Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sally: Part 1

Sally is the oldest of four children. As she began to construct her personal timeline, she was asked,"Start at the beginning--whatever the beginning is for you--and as far back as you can remember, begin documenting the events that were meaningful in your life. It's important that you don't follow the direction that others might feel are important--a graduation, a marriage, a birth. It's important that you recall what events or circumstances were important to you."

Sally's father left when she was seven and her mother started abusing drugs and alcohol. Sally recalls getting up for school one day, while her mother was passed out with a stranger, and her two younger siblings were on the kitchen floor eating dog kibble from the pet bowl. That was the first of many days she would be responsible for dressing herself and her younger siblings, fixing breakfast and school lunch (when there was food in the house), and ensuring the babies had a bottle and were changed before getting on the bus.

Let's stop here to ask a few questions about Sally's timeline:

Was she responsible for the care of the younger children?

What do you think was her inner dialogue as a seven-year-old child during school hours?

What was her inner dialogue concerning the truth about her parents? How did it relate to her and her siblings specifically? How did it inform her decisions?

Fast forward ten years and Sally has not only "assisted" in raising her siblings but is about to graduate High School with several scholarship offers to universities. As she constructs her timeline she recalls her graduation, not just because it is a life-marker for most of us, but for her it is a unique demonstration of her hard work and effort despite all odds and statistics.

Several years prior, Sally's mother entered a drug and alcohol program which was successful. She got remarried to a man who, although not perfect, was supportive to her mother as well as her brothers and sisters. At a glance, we are happy for Sally's accomplishments given her revelations about her childhood.

Let's stop here to ask a few questions about Sally's timeline:

What has been Sally's dialogue about her mother during all the years she has raised her siblings?

How has that inner dialogue colored her perception of her mother's ability to raise the remaining siblings? 

What emotions did Sally internalize in her youth that are still her personal truths as she considers graduation and leaving home?

As Sally continues her timeline she shares some of the struggles in her first semester. She places a marker on her timeline near the end of her second semester because that is when her younger brother got into trouble at school, endangering another youth to begin a lengthy record he would continue to have with law enforcement.

Sally left college to go home and intervene. She never returned.

Sally had finally earned the opportunity to go out on her own and enjoy the rewards of her hard work. She was free of the stressful circumstances at home. College would be difficult, but certainly could not be as difficult as a child alone, raising other children.

What lies did Sally believe that would cause her to interrupt her life in order to leave behind an open door to freedom and opportunity?

Sally recalls meeting her husband at age 25. She finally met someone that loved her for who she was and was joyful that her oldest sibling Mary was her maid of honor. He realized she had some family problems, but remained supportive for the most part. She got a decent job working at a bank and they started talking about having their own family.

It is now four years into their marriage and Sally's husband, who already has an elementary age child from another relationship, is frustrated by the continual drama her siblings initiate but is even more hurt and confused when Sally drops everything to run to their assistance. She's an intelligent woman--why can't she see that her youngest brother has a drug problem and that it's affecting their marriage? He's stolen money from them (which Sally tried to hide from her husband), he's brought drugs in the house. The police have shown up at all hours of the morning when he has to be up at 6 AM. How does she think they will have a baby and continue to enable the bad behaviors of her family? Can't she see that she's compromising his relationship to his own existing son?

Sally makes the last tick on her timeline. She and her husband have separated.

From the minimal examples listed before, what is the most likely to be Sally's inner dialogue at this point in her life and why? Feel free to make up your own:

"Why do bad things always happen to me?"

"People like me don't deserve to be happy."

"If (a person or people) would just do this (whatever "this" may be), I could have a normal life." 

"It's my fault that (parents, children, spouse, etc) are suffering. They would be better off without me."

"No one ever listens to me."

"It's too difficult to try to change now."

"If I forgive (parent, spouse, abuser, etc) they will get away with what they've done and my pain will continue without vindication." 

"People never love me as much as I love them."

"If I wouldn't have made that mistake, my life would be different. My suffering is my fault. I have gotten what I deserved."

"You can't trust anyone because people will just hurt you."

"If I don't take care of it, no one else will."

Based on what we know of Sally so far from her timeline, what are the possible "truths" accepted by her siblings, her mother, her peers, and her husband about her? 

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