that. With Vivian everything is just so much more.

Vivian is my older sister, 7 years older. I worshipped her as a young girl. She was so beautiful and vivacious and strong. She’s always been one of those people who takes up all the space in a room. The center of attention. She can’t help it. She’s funny and giving. Loud and obnoxious. Mean and graceful. She’s at once a delicate piece of thin glass and a category 5 hurricane. Vivian is a lot.

I listened to her yelling and cursing on the phone. The house is filthy and it’s freaking her out. Her daughter is pressuring her to move out as soon as possible. She can’t find any of her stuff. Her daughter is criticizing how much money she’s spending. “Cassie is being a selfish, mean little bitch!” she exclaimed. This is a mother talking about her daughter. I don’t care how bad Cassie’s behavior is. She’s her daughter. Vivian is the grown up, the mother. She’s supposed to be the caregiver and she’s been away for almost a year and a half. She’s so wrapped up in her own pain she can’t see the hurt she’s inflicted on all the people around her. But that’s Vivian. And that’s the problem. She hasn’t changed.

So I told her what she didn’t want to hear. What she wasn’t ready to hear. I said to her over the phone,

“Vivian, all of us have been talking about you getting out of jail…..and we were excited about it and happy for you but there was also this sense of…….brace yourself. Here goes. You take up all the oxygen in the room. You always have and it’s wonderful and fun and fantastic but it’s a lot. Being around you can be like being around a hurricane. We’ve all carried on with our lives without you and we’ve been ok. Suddenly you’re back in and it’s a lot to take in. It’s going to take adjusting.”

Her reply to that was, “Well, let me relieve you of that burden, then.” Click.


The amazing thing about that exchange was after a moment of disappointment, I was ok. I felt centered. I didn’t freak out or feel sad or lost. I was fine.

Watching her from afar at the beginning of what is going to be a long, difficult struggle is like standing on the top of a mountain after struggling and falling and hurting yourself on the way up. You look down and you see someone you love dearly about to make the same climb. And they’re wearing the wrong shoes and they don’t have the right gear and you know exactly how hard it’s going to be for them to get where you are. And there’s nothing you can do but stand there and watch and offer encouragement. And you can’t tell them what it’s going to be like. I haven’t been through what Vivian has been through but a year ago I was a mess. I was in the middle of a divorce. I was living with my Dad. I had no job, no future. I was emotionally distraught and depressed.

I made it through that. I know who I am. I know what I want to be and where I need to go. I found my center.

I’m not the same person I was when she went to prison. Judging from her display on the phone yesterday, she’s exactly the same person she was when she went to prison. That’s not going to work. All I can do is watch, listen and tell the truth.


From → Rantings

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