A few days ago I posted about my sibling, who for some reason (patriarchy/kyriarchy) believes that I should be required to discuss the topics he chooses with him. He does not believe I am allowed to decide which topics make me comfortable and which do not.
Much of what must have appeared like sibling rivalry to my parents was simply a matter of me feeling like I should be able to direct my own fate and my brother believing that he (as eldest and male) should direct both of our lives.
This week, when I sent a direct, kind response telling my brother that I would not discuss Africa plans with him, but that I would like to build a relationship based on mutual respect as siblings, he sent a long, embittered reply that went from scary to pitiful. The gist of his message was that if I do not talk about my security plans for my trip with him, I must either a) feel superior or b) be planning something illegal. These bizarre conjectures ignore a simpler explanation, the truth actually, that I might just prefer not to talk about it with him. It also suggests that for me to say no to a request from my sibling must always needs be negative. There is no room for me to make my own decisions in a quiet, non-involved way. Either I say yes to whatever he asks of me or I have bad intentions. It’s a nice construction if you are him, and you do not expect women to ever have their own ideas or plans, but it leaves me little room to speak freely in the family. Luckily, these crisis points only occur every three or so years.
The always obey (for that is the reality) or you must have bad intentions construction reflects a situation I have been in since childhood. Only now, as I work to address this lifelong bully in firm but kind ways, do I see how insidious his affect on my life has been. No wonder I fear other people’s anger. No wonder I avoid rather than engage when people question me. I spent much of my younger days being told or otherwise instructed that my thoughts and actions were not my own, but were either “for” or “against” my older brother. Super weird, when I mostly just wanted to be left alone to read books. I think that may have insulted him the most. As soon as I could read, books became my preferred playmate and I ceased thinking my brother was the most important person in the world. It must have stung being rejected for an inanimate object, but books do not hit. They do not chase. They do not taunt.
I’ll write here what I wish I could write to him (30 years ago preferably) and to my parents but never can. They seem self-evident, but not to bullies.
1. I am my own person. My choices are mine to make.
2. Sometimes my choices have nothing to do with you. Sometimes I make choices for reasons you cannot understand.
3. You are not entitled to a reason for my choices, including my choices about how, when, and about what subjects I communicate with you. I may want to explain those choices, but I am not required to do so.
4. Just because you want me to be someone or do something, doesn’t make that desire my responsibility.
5. When I do not comply with your wishes, it is not an attack upon your person.
6. When I do not comply with your wishes, it does not mean that my reasons are necessarily negative.
7. I know what is best for me, and you cannot possibly know the complexities of my life unless I choose to share them.
8. I do not spend my life finding ways to hurt your feelings. I actively try to avoid it to be honest.