November 10, 2020 – Stirring the pot.

I am writing to talk about one of my sisters today. I’ve spent weeks trying to come up with a ‘fun’ name to refer to her by since I’m not using her actual name but it’s proving quite challenging. It was pretty easy coming up with names for most of my brothers (the Kraken, Turtle, Clover, Dapper Dan) as they all have certain characteristics that set them apart. But my sisters? Yikes. With my oldest sister, there have been two things that come to mind whenever I think of her; I don’t trust her as far as I can throw an elephant and she loves to ‘stir the pot’. I’ve been trying to stay within the categories of plants and animals when assigning a fake name or alias to each of my siblings but this one has me stumped! Do you know any plants or animals that can throw an elephant or stir pots? I haven’t had any luck so far despite countless Google searches.

‘Cactus Annie’ it is! If for no other reason, it’s because I cannot settle on anything else. At least, I have been (sort of) able to carry on the plant theme and she lives in the desert, so I guess it works? And a cactus can look beautiful from afar (especially when it’s in bloom) but all those prickly needles that cover it serve to keep people at arm’s length and don’t allow them to get too close, which is a pretty good metaphor for my sister. For efficiency, I’m going to refer to her as ‘CA’ from here on out. Hopefully, you won’t mix it up with California. Anyway, CA is my oldest surviving sister. She and I have had a pretty tumultuous relationship over the years. Outwardly, we resemble one another and we both have a goofy sense of humor, but that’s where the similarities end. It’s tough because I believe there is a well-intentioned person lurking in there somewhere, but it’s buried under all of the other things that she does that I find questionable.

What does she do? Please keep in mind that I’m only providing you with three examples. There are countless more! 1) She records phone conversations she has with people. 2) She videotapes people when they aren’t aware and haven’t given their permission. 3) She texts people and then saves the ‘conversations’ on her phone. Seems like an interesting hobby, doesn’t it? Maybe a tad eccentric and/or odd? I think so. If she worked for the NSA and it was part of her job and the content remained ‘classified’, I would understand. Or if all she did was record this ‘data’ and keep it to herself, I probably wouldn’t be as reviled by it. The problem is, she doesn’t. She likes to use this information to play people in our family against one another. And her loyalties constantly shift, so you never know where you stand.

It’s unfortunate, but as a result of this, I rarely ever speak to her. It’s hard to trust someone when you know they’re recording your conversation and likely to use it against you at a later date. You want hard proof? Well, I’ve seen it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears. When she and my other sister (Diabolical Debbie/DD) would be at odds, CA would often reach out to me and initiate conversations (via text) about DD. She knows DD and I don’t get along so I usually never have anything nice to say. Sure enough! As soon as they’d (CA & DD) be back on friendly terms, she’d turn right around and share the screen shots with my other sister. And then I’d get blasted, right into outer space! By that, I mean my other sister (DD) would rip me a new one (chew me out). And, yes, I deserve(d) it. I should know better. What goes around comes around. Sometimes it’s best to just keep your opinions to yourself.

I do hope you noticed that I used past tense when referring to my female siblings. It took quite a few hard lessons before I learned how to tactfully remain outside of the combat zone. I used to get sucked in so easily. CA would reach out and tell me how terrible DD was treating her and ‘whoosh’, I was in! She has such a skilled way of pulling you towards something that at first glance seems innocent enough, until you get up close and realize you’re about to step on a landmine. After it happened enough times, it finally sank into my thick skull that I was only inviting trouble into my life whenever I’d communicate with CA. You hate to think that about someone, especially a sister, but when they burn you over and over and over by sharing something you said in confidence, TRUST becomes a thing of the past.

How did I learn how to steer clear of these landmines? I finally had to establish boundaries, something which there are few of in our family. CA has tried numerous times to suck me back in, but I have learned to hold my ground. I’ve been really clear that I don’t want her sharing screen-shots with me of conversations that she’s had with other people and when she starts up about DD treating her bad (yet again), I have learned to be more ‘careful’ with my words. “DD has been really mean to me! She accused me of all of these terrible things and now she isn’t speaking to me!” she’ll text. Before, I would immediately respond with, “What did she do?! Is she being nasty again?! It doesn’t surprise me!” Now? Well, I never respond immediately. That’s when you trip yourself up. You have to give yourself a little time to come up with something ‘appropriate’. And when I do respond, it’ll be more like this, “I’m sorry you’re going through a difficult time.” It’s very ‘vanilla’ and rather bland, but it works. She feels heard and I don’t get blown up in the end.

It wasn’t easy getting ‘there’, my friends. Where? To the land of neutrality, of course. I just got tired of handing CA rounds of ammunition to use against me. What I offer her now amounts to very little, aside from some empathy. As much as I want to throw DD under the bus, because she is the one person in my life that has consistently served me plates and plates piled high with hate and negativity and malice, I resist. But it’s worth it. My life is a great deal more peaceful. I do yearn to have a sister that I could be close to. Unfortunately, the two I have to work with have nothing, aside from heartburn, to offer me. And I don’t need it. Besides, I’m all out of Tums.

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