the quiet game

Once Upon A Time... When I was a sprog, the adults devised an ingenious plan to get kids to give them some peace. The object of The Quiet Game was to sit as still as possible, and not speak, for an extended period. I forget what the prizes were, but they could have been things like money, marbles/toys, or simply the satisfaction of winning over the others - proving a higher level of self-control.

We actually asked to play, because we liked the challenge. We didn't really realize that the adult designated as a judge often didn't watch too closely, because they weren't as into it as we were. We just accepted that sometimes the judge would miss something or other, didn't see when someone tried to make someone else laugh, or pulled some dirty trick. We knew that if we could still win, even when others cheated, it was more impressive.

When adults are silent, could it partly be about ingrained lessons about self-control? But can it go so far that people can't communicate, even when it comes to life and death matters? I have been trying to address communication issues in my family of origin and in all my relationships throughout my life, but it usually ends up the case that while it's a priority for me, it isn't for others.

When I found out my father had died in October 2013, it took quite a while (a few weeks) to get many details, and even then, I felt self-conscious about asking, because it seemed to be a strain for the one person who did discuss it. Through all of that, I came to see that one of the reasons I did not know my father had been ill (for a few years) was that death is an extremely difficult topic in my family. He had told everyone he'd been given an 'any day now' sentence early on, but he kept outliving the predictions, and it seems that everyone eventually assumed that he was just being dramatic, and that he, like them, would live forever. I think that might also relate to why I haven't had much feedback from my family regarding what I've put online. It is probably or would probably be seen as overly dramatic, nothing real, and it might very well also be seen as a kind of betrayal of family honour codes (a defiance of the rules of The Quiet Game). My website is about my isolation and struggle in life, but to those I have known, it does not look like anything real, and it is not something they want to discuss. Cancer is something real, physical illness is something real; depression is something people make up in their heads and use as an excuse.

When my father died, I didn't have anyone to talk to about the death, but I spent a lot of time writing. I experienced a lot of conflict, but I did find myself wishing that he had been happy in the overall sense with his life. That is something I wished I had known. And even though my assessment of our relationship was kind of like he was Frankenstein, and I was seen as a monster-child, and the reason he wasn't speaking to me (and as the leadership of the family he at the very least unconsciously influenced all the other members) was that he realized it would be better for everyone if I killed myself - I still wished for him a happy, fulfilling life, that the good had outweighed the bad.

He told my siblings of his illness, but not me, so it seems possible that he either thought they'd pass the info on (they didn't), or that he didn't consider me one of the family.

I don't really feel like a member of the family, and haven't for a long time.

This death more than any other family death made the reality of death, seem real. I am not sure how I want to express this. But I went through my memories of my father and family, I spent a lot of time questioning myself about what I really felt and I thought about who my father really was. I thought a lot about death, I thought a lot about my life, and the reality of my own death, and how unhappy I've been, and it seemed unfair, and I really badly wanted to have at least a few moments of happiness or connection, and I felt that I deserved at least that.So, I made the death all about me? The thing is that I was excluded. I was excluded by everyone. And I was not allowed to complain. It was like I was supposed to understand that I 'deserved' this treatment, that through my actions I had brought it on myself, or I was supposed to know somehow telepathically that people were angry, or were afraid of disrupting me, or something, and that I was not allowed to ask anyone about it. If I tried to bring it up, I was ignored, which would send the message to me that my questions or comments were not to be dignified with a response.

There is one member of the family who did respond to my questions, and who through the last few years has made an effort to communicate in a real way. One person can only do so much, and I want to make it clear that this is not about him.

The truth is that I felt angry with my family, and my father. I felt I had been treated as if I were subhuman. I realize this treatment had to do with unconscious family prejudice, and societal prejudice, and each member also facing peer prejudice/pressure, and I also realize why no one else would have seen it that way.

Some topics just seem to be off-limits. For example, when in email I tried to explain that I wasn't a Christian, and that I'd prefer not to receive certain messages, I thought I did it considerately, and that I left the discussion open. The problem I had was not really the religion itself, but how it was being used. There seemed to be a common theme that if you are unhappy in your life, unloved, etc, it is because you need to work on your relationship with Jesus. I would have been willing to discuss it from this angle: even if I am not a Christian, I can adopt some Christian ideas related to how to treat others. In discussing things that bother me, I am in a sense treating others how I wish to be treated. I am trying not to assume I know what other people are thinking or that it is impossible for either of us to see more sides to any situation. But when I tried to open this discussion, I was completely ignored, and never received another email from the person I tried to discuss it with.

I do understand that many people find my long and/or serious emails overwhelming, and I do accept that I might not ever know for sure how they were taken. However, I do sometimes think that even when people say they accept me, they don't.

I have lived permanently in Australia since 2000. In that time, 3 family members have died: my paternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, and my father. There have also been a few other significant deaths. On a couple of occasions, I received a notice a few days after a funeral took place, but in some cases I was not notified of a death. I had not received notice of illness or death on the day of death or when anyone was ill. What is this about? Is it that I am not really considered part of the family? Is it that nobody is comfortable enough with email to use that format? Are people angry with me or punishing me in some way? And if so, how can I even find out why if they won't answer when I ask?

If it seems unfair for me to discuss family history on my website. I do agree that it would have been better if I could have discussed things with individual members in private. However, through the years, everyone brushed me off, and I could not resolve the issues on my own. That is ultimately why some of that subject matter is online. I put it out there, knowing my memory might be off on some things, but to make it possible that people could contact me and discuss it all with me. I had no other options left. And I couldn't just get over it all.

It might seem like I lack emotion, but in part that might relate to having my actual feelings discounted or dismissed as dramatic or not real. When it goes on for long enough, maybe the natural outcome is that people lose a sense of what they feel because they have been told what they feel is wrong or isn't relevant.

I do understand that all of my messiness might be hard on others, and that for their own survival it is best to keep clear of me and not be drawn into all this. While I do understand, at the same time I can't be quiet for everyone else's sake. I think what I'm writing and expressing actually is for the good of the family, in the long run. It is difficult for me that others can't seem to see it. Those outside the family reading this might assume that what I'm leaving out is some horrible behaviour on my part. Owing family members tons of money, destroying property, putting kids in danger, or irresponsible/destructive behaviour when drunk or in a psychotic phase.. but there is really nothing like that, and when it comes to behaviour they observed with my ex they might judge me for - there is no way they could know the truth of that situation because my ex was not communicative enough. I was for the most part ignored, for years, and as far as mental illness is concerned, I was pretty convenient. My crime is, as far as I can see, breaking the rules of The Quiet Game.

How much of my website is a betrayal of my family and others I have known? Was it necessary to communicate what I did? If I didn't say it, it would have remained buried. But has it helped me? It seems like I have driven everyone away. Is it time for me to accept that I gave it a shot, but NO ONE relates to me, likes me or wants further contact, or that further contact will only bring them down? So, my original instinct, to always destroy and delete everything, including myself, was better? If I had never posted to a.s.h, and never flown to Australia to meet GK, where would I be right now? I seriously doubt that communication with my family would have been better.

In a larger sense, that feeling carries over into every other area. I gave it a shot on my website, I gave it a shot various places online, and in one way or another, the pattern seems to be the same everywhere? I really try to communicate, but the authentic outcome is frustrating, for all. I either have to change myself to fit the world, find another corner where I fit better, or leave altogether. What's the most realistic solution?

It is difficult to work out if it's 'important' to keep trying to communicate, even when I think no one cares. What if what I'm saying needs to be seen, that is relevant to the situation, and family, as a whole? Maybe everything in this article is something I've said before, but should I say it again?

Part of being silent seems to be about waiting for the other person to 'attack' - and then the other party will feel justified in finally saying what they think, letting the judgments rip, or intensifying the commitment to the silent treatment. My approach to this through the years has been to see outside this pattern, and be the one to absorb the insult and try to elevate the situation. But in the passive-aggressive universe, silence in itself is a kind of 'goad'. If I were to have lost it, there would have been no chance for a real reconciliation. I went to the very foundation of what I thought I wanted, I tried to face it, and to offer the relevant info, to at least make it possible.

Perhaps it's a fine line.. maybe in time I will continue to be seen as a horrible family embarrassment, or perhaps there will eventually be descendants who see even if I'm an oddity, or whatever, it's like I'm 'different' enough to stand out, when people are looking for something interesting in their backgrounds, something that makes them feel their history is less boring.

The pattern is so predictable that I am at a place where I don't see the point of bothering to put things out there 'one last time'. Maybe this is who I am, maybe this is all I can be, maybe I should just stop fighting, or trying to explain anything, and quietly go away and stay drunk until I die.

But it will nag at me. And I know that once I get something uploaded to my site, I will feel at first maybe scared, and that maybe it's good to be scared, but also a bit relieved or as if pressure has been relieved, and then after a bit of time has passed, I will feel maybe an alternative 'sense of accomplishment' to see that my site is still here, and that I have added something new to it, something that is maybe not saying anything so new, but that this is my way of taking a walk around the neighbourhood, or getting a haircut and keeping going. But underneath that, it is like I can see that I am trying to build something, starting with the foundation, trying to examine the ground and conditions and materials, factoring in what I know about architecture and engineering and sustainability, and that until I get that combination right, until these fundamental issues are resolved, the rest of the building can't realistically be expected to stand and persevere.

For me, none of this is a game. I'm still trying to make communication possible, but I think I understand why my methods don't work with family members. I realize that they must do their best to survive, and I really don't want to bring them down or contribute intense stress to their lives. At the same time, I hope they can understand that I need to write, I need to express, in order to help myself.

->exile on meme st: a diary