Writing as a Distraction

Been busy this week distracting myself with writing. We’ve talked about writing with distractions quite a few posts back. This one is different. I (Jess) will be going in for a spinal fusion on September 1st. In order to keep my writer’s brain from cycling through all of the possible what if scenarios, even ones that aren’t likely to happen at all, I’ve been delving into my writing, working on a new series. So far, the working title for the series is the Hartland Saga/Series.

I had started these books at the beginning of the year and was able to hammer out the first three books, rough drafts of course, in three months. It was a record for me. Again, I was writing to distract myself. We had let my sister move in with us and it had turned out to be a disaster. She was disrespectful, coming and going at all hours of the day and night, lying all the time, manipulating us with things that had never happened, so she could stay longer or didn’t have to keep up her end of the bargain, such as common courtesy of cleaning up after herself and her children as my back was in no shape to do this, or helping pay for food or any of the extra costs we had for our utilities, which always ran almost double of what they were for just my husband and I. Often we would come home after work or grocery shopping to find the house a disaster, garbage on the floor, dirty clothes scattered everywhere because it was too difficult to put it in the hamper five feet away, every single light on, and water running in one of the two bathrooms, sometimes both.

She would make plans to have dinner with us. I would ask her what time she thought she’d be home and she’d either shrug at me and not answer or say it doesn’t matter or don’t worry about it. Rarely would she give me a straight answer and when she did, she wouldn’t be home any way after she knew I had made dinner for everyone, despite not being able to stand for long periods of time. I wanted to make sure my two, wonderful nieces had a good meal. She would text a little after 8pm and tell me she wasn’t going to be home for dinner, as if I hadn’t already figured it out as dinner was usually around 6:30 since the girls were supposed to be in bed by 8pm.

She was mean, making rude remarks about how we weren’t real parents, because she was jealous that we shared a bond with our nieces. Of course, we knew we weren’t their parents! We were their uncle and aunt who had taken them in because their “real” father was an alcoholic. The first few times she would say only a real mother could love a child, as my husband and I have been unable to have children, or only a real mother can understand love, or you don’t know what it’s like to love a child as you’ve never had one and probably never will, I had let it go, even though it had hurt me severely. We had shared a bond with my nieces before they had ever moved in. They would spend the night with us and most of the next day. Whenever they would see us, they would be excited and give us big hugs and tell us how much they loved and missed us. When they moved in, our relationship didn’t change. It had only grown deeper because they were now living with us. She grew highly jealous of the relationship. I am not sure what she had expected to happen if they moved in with us. That we would be suddenly indifferent to them? We never were in the first place. I never even once thought I was their mother. I was their fun Aunt Jessi. Just because I didn’t have any of my own children didn’t mean I couldn’t love them.

She started posting on Facebook of how we were trying to take her children away and that we had turned them against her because they wanted to stay home with me or my husband, instead of running errands in a vehicle for two to three hours or more and then go to Wal-Mart and “window shop” for another hour or two. Mind you, this is dreadfully boring for children. They want to be able to run around, play with their toys, be children. Because of them wanting this, it meant I had turned them against her and was trying to steal them. When she would ask me if it was okay to leave the children at the house, I would say sure. Little did I know, this would happen. That she would accuse me of the things she did.

She would put on Facebook on how we were judgmental, telling her how she should do things and what she should do, when she would come to us for advice and we would stupidly give it to her time and time again, until about four months later when we realized nothing was ever going to change. She would always make a big scene saying we were unreasonable for asking when she was going to be home, so Jeff and I could have some semblance of a life, instead of always waiting on her.

It was mid-January when I started responding to her Facebook posts, explaining how things had really happened and that if she had a problem with things, Facebook was not the place to put them, that she should be an adult, as she was 35, and talk to us about the things bothering her. That it was the only way to solve things. Instead, she would delete the posts and make remarks throughout the day that I had no right to respond to anything she posted on Facebook as I wasn’t named on the post, that she was careful not to name me. When she would say that I would respond, just because you were careful not to name me or Jeff doesn’t mean it wasn’t about us, especially if you had to be careful not to name us, and if you don’t want me to respond to them on Facebook, don’t post them on Facebook, instead talk to me about them. I became the evil one because I started responding to her childish behavior and asking her in front of all of her “friends” to act like an adult and come and talk to me about these issues.

She kept making these posts until I, childishly I might add, did what she did. I made a Facebook post about certain things that had happened and was careful not to name her. Just like on her posts, everyone knew who I was talking about and responded to them. There were even a few suggestions I ask her to leave and find her own place as she was being disrespectful and taking advantage, that Jeff and I went above and beyond in helping her and continuing to help her despite her conduct, as several of them were friends with her on Facebook as well. She came unglued and said I was a horrible person and shouldn’t be airing out our problems on Facebook. That it was no place to do such things. That none of those people had any business knowing what was going on in our personal lives. I couldn’t help but look at her amused. Apparently, for her, what’s good for the gander isn’t good for the goose. When I responded, see, you don’t have to put names on a post for everyone to know what and who you’re talking about. It isn’t nice, is it? And if you didn’t want everyone to know what was happening, you should have never posted it on Facebook in the first place. My one post was in response to all of your posts. She had no response for me.

I asked her to be out of our house by March 31st. She thought I was being unreasonable. I told her if she had carried through with what she promised, her name would have been on the lists for low income housing already and it shouldn’t be a problem, especially since she was married to an alcoholic who had a record and she was a mother of a mildly autistic child. She was supposed to put her name on them in September and as of mid-January had not. I also told her that if she had just been a decent human being, giving us the respect that she gave her drunken husband, or keeping her promises of helping clean up after her and the girls instead of leaving me to do it, none of this would have been a problem, that she and the girls could stay longer.

During this time, as she would make a point to talk on her cell phone loudly to ensure I could hear to all of her friends and tell them we were kicking them out, although she had a little more than two months, 72 days in fact, to find a place, I would lock myself in my room and write, focusing on those characters and the world instead of what was happening in mine. Their world kept me distracted. Kept me sane. And often times, kept me from crying, which I did my fair share of it.

She told me she had no money for a security deposit or anything for the apartment. I told her she should have plenty of money as she barely had any bills, her truck payment was less than a $125 a month, and she had all the necessities she would need. I had given her a complete kitchen set up, plates, glasses, mixing bowls, pots and pans, casserole dishes, knives. I was even giving her the furniture in our second living room, so she and the girls would have something to sit on. They had beds. They already had everything they needed to live on their own. Our mother had even gave her a vacuum and other cleaning supplies. I had gone through her bills with her, knew precisely what she was paying and how much money she had a month. As she wasn’t paying us rent or helping with utilities and food, she had over a $1,300 in expendable income. I told her if she couldn’t find an apartment, which there are two bedroom apartments around town for 600-800 a month and she was on foodstamps and couldn’t make it work, I felt sorry for her. That Jeff and I had less disposable income and were able to feed and support a family of 5.

I was able to complete all three novels a few days after she left, which we extended her leaving our house day to April 5th and the week after as that was when her low income apartment became available. We even helped her move. One of our friends even came over and helped her move. She barely had to do any of it as she kept going on and on about how she wasn’t going to be able to move until the end of April, even though she had the apartment because none of her friends would help her move. I packed up most of her things for her as she kept not packing. So by the 15th of March, I was packing the things she and the girls didn’t need at the time, driving home the point, she was no longer welcome. She would watch my pack her items, watch my back lock up and not let me stand upright because I was lifting too much, doing too much, and simply say, Oh, I was going to get that, instead of getting off the couch and helping. I didn’t touch her room though. There was only one path to her bed. The rest of the floor was covered in garbage. I never once said a thing about her room either. Needless to say with the filth she had in there and the dirty molding laundry all over the floor, the carpet was ruined. We tried shampooing, but couldn’t.

While all of this was happening, I kept thinking about Hartland and kept writing. Pulling myself into a world I made up to keep my mind busy, to keep my heart from breaking that my nieces had to live with my sister who showed me what kind of person she was. Manipulative. Unkind. Selfish. She would rather do things for herself than her two children, showing this time and time again. And it was okay because she was a “real” parent. I knew that once she moved out, she wouldn’t let me see them anymore. For the first two weeks she did, because she still had things over at our house that she would get on Friday nights when they would come over for pizza. There were other things she did to me and her girls, but that’s for another time. Let’s just say, she lied to everyone so much, her five year old daughter started calling her a liar every day, which was somehow my fault. She had told her daughter I would still be picking her up from school when they moved and she would hang out with me until she got off of work. I even believed her. The first week they had left, she sent me a text one minute before her work shift started, saying I wouldn’t be picking her daughter up from pre-school, that she had decided to put her in daycare instead. I called after she got off of work and had picked up her daughter so I could apologize for having lied to her about picking her up from school, as when they moved that was one of the many things she was worried about. My sister’s response was “I don’t think so”. I told her to put me on speaker phone so she could hear everything I said. She hung up on me.

Later on, before my husband and I decided to cut all contact with her, it was a heartbreaking decision, she would ask us to watch the girls on a Saturday, so she could work. We would say yes, so we could spend time with the girls. Even if we had plans on Saturday as my sister would often call a half hour before she had to work to ask to drop them off, we would change them. I suspected it was because she couldn’t find anyone else to watch them and had to ask us. And then, she would suddenly change her mind and tell her two girls it was because we no longer wanted to. There were a few instances where she had told her five year old, while she was looking for an apartment, that she had to move because we didn’t love her anymore. This, of course, devastated our niece and I had to spend hours calming her, soothing her, assuring her we still loved her. What kind of parent does that to her own child?

After we showed up at my sister’s apartment to tell the girls a final good bye and to tell my sister, we could no longer be in this situation, where she would dangle the girls over us, and tell them things that simply were not true and hurt them and us. At this point, we hadn’t seen the girls in a while as she steered clear of us. We would be grocery shopping. She would see us as she was going to go grocery shopping as well and suddenly change her mind that she didn’t need to anymore, so that the girls couldn’t see us, and other such things. I would say hi and be friendly. She wouldn’t respond and would scream at her girls that they were going back to the truck.

After we cut all contact with my sister, I delved back into writing to distract myself from the horrible ache in my heart. There were times, I just wanted to lie in my bed and cry. This is still the hardest decision, I ever had to make. I just couldn’t let her do this to me, my husband, and my nieces anymore.

My dad tells me that the girls are doing better. The youngest one still asks about us, tells him she wants to come and live with us again instead of her mother who lies all the time and who’s mean. When my dad tells me these things, it makes me want to cry all over again.

I have found that writing stories is a good distraction. If I’m able to focus on something else, as video games allow my mind to wander, I can get through difficult situations. It is why I have delved into writing again. I need to distract myself from thinking about my upcoming surgery. I can’t wait until the surgery is over and the healing. I will be able to do things again. Such as cook a dinner without my husband having to take over because I can no longer stand there to do it, go grocery shopping, go on longer walks, vacuum, do dishes, and a number of other things without horrible pain or my back locking up and me being unable to stand upright. My husband and I will also be able to adopt!!! We are most excited about that.

I honestly feel that writing helped save my sanity.

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