Coffee and Conversation: Me, My Brother, and Star Trek: Enterprise

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday again (well, it was!)  – and, around here, that means it’s time for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my family  was driving on an interstate highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living their lives, lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to see what those lives were, and to share my own…

I strive to reach that understanding through offering ideas and tidbits from my life. Settle in for a while, and share something of yours.

Last week, I read this post by Kristen Lamb, and it resonated with my own volatile childhood, a quagmire of emotions and reactivity where people argued and attacked far too often. My three siblings and I were often pitted against one another, egged on by our parents.

I became a wary victim. I learned to read the signs of the coming combustions. I was a master appeaser. Conflict twisted my insides almost to the point of panicky sickness. Certain sounds, postures, and expressions triggered instinctive protective responses. I apologized when I felt I had been wronged; I still find it nearly impossible to confront someone when I feel they’ve wronged me, preferring avoidance to the tumult of powerful negative emotional energy.

My own children were seven and four before I began to understand how much impact these patterns had on me. And I was repeating the pattern with them. I decided that I needed to change. It was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done, to stop and learn to be the mother my children needed me to be.

As I began to learn new and more peaceful ways, the reactive and dysfunctional patterns I thought normal when I was a little girl became transparent. I began to resist the bullying and manipulation, which led to more stress and conflict with family members who were liked the status quo. I wanted to keep my family bonds, and still live in this new way that was making so many wonderful changes possible in my own home.

So, what does all this have to do with Star Trek: Enterprise?

Eventually, there was an extremely unpleasant and public backlash. The crux played out on Facebook, where I posted a casual update on my wall, and returned to find eighteen hours’ worth of flaming posts from two siblings. My character, emotional state, mothering, and life choices were openly and often falsely ridiculed.

Because I hadn’t been online, and I had changed, I could see something I hadn’t before – these attacks weren’t about me and my opinion. . I had unwittingly provided a fuse for deep, seething wounds, and they responded in the way we’d learned as children – gang up and attack any perceived threat.

When I posted that the nastier messages would be deleted, and a set of guidelines for how I expect people to comport themselves in my online space,one sibling ‘needed a break from me and my energy’. My brother, with whom I had always been close, demanded that I have no further contact with him or any member of his family. It’s hurt, these last years, to think that we may never be friends again, that we’ll never have another wandering, easy conversation.

And that’s where Enterprise comes in.

You see, Star Trek was ours. Of our whole family, we were the only two who enjoyed it. It was our touchstone, our secret language, and, even as adults, we would spend hours, sometimes, exploring plots, books, what-ifs, and favorite characters.

When Enterprise came out in late September of 2001, I was the mother of a newborn, preparing to drive cross-country fromYellowstone National Park to upstate New York. I was skeptical of both that guy from cheesy Quantum Leap as a viable starship captain, and that the show seemed to have trotted out yet another token Vulcan. I didn’t see the show during its four-year run. But my brother did, and thought that I would like it, too.

I wish that I could tell him how right he was, how Trip makes me think of him, how so absolutely not a token Vulcan T’Pol turned out to be, how I cried for two days after watching the last few episodes, and the way they reminded me of deeply personal pain and loss. I even wish I could ask if his dog was named after Captain Archer’s beagle.

I wish I could tell him how desperately I want more…

More Enterprise – and more connection between he and I.

My son and daughter are friends, at 12 and 9. Minecraft is their thing. They spend long hours creating, separately and together. They make plans and create games and stories around their play. They laugh and cry and sometimes get mad at each other. Because their lives are peaceful and conflict resolution is an important part of our family life, they are getting steadily better at expressing what they feel, listening to one another, and releasing anger in favor of enjoying one another’s company again.

They’ve lost a brother. He died in infancy, and nothing can ever bring him back. That’s tragic, but not as tragic, maybe, as losing a living sibling because of an inability to overcome a damaging family dynamic. Not as tragic as loving someone fiercely, and feeling the empty place within my soul where only he fits. Not as tragic as knowing that it might be forever, and that there is nothing I can do about it without sacrificing a way of life that brings joy and fulfillment.

But how we are treated as children has bearing on whom we become as adults, and volatility can become a way of life some people never overcome.

This might be the deepest tragedy of all. If we had been raised differently, maybe I could share Enterprise with my brother, or tell him how much I love and miss him, or share how changing those patterns has healed the little girl I was.

It’s worth the pain, though, to give my children the chance never to feel this hurt.

And that’s worth it.

Have you ever needed to make peace with something in your life, at the cost of something else you treasure?  Can you see how your childhood affects your life, now?  I’ll provide the hot beverages, and a listening ear.

26 comments

  1. I was putting up an Enterprise post on my blog and Zemanta suggested your post as a related story! I’m so glad I clicked.

    I think sibling relationships kind of bind us and define us, maybe even more deeply than the relationships we have with our parents or our SOs, throughout our lives.

    And to tie it in with Trek – are we not made of star stuff? Even when our siblings are stinky or are hogging the back seat. 🙂

    • OH!

      I’ll have to go check your post out! Zemanta no longer gives me suggestions…=(

      Next month, I’ll be writing Enterprise fan fiction and posting every day. You might enjoy them..

      I’m not sure I’m defined nearly so much by my relationships to my siblings as I am by – well, me.

      I get along with most people, and I strongly suspect that the failures in my interactions with siblings are the direct result of the family dynamic we were raied within.

      That kind of scarring goes deep – way beyond childhood grievances. It’s sad, and I hope that someday it’s different.

      But I’m not willing to sacrifice healthy interaction to have relationships. I’ve spent years untangling the ways in which an abusive childhood affects my life as an adult, and, while I may wish my siblings could or would do the same, for their own benefit, my deeper commitment is to assuring that my own children will grow up in a healthier manner, so that they can relate well to one another, now and throughout their lives.

      It’s a pleasure to meet another Enterprise fan!

        • I haven’t really looked yet…T’Pol and Trip won’t get out of my head long enough!

          Those two…sigh.

          But if you point me in the right direction, I’m sure they’ll get to arguing with one another soon enough, and maybe I can slip away before they notice… =)

          • OOOH! I’ll pop by…

            For next month, there will be 31 flash fiction pieces, as a blogging challenge. But I’m plotting a full-length novel, so I’d love to read longer stuff by others, too.

            I’ve been writing Trek fanfic since I fell in love with Spock at 13.

            Here’s a bit of T’Pol for you…rough, and a bit rambling, because I wrote it for NaNoWriMo, and haven’t been back to edit yet.

            http://shanjeniahstruebornjottings.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/wippet-wednesday-walking-with-ghosts/

          • Oh, this is good stuff! I like the exposition quite a bit – you just slip it in there that she married Soval. That’s something that inexperienced writers tend to really give too much detail about, and it’s kind of unnecessary (at least from the amount that I’ve read). There’s no need to go into excruciating detail.

            Same with the children and her emotions, etc. We get T’Pol walking in the Forge, carrying a nautilus shell, clearly a lot older than in the series, thinking about things that have gone by many years ago. Lovely! 🙂

          • Janet,

            Thank you, and I’m honored.

            This is a snippet from the beginning of a prologue, started for July CampNaNo last year. It was intended to be a TOS story, but I met T’Pol in the spring, and she wormed her way into a pretty powerful supporting role!

            The novel is roughly planned, and one of my goals is to complete the draft this year (I have its original fantasy companion queued up, right now, and the Enterprise exploration, so it’s likely I won’t get to it before June.

            I loved the image of her walking across the Forge at night alone, with a shell Trip gave her. It popped into my head whole; I can feel it. It’s a peaceful yet poignant moment…

            But we can’t have T’Pol having too many of those, now can we? 😉

          • I read the first one. I’m not Jewish, but one of my best friends is, and I’m a little bit of a Jewish fangirl – have been, since I read All of a Kind Family at 9 or so.

            Her family (interfaith; her husband is active in his Christian church) has invited us to share in their Chaunkah, and I’ve eaten hamentaschen. And yes, their kids get both Chanukah and Christmas gifts. =)

            The line about having one Jewish mother already- that cracked me up! =)

            I love the layering of culture here, and that everyone is respectful even of traditions they don’t understand.

            A lovely little bit of IDIC in action.

          • Oh, thank you! The Light is an earlier piece. I was more into following canon characters and so there’s more screen time for them. Paving Stones goes down a different road and there aren’t quite so many canon characters. But yeah – heh – Andy joking about having one Jewish mother already. 🙂

            Off to read yours!

          • Janet,

            I’m planning to come back and explore more when I don’t have so much else happening, writing-wise. I’ve been looking for a home for my fan fiction (mostly novel-length, mostly TOS because I came very late -like last spring! – to the Enterprise party).

            You may have handed me the perfect spot! =D

          • Janet,

            I’ve been wanting to find the right community for years! I’ll definitely be checking it out – but I may need to get through May, first!

  2. I too was close to my own brother earlier in my life, and just as you, lost that relationship over the fact that I learned to stand up for myself and not let others bully me. He wasn’t the bully, it was his wife. Even to this day we live one town away from each other and don’t know if either is alive or well. Our thing we had together was music, the love of music. Maybe someday, when we are old and grey, things said, will be forgiven and left behind.

    • Linda,

      I grieve with you for the loss of your brother in your life. It is very sad the way bullying and abuse work – they drive wedges all along, but maybe never so much as when one person stands up and says, “No more.”

      I hope, for both of us, and our brothers, that there will be a change one day, that we can have our right to fair treatment and our brothers, too. Until then, know that I’m holding you and yours close in my thoughts.

  3. Powerful post. My husband’s family is very much like yours was, only more covert. I wish that he wanted to do the work you’ve done to understand it, rather than simply to disengage, but I fully understand and support his disengagement. This sets all my sympathetic strings thrumming…

    • Gretchen,

      I think it’s easier, in our culture, for women to be introspective. So much cultural conditioning to ‘tough it out’.

      My understanding is combined with disengagement, with my parents, who live very close by, and with my sister, with whom I hadn’t been close since we were quite young. The trick for me is to support my children’s desires for connection with these members of their extended family, while maintaining the emotional disengagement that allows me to remember my own purpose.

      I’m glad you support your husband. My spouse’s understanding and support are my anchor.

      It might be too late for my brother and I, but, if I can prevent that happening to my own children, then something positive can come from it. It’s not easy focusing on helping them learn to resolve conflicts, especially since neither my husband nor I learned it as kids, and still have a lot to learn…but it’s so very worth it to think they may always be able to enjoy and rely on each other’s friendship the way they do right now.

      And, in helping them learn, I am learning, too. Maybe enough to find a path toward resolution with my own family, but at least enough to help me be more peaceful in the relationships I have.

      Always a pleasure to see you here! =)

  4. I was lucky enough to have been raised in a very loving home. My mom was a single parent of two, my brother and me, but she was everything to us that we needed. And she still is. I feel so bad for those of you that grew up in a discordant household. I can’t understand it fully since I didn’t experience it, but I’m sorry for it. Even though it’s really sad that you can no longer connect with your brother (I hope someday you can), your first priority is your children. And you’ve done a fine job making a happy home for them.

    • Lauralynn,

      I love stories like yours. I aspire for my own children to say things like that about me, someday…

      Recently, my daughter, now 9.5, said she’d like some more Matchbox cars (there have been a few around forever; not used very often, but usually by her). I went to work out, and came home with a four pack, and one little Hot Wheels car in pink, purple, and orange I KNEW she’d adore.

      She told me, “I’m glad you’re the kind of mom who doesn’t get mad or tell me no when I want toy cars, because I’m a girl. ” Then she went off to give all her cars names and backstories. =)

      I do miss my brother, but, yes, these children I chose to bring into the world come first, because they need me, and they need a peaceful and happy life, and the skills to find that for themselves, too. Maybe time will change things, or not…

      I’m happy there are people in the world who can’t really understand these types of situations. It gives me something to aspire to, and the knowledge that it can and does happen. Sometimes, I need that – it can be hard to give what I didn’t receive, and there’s been a lot of learning more or less from scratch.

      Hope this finds you and yours well, and enjoying the new year. You and your husband are in my thoughts. ❤

  5. Eden said it well. *hugs* I can certainly relate to the loss of a brother, but I cannot imagine it being for the reasons you outline.

    My childhood deeply affects my life, in that I am learning to care for the little girl I was. I’m lucky that I managed to change for my children. Now I need to do the same for myself.

    • Elizabeth,

      Holding you close to my heart as you grieve your brother.

      I wish I could tell mine what he’s added to my life, and I hold to the hope that someday I may be able to.

      You’ve given the world the gift of people who are healthier. You and your little girl inside deserve the gift of healing. I’m glad your’re learning how to give that to her, and to you!

      Still planning to get to see you. Not while I’m potentially contagious though (we’ve had a string of minor sniffles and stomach bugs here), or if you aren’t up to it, just yet.

      But when you’re ready, and I’m less germy!

    • Sys,

      Thank you. I know you understand – who I’m talking about, how close we were, the pain of the loss…

      And what my life is like today, and why I won’t sacrifice that, not even to have that connection back.

      Hugs gratefully accepted, and reciprocated. =)

Take a chance! Type something in this box, and see what happens! =D

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.