In which the hierarchy is established
If you are familiar with the George Orwell classic, feel free to skip the plot summary I've included from wikipedia animal farm. If not- here's a story summary that will probably ring all too true for many ACoNs.
Old Major, the old boar on the Manor Farm, calls the animals on the farm together for a meeting, during which he compares the humans to parasites and teaches the animals a revolutionary song, 'Beasts of England'. When Major dies, two young pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, assume command and consider it a duty to prepare for the Rebellion. The animals revolt and drive the drunken and irresponsible Mr Jones from the farm, renaming it "Animal Farm". They adopt Seven Commandments of Animalism, the most important of which is, "All animals are equal".
Snowball attempts to teach the animals reading and writing; food is plentiful, and the farm runs smoothly. The pigs elevate themselves to positions of leadership and set aside special food items, ostensibly for their personal health. Napoleon takes the pups from the farm dogs and trains them privately. Napoleon and Snowball struggle for leadership. When Snowball announces his plans to build a windmill, Napoleon has his dogs chase Snowball away and declares himself leader.
Napoleon enacts changes to the governance structure of the farm, replacing meetings with a committee of pigs, who will run the farm. Through a young pig named Squealer, Napoleon claims credit for the windmill idea. The animals work harder with the promise of easier lives with the windmill. When the animals find the windmill collapsed after a violent storm, Napoleon and Squealer convince the animals that Snowball destroyed it. Once Snowball becomes a scapegoat, Napoleon begins purging the farm with his dogs, killing animals he accuses of consorting with his old rival. 'Beasts of England' is replaced by an anthem glorifying Napoleon, who appears to be adopting the lifestyle of a man. The animals remain convinced that they are better off than they were when under Mr Jones.
Mr Frederick, one of the neighboring farmers, attacks the farm, using blasting powder to blow up the restored windmill. Though the animals win the battle, they do so at great cost, as many, including Boxer the workhorse, are wounded. Despite his injuries, Boxer continues working harder and harder, until he collapses while working on the windmill. Napoleon sends for a van to take Boxer to the veterinary surgeon, explaining that better care can be given there. Benjamin, the cynical donkey who "could read as well as any pig", notices that the van belongs to a knacker, and attempts a futile rescue. Squealer reports that the van was purchased by the hospital and the writing from the previous owner had not been repainted. He recounts a tale of Boxer's death in the hands of the best medical care.
Years pass, and the pigs learn to walk upright, carry whips, and wear clothes. The Seven Commandments are reduced to a single phrase: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". Napoleon holds a dinner party for the pigs and local farmers, with whom he celebrates a new alliance. He abolishes practice of the revolutionary traditions and renames the farm "The Manor Farm". The animals, overhearing the conversation, notice that the faces of the pigs have begun changing. During a poker match, an argument breaks out between Napoleon and Mr Pilkington, and the animals realize that the faces of the pigs look like the faces of humans, and no one can tell the difference between them.
There is something intrinsically about Animal Farm that reminds me of my dealings with the N's. Recently, I feel I've been able to see things more clearly with the 20/20 hindsight that comes with time and all too much experience. More clearly than before? Oh, yes. I feel the more time spent away from a toxic situation the more you discover the layers are ever-deepening in what you've left behind. There is no end to new discoveries once you're 'gone' with no contact.
Personally I've recently started seeing a therapist at the urging of my ob: to deal with prenatal depression as well as family issues I was brave enough to bring up as a stressor to my emotional health at an appointment two months ago. And good God- now I see why I was depressed in the first place. Maybe someday I'll reach an age where there are others in abundance who have also no family due to the crazies. Right now I'm in my early twenties and others I know of who have gone through 'the big cut' are at least 10 years my seniors if not 20. No problem with that- it's just as a twenty something starting out in a new area it's hard when your peers and people you meet are either 1. single and living at home or 2. not single and still in a close relationship with their families (toxic though they may be). I feel ahead of my time (not to pat myself on the back at all- but to make a point- it's rare for adult children just-turned adults to so drastically separate from their family of origin). I am the exception. Being a twenty something with little to no family to speak of is odd in and of itself- maybe not in other cultures but in America- in CHRISTIAN America no doubt- it is not the norm.
Back to my therapist. I just had my second meeting with her and already I am feeling/thinking so much clearer than before. Yesterday I unloaded the entire saga of my in laws and, to my surprise, I found a very different reaction from her than any Christian counseling I had received- either at university or from our fail premarital counselor. It was nice to have someone to verify my experiences and feelings with actual facts, actual experience than to simply refer me to a book by Bethany publishers or from Focus on the Family. To have someone listen and be able to understand what I'm going through with years of experience in dealing with toxic families and those individuals separating from them. I wasn't told to repent, to forgive. To move on. I wasn't quotes scripture or prayed over and asked for the anger in my heart to be lifted before it was dealt with appropriately. It was refreshing. I identify as a Christian in that I believe in God- but as of now that's all I know. I'm democrat- I'm slightly liberal. Who I am clashes with what I've learned. It's so nice to go talk to someone experienced but not an outright Christian. To be listened to instead of barraged with Bible homework and worship songs in the waiting room. Finally. A place to be understood. (and- I daresay- in being understood perhaps more 'Christian' than anything with the God-label on it that I'm all too familiar with!)
Back to Animal Farm.
Something my therapist said yesterday during the unfolding of my horrific saga stuck with me. I can't stop thinking about it. She described my first few initial meetings with the N's as being a set-up. A set-up where whatever girl who was not 'proper' for the family was designed to fail. I was damned before I opened my mouth. I was damned from a picture- from not being who they wanted- a mini-N bitch to welcome into the hoard.
I recall the times I visited for an extended stay at the N-mansion. At the second house. Being sick as a dog (probably from the stress now that I think of it). Being excluded on purpose or 'asked' (aka forced) to do something I was not able to do to contribute to the narcissism fueling the household. When I was ill I believe no one checked on me- not because they genuinely forgot about me in the guest suit- but on purpose. To bring up later the fact they knew I didn't go- to deny that I was ever ill (because no one checked on me to see me in my sick as a dog state!)- and to take that information to hubby (then, boyfriend) of my unacceptability in their eyes. SHE didn't go with YOU to meet YOUR friends. She's not sick- she's a bitch. Honestly- and I know it would pain hubby to admit this- I wouldn't be entirely shocked if I was MADE to be ill by them. I know this paints them in an utterly horrible light but that illness I had in my stomach happened JUST after I had been there a few days. Eating their food. No one else got it. They played it off as someone having it before I came. But really? How often does one catch a 24 hr flu bug that's been gone for days- from staying in the guests quarters?? I mean- seriously. I was on a different level of the house completely it's not like we shared the bathroom or bedroom or any common living ground. Take from that what you will. To me, that looks fishy. I can't remember a time where a 24 hr bug was accompanied by stomach cramps for days that left me faint for days as well..... it wasn't like anything I'd ever experienced. Case one- set up for failure.
Case two- in which the hierarchy is further established after NBSIL and NABIL got engaged. Me(still recovering from the 'flu') being transported to the other house dealing with other family I had never met. I had no chance of meeting or talking much with extended family when it was ALL ABOUT the pair that got engaged. I understand. But seriously? I was ill- I was new- I new NO ONE- and all this was a coincidence. Really. The whole weekend away was for 'fun'. Not MY fun to be sure and I was the out of town ILL house guest. Horrors. I can't fathom treating any house guest that way, much less the girlfriend of my son who had never before stayed with us. You better believe I'll be a different mother in law to be than mine was to me! I'd dedicate everything to making that poor girl better before even thinking about fun to be had for the rest of us. As far as I'm aware that is a host's number one priority especially with someone who is new to the state/town/area and family.
Case three- in which I alone am the only person not asked to be a part of their precious nuptials. I understand that, I'm new- right? Right? Not really- to make a point to do that in front of me- the stranger- the new one to the family- just a little presumptuous right? My quiet admission that I may have to miss the wedding entirely anyway due to my senior year of uni went unheard and unnoticed. That's nice. Really?! I don't even know you, bitch, and I am courteous enough to let you know this well in advance in LIGHT of the fact that you totally dissed me and pretended I wasn't there.
Case four- I was sick in bed (again) at the 2nd home. (get a pattern here!?) and NMIL and NBSIL came up to my room- NOT to see how I was doing but to ask if I wanted to go with them to try on dresses with everyone else a PART of the wedding an hour away in town. Um- no thanks?! My therapist pointed this out as a direct way for them to flaunt it in my face that I was NOT superior to them. That I was inferior. They knew I couldn't go. After all this- who would want to? I considered it as sick as I was but then realized it'd be torture sitting in another place being ignored AGAIN and being away from the only person who cared if I lived or breathed in that house (my boyfriend).
The list goes on.
As I sit here typing I find myself emotionally exhaling all the dirt and junk from my heart and brain that has been sitting there for years now. Finding purpose and meaning behind what actually happened and gaining insight as to the WHY. Thank god for a therapist who is able to cut through the crap with years of understanding. With each discovery I'm seeing why it didn't work- why it never would work and why I am so much better off now where I'm at.
Does all this remind you of Animal Farm? It does to me. Nothing is more narcissistic and piggish than saying 'some animals are more equal than others'. I can imagine their subconscious being as the muddy little pigs they are. Their true selves exposed to being the stupid beasts who are able to walk on two legs, and therefore must be trusted because they are 'human'. Because my four legs are bad as I don't pretend to be something I'm not. Because I'm happy to be an animal that doesn't parade around like something I'm not.
It would have almost- almost- been a good performance had the performers not been so entirely imbecilic. The poor little pigs can't open their mouths and speak Shakespearean while their snorts and squeals are hopelessly subdued. And that's what they are- hideous little pigs in Calvin Klein.