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    Last winter I was reading a lot about the science of sleep and how important sleep is to our lives.

    I worked on a routine of checking the time of sunset, and one hour before reminded myself that the night was coming. This taught me the importance of recognising the coming of rest, so I put away the business of the day as much as possible.

    Then, one thing I learned was to set an alarm for one hour before bedtime- we set alarms for waking but not for sleeping and unless we are ready, sleep does not come.

    After this bedtime alarm I switch off all phones, tv etc, and gradually dim the lights to let my body know sleep is coming.

    Then, I get ready for bed- have a warm drink and change my clothes, again, to make a  gradual transition into sleep.

    When in bed I read for a short time until my eyes become heavy and then I turn off my lamp and snuggle down.

    Finally, I say a short prayer of gratitude to God for my bed, the roof over my head, the food I’ve eaten and the people I’ve met- it continues into gratitude for my health, but I rarely get any further….zzz

    Recently, my routine has been thrown out and I realise it is because I am no longer tuned in to my evening slow down- so thank-you for reminding me how important it is!


    Hi K- looking back on my own life I can say that we can have many lives lived in one, and these new lives change our behaviours and our reactions to situations, sometimes as the natural process of physical ageing, and sometimes as a result of things happening to us.

    Whether we change in our core being ie that person we were born as, and was given a destiny, I don’t know. I think the best thing is to value who we are at any given moment in time because life is a process of growth- think of the plant and how that changes and adapts and seems very different at different stages yet remains the same plant that sprung from that individual seed.

    When you sense yourself changing and others not, or seeing others change and you are standing still, then maybe it is time to just look at where you are- and not think too much of others-is it time for yourself to make changes, or is it time to stay the same? Only you know the answer…


    Thank you Diletta- I think if my sister did decide to come home to live she would want to be in her own space, too. The reasons why she has come here at this particular time are difficult to explain and in some ways are unimportant-what matters are my reactions to what she does and says. She caught me off guard and so far my response to her visit has been very negative.

    I am starting to get my own self back- and now say and do things that make me feel more in control. I think she knows I am not her ‘mini-me’ but she has to deal with that herself. I have called her out in a reasonable way on a few things and that has made me feel much better, for instant questioning her throw-away remarks and asking her to justify them, instead of just pulling a face behind her back! Also when she asks a question and doesn’t get the answer she wants, I now remind her that my answer was as valid as her question.

    I like to think she will learn from it too, as you say, but that is is not my concern. My own health and well being is paramount here.

    I do not know that if, after this, she will ever come to stay with me again- this may be her final visit and so I want to make it a happy one for her whilst enjoying my own time, too.

    I have found these messages very helpful and positive for me- so I am grateful for people helping me to get through this. Thank you.


    Thank you all for your messages- it is difficult and far more complex than space on here allows but today I set some rules for myself- first: if she speaks I listen, even if I’ve heard it before and it is trivial- I make a point to let her say what she wants and I listen- I find it helps not to focus on my discomfort but to just be impartial. However, if I disagree I say that I do, and she rarely counter comments. I think she has been used to provoking people into reacting so I refuse to do it. I really do think that ageing is frightening her and she feels vulnerable but won’t admit it. She is the eldest and we have always been a little deferential, but the adapting has to come from her.

    I call her out when she makes loaded statements- she has nowhere to go to with these. Getting old means confronting long held assumptions of the truth which are no longer valid- she struggles with this and I don’t want to belittle her, but at the same time if she is wrong she is wrong.

    I am learning that I can deal with it if I watch for the triggers- she has worked on these things all her life and is an expert but I find it rather sad. She thinks I am like her, that I validate her opinions but I am very different and I don’t share her opinions on many things. I have to speak my own truth to her.

    Do I feel used? Yes, I do-but she is also very generous in lots of ways and won’t be here forever. When I was younger I idolised her so yes, we can get stuck in past dynamics which have little bearing on our current reality.

    I may stagger home late- tonight I fell back on the drink- partly to wind her up!!

    Maybe it is a game we can both play- it is very sad but very human too. Getting old is not easy for some people- I think she feels vulnerable which is why she has come to me. Maybe in the end it will be good for both of us. Thanks for taking the time  to respond.


    Thanks for your reply- it made me smile as I am in my early 60s! And my visitor is not my mother who died several years ago, and wouldn’t I love her to pop in? My sister is several years older and yes, we do have a long history and at one time were very close, but she arrived unannounced and has now taken over my home for the next few weeks-she is not an easy guest and yes, it is hard to take care of myself when she is such a domineering person. I am not in therapy- this is just a normal occurrence I am finding difficult. I have to put strategies in place, such as giving myself some space and telling her how I feel when she makes decisions for me. I have lived alone for almost a year and it is hard when someone just turns up and puts you off balance. Thanks for taking the time to reply- I have to put her needs first for a while but this doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice my own. I am ticking off the days, though, (21) until she goes and that is very sad.


    Hi  John

    First of all these are brave admissions to make- if only we could all express our feelings about our families in such a free and open way.

    Families can be a nightmare- although I also love my family and appreciate how much they mean to me especially as I get older, I know for a long time I used to get what I called my ‘desert island’ feeling- that all I wanted was to get away and be on my own for a while.

    Families can be so claustrophobic and stifling.

    What I notice about your post is that you see your family as the collective, ‘them,’ and not necessarily as a group of individuals, which is what they are. Are some family members more or less repulsive than others? Are we talking about parents, siblings, aunts, cousins etc?

    One way to get through this is maybe to start identifying individuals as seeing them as people rather than as a group. Maybe they all feel the same as you but don’t want to be the one to flatten the house of cards?

    We all have a right to break away from our families and grow up- do you feel you are being denied that?

    Families, in a perfect world, should allow each other’s characteristics to flourish, but it seems in so many the opposite occurs, because of a sense of needing to be close and protective, they trap each other in a mesh of misplaced love and affection, which is often no more than a prison with cushions.

    I really feel for you, but at some time you have to begin to be your own person and if this means conflict in the family then they have to deal with that in their own way.

    You say you can’t run away, even to the ends of the earth- well you can, and lots of people do reject their families and go their own way- but I suspect this isn’t what you want to do. I think you want to be ‘neutral’ and maybe just see them as people, as you want to be seen as a person, maybe?

    I am going through a similar change in my relationship with my son- so I know how tricky it can be making those changes.

    Maybe you should get some counselling for yourself to begin with, so you can work through those processes of change in dealing with your disgust.

    I hope that at least expressing your feelings has helped- I hope you find your way through this.


    Thank-you so much Brandy- I think you are spot on with these observations and suggestions. My son went to live with his dad not long after we had split up, as he was much more lenient with him than I was and indulged him in ways I never would have. However, I don’t think he sees his actions as punishment or reward, rather I think he just tries to get what he wants from any source available.

    Recently his dad was seriously ill, so I tried to support my son through this and for a while we became a little closer,but it didn’t last.

    I can see that I have permitted my son’s dependence by helping him out now and again with money for specific things (never cash) and understand that that has become the nature of our relationship- for most of his adult life I have also used money as a means to get him off my back, as he wasn’t the easiest person to live with, and he did come back to my home from time to time.

    I have  counselling appointment tomorrow, and will use it to try to frame the letter I will send. I now know what to say and how to try to re-form the relationship in the way you have outlined. The rest will be up to him. I am now in a place where I am prepared to completely cut those strings if need be- there is nothing more I can do. Thank-you for your good sense and understanding.


    Hi Jenna- I am so sad you are dealing with this, when we are vulnerable we open ourselves up to all kinds of abuse and because he hasn’t physically hurt you doesn’t matter- sometimes the psychological abuse is much worse.

    You always end up forgiving him- but the only person you need to forgive is yourself. You made a terrible mistake and now you have to put it right for the sake of your kids and for yourself.

    I would seek help for the abuse and PTSD (which you may have due to his manipulative behaviour)- sometimes we go back to check that it was that bad- (like a sore tooth, we keep touching it to see if it has healed) but even if it seems better, it will get bad again. This is the pattern of abusive behaviour.

    There is help available at locals women’s groups and organisations to get you the support you need.

    You feel bad because you are a good person, but you need to recognise this in yourself and build up your poor self-esteem. Surround yourself with people who care- you will find them when you start to look. Block him from your phone and from your life.


    Thanks Mark- yes, I feel that I should know, all I can do is trust myself that I will do it. Since I did not respond to his request for money last week I have not heard from him, but maybe that is the price I have to pay.



    Hi Brandy

    I know where your friend is coming from. I was in a relationship until quite recently where my partner was very indulgent with his children, and thought I should be the same with mine. It did cause problems for us and now I am on my own (again!) I feel much more free to manage my family relationships in a way that feels right for me.

    My son and his father have a difficult relationship and his dad has always been more indulgent with him than I have been. Now neither of us are in a position where we have money to spare, and I think my son knows this but cannot seem to break out of this parental dependency.

    My son also makes bad choices, like your friend’s. It is as if just when he seems to be getting things together he messes up, as if failure is easier for him to deal with than success, he is very like his father in this regard.

    For a time I kept communication to a minimum too, and as long as I know he is well it is enough for me. The closeness we once shared is no longer possible, I have accepted that.

    I hope your friend finds her way through this too- it is incredibly difficult but love finds unexpected and surprising ways if we let it. I love my son and I’m hopeful all will be well.  Thank you.


    Hello Anita and thanks for taking the time to write to me.

    I have been to counselling about this issue a few times, sometimes it helped and others it didn’t. I know my son has been to counselling a long time ago but we have never been together.

    I think right now I am working on establishing communication again, but I will keep your advice in mind thank-you.


    Hi Brandy

    Thank-you so much for your kind words.

    I learned a long time ago to ignore the opinions of others as regards parenting, as well as lots of other things I may have done which have caused disapproval (too much to say here, although I have never broken the law ha ha!) my life has taken a somewhat unconventional path. I have a lot of support from friends and family who know the struggles I have had both with my marriage and my children, but the criticism mostly comes from my own self.

    I did lots of things wrong- trying to treat both children the same was my first mistake- not dealing with the trauma after the marriage break-up- not helping my son see through his grief when his cousin died- are just a few of the big ones. I can now see where I did not understand my son’s weaknesses and help him to work through it- now he is a dysfunctional adult and I veer between thinking it is all my fault, to believing it is now his fault- but the truth surely lies somewhere in between. I don’t like to play the blame game. I want to see clearly how to move through this.

    He has some mental health problems and is deeply distrustful of any medical professionals- at times I made appointments for him but have given up, as he tells me that professionals say there is nothing wrong with him, therefore making out it is me that is at fault thinking he has problems. My son never or rarely apologises or thanks me- he only tells me he loves me when he needs something, which is what teenagers do, but my son is now an adult.

    I need to know how to keep communicating with him without opening myself up to hurt, and I think this is the issue. I am seeking ways to re-open the dialogue without falling back into old patterns. If I try to suggest help he gets angry and I can’t deal with that and tend to walk away. The last time this happened I stayed with him but his tirade then got out of hand and I walked out anyway. I will not open myself up to verbal abuse- I don’t give it so don’t expect it back. I am a classic conflict avoider.

    I will try to frame a short message to him today- maybe along the lines of if there’s anything that’s bothering him I’d like to help, but that I can’t keep doing the same things anymore. Maybe I need to be more honest about not wanting him to say hurtful things either, as I am only wanting good things for him, something I haven’t really done before. I would really like to dispense with the whole mother/son dynamic and just become a person talking to another person without all that other parent/child stuff in the way.

    Thanks again for letting me sound off about this- it is making a difference.



    Thanks Brandy- I think you are right on so many levels. The history I have with my son is complex. I have always tried to be honest with him and been down the path of tough love, but it is hard to see your child living on the streets and without obvious means of support. He found a relationship which has not been a happy one for him or his partner, and he broke up with her, but now they are back together again. The worst thing is knowing that he is unhappy, frustrated and trapped, but having to stand by and watch the car crash happen, over and over again, is truly horrible.

    I don’t give him money, but he expects me to, and refusing time and again is something I have to go through repeatedly. My offers of advice, given in a loving way, are repeatedly rejected. For years I felt I was being punished by him, but I have never compromised my own standards. Does he know how much I love him? Only he can answer that. What I think is best and what he sees as best are not the same- who am I to judge what may be the right thing for him?

    He is incapable of making a living on his own,which is why he went back to his girlfriend- I have had to stand by and see him mess up so often. Now, the only way I can deal with it is to pretend he isn’t my son, but just another person I know who doesn’t cope well with life, and let him know I am here if he needs me, but I will not run to do his bidding.

    Parenthood is fraught with expectation and vulnerability- so often the finger is raised against me by people who cannot see beyond societal expectations. It is my fault- I have been a negligent and incompetent parent, but yet I maintain healthy relationships with my other child, my grandchildren, my siblings, my nieces and nephews and my friends and their children. Just this one I have failed in and am judged by.

    Thank you for taking the time to reply.

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