by Elizabeth Stephens
Skeletons, Baloney Sandwiches and Stockholm Syndrome
When I was moved out of the house I realized Adrian was moved out the year before me in the same manner. We lived nearby but we had little to do with each other due to our training. We had to learn how to be family with each other. Doing simple things like visiting or talking to each other were learned traits. Also we began talking about our process of living and the lessons for the past and coping with the future.
I asked my sister about her time moving out and her answer was very insightful. She said she had a certain ‘loyalty’ to Selma, much like the Stockholm syndrome. Though she enjoyed the freedom, still she would eat the same baloney sandwiches and go to the movies on Sunday. I shuddered when I heard that.
Adrian had two experiences with Selma after she left the house. The first time she made a surprise visit home as she approached the front door, she heard Selma saying how much she’d done for us. After all Selma was the one to buy us a color T.V. and how David had done nothing for us and that we did not respect him. Adrian proceeded inside and started yelling at Selma for all the injustices she had perpetuated.
David asked why she didn’t come over to visit before, do you need and invitation he asked her. Adrian said, yes. Adrian went on to bring up some other incidents and she said Selma freaked out. David was apologetic and asked that Adrian try to forget about all of that and that he wanted her to be happy. Then David was going to drive her home but Selma said no, she would take Adrian. Adrian did not want to go with her and started to walk home and Selma was right there walking with her saying, ‘you really threw me for a loop’ and ‘bringing all the skeletons out of the closet’ and on and on.
Adrian asked her, ‘can’t we just start over or start over?’ Selma turned back and Adrian proceeded home only to get a call from Selma and she started up again. Adrian was surprised that Selma even had her number. Selma told Adrian that David was so angry at her and it was Adrian’s fault. Then Selma called the next morning and started up again. Adrian told her she would not come over again and that was the last time she spoke to Selma.
Close Encounters, Reconnection, and Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
The second encounter with Selma occurred in a market. Adrian was walking up to the check-out counter and heard Selma’s voice. She turned around and saw her speaking with her children. I do not know who ran out of the store the fastest in separate directions.
The first time I went to see David was after some years had passed. Of course they had never gone out of their way to contact us. I found out that they had moved to a street called Gretna Green, an upper class neighborhood, down the street from O.J. Simpson, the notorious address where the infamous 1995 murders took place. One Sunday afternoon after I had gone to a Buddhist lecture focused on our relationship to our parents, I felt I had to make an attempt to reconnect. So I went over and knocked on their door. Only David was home at the time. I was very fortunate that Selma was out. I can remember he cried. He told me he was sorry we hadn’t been closer.
David said he wanted me to be friends with Selma, as if he thought that was possible. I cried and hugged him and I left. Later that night, who should I get a call from, but Selma? I couldn’t believe her tone of voice as she told me that I should ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ and how I shouldn’t ‘rock the boat,’ and she went on and on and on. I almost felt like hanging up but being polite. I put the phone down and went and did an errand. When I came back she hadn’t even missed me. I had said before that she was a great talker. She carried on a whole conversation without me!
I think Adrian’s way of dealing with this situation was to work it out by ignoring it. But when I started chanting I was in contact with a lot of people who knew we were not treated as we should have been. I spoke to a counselor about my past and he asked me what I wanted. I came to the conclusion that I wanted to yell at my father for not being there for his daughters. The counselor asked me if I thought it would make any difference. I answered, “Probably not.” What was David going to do? How could he make up for all our pain?
At times, I have found myself becoming defensive about my past and recognize that is the way I respond to the hurt I have suffered during my childhood. It just comes out that way sometimes. Someone asked me if I thought this was my karma to be treated that way in my childhood. For some reason, I did not believe in the causal connection with some evil deed done in a past life. When I was young I would pick out someone who looked happy and want to be them. Once I was waiting for Selma and across the street at a candy store I saw a mother daughter who looked so happy and I said, “Why can’t I be like that?” I felt a lot of pain. It reminded me of a science fiction movie in which a man had so much pain that he looked at a picture of a man in a boat and through his sheer will found himself inside the picture, and was unable to escape. He was screaming because he could not get out. It made me realize that it was important to appreciate my past, use it as fertile ground and learn that these lessons would bear great fruit in the future.