On Letting Go: Part Two

Read part one from December 7 here.

Finally, after I left my first husband and was remarried to my second husband for ten years, and raising our young daughter, I went back to school at the age of 35 in 2001.

My younger sister made an effort to appear happy for me at the time, such was the unexpectedness of my action to return to school, but eventually, around 2003, when I transferred to Portland State University, her seeming good cheer and best wishes began a gradual decline. The simple reality was, she could not be happy for me. I upset the proverbial apple cart by going back to school and rejecting the family dynamics we had been raised with; that had her playing the role of “success story” and me playing the role of social, personal, and professional Zero.

I knew her hidden envy was why she became so angry and cold when I transferred to PSU. And yet, we never spoke of it. I had decided to go back to school which had been enough of a shock for many in my family, but then within four years, in 2005, I began to write and be published in small newspapers, periodicals and literature reviews. In 2007, I created a website, to collect and share my written work, both published or unpublished and I was finally developing personal self-confidence in my own abilities. I discovered writing late in life and it was a revelation to me that I was even remotely proficient at it. I was beginning to feel good about myself and to like who I was and the person I had always been.

Word got back to me that my younger sister was not happy about my new website and our relationship became more strained when she then began filling my teen daughter’s ears with all kinds of stories about me and what was wrong with me. From my own daughter’s mouth, I was hearing things like, “You’re afraid of life Mom. It’s what your sister tells me anyway,” and “She says she really loves you, it’s just that she says you’re mentally ill and need therapy?” she offered hesitantly, with concerned and innocent eyes. Once again, my younger sister felt it was her birth-right as our father’s favorite to repeat his behavior towards me by not only commenting on my choices but also attempting to sour my relationship with my daughter. There could be no other explanation for her complete lack of boundaries.

After a life spent being a beacon of stability and generosity, I was now being described by my younger sister as “mentally ill” and a “narcissist.” When the much repeated accusation that I was “afraid of life” and “mentally ill” continued through my innocent daughter’s mouth, I realized I would never have a normal or healthy relationship with my younger sister, who seemed incapable of seeing herself or her intrusive and destructive behavior through the eyes of someone else.

Though apparently, my younger sister failed to recognize that two marriages and a live birth (my daughter) could hardly represent a fear of life, it was a theme she obsessed on, accusing me repeatedly of being afraid of life. It would take me years to understand that preoccupation was really only projection on her part.

She had had numerous abortions, at least seven and possibly even ten over a 20 year period. I had never once judged her for her choice, but after the 5th and then the 6th abortion, it seemed she was using abortion as a means of birth control, rather than a last resource. It was not that I was “afraid of life” I discovered, it what that she, my younger sister was terrified of life and she chose to kill life repeatedly by aborting one fetus after another in a series of repeated abortions that to me, seemed excessive and perverse.

That my sister would attempt to interfere in my relationship with my beloved daughter never registered with her as reprehensible behavior, as it did with many of my close friends at PSU and others I spoke with. She truly felt she had a right to cross those boundaries and cause dissension between a mother and her beloved and only child.
When I finally graduated as a double major and entered graduate school, the division was almost complete in my relationship with my younger sister, when she demonstrated to me she would never be capable of ever admitting the perversity of her manipulations and reprehensible interference in my relationship with my daughter.

It was then I realized my father had raised a sociopath and a narcissist, and that I had to walk away from the shattered shards of a destroyed relationship that would never be loving, never supportive, and never a source of strength. It’s difficult to describe the sad feeling you get, when you realize your sibling is in many ways, not a good person.

And yet this was the same woman who would give money to homeless people on the street. She once bought a tank of gas for a distraught African American woman with four small, hungry kids in a rundown car outside a food bank. She also gave the woman a $20 bill, after she had been turned down for food assistance. As the mother stood on the street corner, and tears streamed down her face, my sister patted her on the shoulder and gave her nothing  but sympathy and compassion.
This was the same woman who saved literally hundreds of homeless and feral cats and paid thousands of dollars for spay and neuter over 20 years of activism in the Portland, Oregon, animal rights movement. This was the same woman who had silently tiptoed up to an abusive, drunk, homeless man, covered in vomit, to save his skinny, frightened black lab dog from abuse and neglect outside of the Justice Center. She unhooked the leash and the dog silently and gratefully followed her into her car. She named the dog Kisses, who now considers her, her savior and worships her. This is the same woman. But she was never able, during almost our entire life as sisters, to ever show me even the most minimal loyalty or respect.

When you realize your sibling will never change or admit wrongdoing and when you realize that for your own self-preservation and personal contentment, you must leave that offending presence, it’s not a good feeling, and in fact, its quite a sad feeling. The gain however, is peace of mind.

My younger sister and I have spent years in estrangement, on more than one occasion and when she’s not in my life, I am far happier and far more productive than when she is in my life.

The unfortunate truth is that I’ll always love my younger sister, in a deep, remote part of myself, which I have put to rest, but having gotten to know her better than most, I cannot say I like her much anymore.

I wish her the best and I’ll always wish her the best but she’s someone who has been so very damaged by her own life circumstances, and by a father who did more harm to her than good, that I cannot have her in my life.

Sometimes you simply have to walk away, as I did. The rewards are worth it. The peace of mind, the contentment, the discovery that no, you do not deserve to be mistreated anymore and it all starts from walking away. It starts with embracing an unknown future. It starts with the knowledge that you did all you could, for a long time but ultimately, there was nothing to return to and you chose life and yourself instead. Walking away is the first step in that journey.

4 thoughts on “On Letting Go: Part Two

    1. Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I worked on it, off and on for a couple months and was very glad to have it done and put it aside. Writing is far more productive a form of therapy than real therapy. I’ve had therapy, to help me contend with family betrayals and the resentment they create but writing about it and getting it out there, is by far, much more productive and rewarding…I’m so glad you liked the essay. 🙂


  1. People consider self-preservation as a negative trait. But I think sometimes we need to cut people out of our lives, stop giving importance to people whose objective is to run you down. There’s a certain bit of loyalty that we expect out of relationships that we forge. And when their assistance during time of need comes across as detrimental rather than constructive in the long run, I think its time to let go.

    Thank you for this post. It really helped me realize certain things.


    1. Thank you so much Maulika. I’m glad that you were able to benefit from this essay. Sometimes it takes decades to come to the elephant in the room. Its an unfortunate situation with my younger sister. She has deprived my 22-year-old daughter Amelia of a relationship with her daughter Carly, aged, 8, out of her endless anger and wounded pride over a particularly hideous betrayal that her ‘Baby Daddy’ perpetrated against her. In the long run, it will be her biggest loss, because in time, her daughter Carly will hate her for depriving her of a relationship with her first cousin.

      My younger sister has fallen into every single pitfall that angry, vengeful people fall into: complete denial, resentment and a not very original desire to get revenge by preventing my daughter from seeing her daughter. The sad thing is, my daughter Amelia has just moved on. She loves the memory of Carly, but understands she will never have a relationship with Carly until she is old enough to pursue a relationship on her own. My younger sister has always been her own worst enemy and she is no different now, at age 46, then when she was five-years-old. She has no more insight now, than when she was a child.

      After years of being abused by sociopaths, sometimes its just best to walk away. I was forced to because of my sisters endless betrayals and overstepping boundaries. To this day, she continues to deny the horrible things she has done, not only to me but to many, many others. At this point, I feel sorry for her, on those rare occasions when I even think about her. She’s just such a part of my past that weeks will go by and she won’t even cross my mind. Writing this essay was a way for me to really put her aside, once and for all…


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