We are strange creatures #mentalillness #mentalhealth #addiction #gambling

August 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

My father-in-law passed away early this summer. Husband’s relationship with FatherInLaw was extremely difficult. FatherInLaw suffered from undiagnosed mental and emotional problems for much of Husband’s life. Husband had a lifetime of frustration and unrequited love in his relationship with FatherInLaw.

When FatherInLaw passed, I felt sad for him and for Husband. I also heaved a sigh of relief because FatherInLaw’s singular life purpose to destroy family financial security was hovering on the horizon. FatherInLaw was finally diagnosed with dementia very late in life and committed to a secure care facility. He had to be kept in a locked ward because he believed he worked as a war correspondent and would attempt to get to a battle zone to do his reporting. No, he never was a professional, or any other, journalist. He did not have medial insurance to pay for his institutionalization. The money to pay for his care was drawing down the last of his trust fund, money that he had inherited from his father’s estate. When this money ran out, the cost of institutionalization was going to fall to Husband’s generation, and they could not afford it. There was only a few thousand dollars left in FatherInLaws accounts when he died. His annual care in the institution was in the neighbourhood of $85,000 per year. It was a nightmare, especially that FatherInLaw was so advanced in his dementia that he did not recognize those of his children who visited him.

It was such a sad story. FatherInLaw was the eldest son of a wealthy New England family. His father was (and is) a well known 20th century composer. FatherInLaw was a Harvard graduate with a PhD in statistics. It would have seemed his life course was set to be one of privilege and security but tragedy struck the family.

Husband had a little sister. When Husband was nine years old, his little sister, aged 5, was diagnosed with brain cancer and not long after, passed away. So very sad. FatherInLaw never recovered from this loss. Not long after, he was up for tenure but was not accepted. It seems the combination of these two events unhinged FatherInLaw. He removed himself from the world to live in his basement and hatched a scheme to write a software program that could predict the stock market. For the rest of his life, all he wanted to talk about was how close he was to completing this project. His fantasy was that, once the software application was done, the family would be secure, their financial future would be bright, and FatherInLaw would be a hero of the family. It was almost as if FatherInLaw had transferred his ungrieved loss of his daughter and not getting tenure to a mad mission of impossible dimensions.

Over the course of decades, he worked on this program, eventually losing everything he had on his ‘research’. In reality, Husband believes he had a gambling addiction and he was using the stock market as a big game of poker. We estimate he lost over a million dollars and was in the process of trying to break into the trust account set up by his father when he was finally diagnosed and institutionalized.

Ever since I met my husband in 1996, the spectre of his father had hung over his life, remote, and vaguely threatening. It was only later that we realized his obsession with the stock market had consumed the proceeds from the sale of two houses and everything else he had. By the time he was institutionalized, FatherInLaw was living in one room in a bed and breakfast on the east coast. The last time we visited him before the family finally took action to address his needs for care, we went out for lunch and then took him back to the bed and breakfast. On Husband’s insistence, FatherInLaw agreed to let Husband see his room, with great reluctance. I waited in the car. When Husband returned from seeing his father’s room he was white. Apparently his father had also been hoarding and the room was filled with newspapers and books. There was just a path through the stacks of papers from the doorway to the bed. It was after that visit that husband insisted his siblings join him in getting FatherInLaw assessed and care arranged.

Once he was institutionalized, we heaved a sigh of relief, knowing FatherInLaw did not have access to the Internet. It was very sad, but still, at least he was secure. He seemed content at the institution. When we went to visit him, and he had to take his medication, he informed us that he was part of the doctor staff at the institution and he was carrying out research by taking his medication. Sigh. There was one part of his care, though, that weighed on our minds. FatherInLaw was physically healthy and we did not know how long he would have to be institutionalized. The awful truth was that, if he outlived his resources, it was possible he would have to be committed to a state facility as an indigent because Husband and his siblings could not afford to keep him where he was.

Unluckily and luckily, his dementia progressed and he developed a heart condition. This spring, he fell and fractured his hip. Although he survived the surgery, he never awakened fully from the procedure. He died quietly with his youngest son by his side. It is difficult to recount this story. FatherInLaw was a good man, who cared deeply for his family, but because he was unable to get help, and his family was unable to intervene, his caring turned into destructive behaviour that hung over the family like a dark, foreboding cloud, for decades. His wife had divorced him to protect herself from his actions. His children were alienated and estranged because he was emotionally and mentally unreachable. The pain was sometimes unbearable for Husband.

We humans are such strange creatures. RIP FatherInLaw. Thank you for bringing Husband into my life. I am sorry to see you gone, and I hope you have finally found sanctuary and relief from your suffering.

Changing our lives one blog post at a time #mentalhealth #recovery #mentalillness #addiction

August 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

So much to write about, so little time.

In the last two days:

1. After four years of estrangement, my daughter is back in my life and things are moving quickly. On Tuesday evening she left her two granddaughters with us for the evening, and then they all stayed the night;

2. I am estranged from my father and there has been very little interest, on the part of my siblings, to know why. Yesterday I talked with Brother1 for two hours about his process of coming to terms with the possible sale of FamilySummerCabin and then he finally asked me about my relationship with Dad. I was able to tell him with great clarity due to the hard work I have been doing to figure out the relationship dynamics that I will no longer put up with;

3. We rent a room to an old friend and he has informed us that his kidney disease is back and he doesn’t know how long he has to live. My sister (who has known him longer than me) and I took him to dinner last night to talk about end of life planning;

4. My sister and I have had a relationship conditioned by parents’ mental illness, infidelity, estrangement, and abandonment. Last night, after we had dinner with our friend, she sat down at our piano and we sang and played together for the first time – just the two of us;

5. We have two tenants in our basement suite who moved in last February. Ever since they have been complaining about the sound transfer from upstairs. Last night they complained about my sister and I playing music;

6. My son is editing my dissertation and I am finally making headway on it. I am taking time off wage earning work to finish but it is hard to decide not to earn money each day in favour of writing;

7. I love construction and working on site each day is one of my favourite things to do. This dissertation has been like walking through life with an anvil hanging from my neck. I just want to build the pergola project;

8. We adopted two shelter dogs in 2010. One of them was a 4 month old male shepherd x with extremely strong guardian instincts. Last night he met a new stranger and did not attack. Not once;

9. There is a settlement coming from Husband’s estate, it is about 3 months overdue at this point. It involves deed transfers so getting everyone’s signatures on all the paperwork from remote geographic locations is taking time. We don’t know how much money is coming, it might mean we can finish the renovation we started;

There, that is pretty much the complete list. Anyone of these items could be a blog post, in an of itself. It does help to get the list off my mind. I have to tackle things one at a time. Just like everything else in life.

What I notice about this list is that my life is changing. I have put unhealthy relationships on hiatus, and I am investing in healthy relationships. These healthy relationships are starting to grow new possibilities and opportunities. When I started this process, it was extremely difficult to put my experiences into words and I often held my tongue even when I was hurt by someone else’s behaviour. I am getting much better at saying no, or not endorsing unwanted behaviour. What a difference this small change makes.

You know, they have these campaigns about addiction, to just say No. What they don’t realize is the addict does say NO many many times in their minds, but they lack the experience – of knowing what is a good idea and what is not, of taking a stand in their own defence, of having a social network of supportive, loving people who can be there when the going gets tough.

I guess I am saying that there is hope for changing our lives. In my case, right now, it is happening one blog post at a time.

“I’m dying.” #mentalillness #mentalhealth #kidneydisease #friendship

August 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last October we rented a spare bedroom to a friend in need. On the mornings that I am writing, we often cross paths in the kitchen as we brew up our tea or coffee to fuel our work. He has been working for almost a year to find funding for a project he has devoted many years to develop. I will ask him, in passing, “Did they put the money in the bank?” or “Any news?” or such expressions of mild curiosity about his progress. Yesterday morning I asked him how it was going and he answered, “I’m dying.”

My friend is not an easy person to know. He has developed a telescopic tendency to turn every conversation into a diatribe about his project, with his latest conspiracy theory about how the forces of his enemies are aligned against him. It has made it difficult to simply chit chat over coffee, but I make the effort because I know how important it is to me to have some conversation in this lonely pursuit of writing in obscurity. I can do no less than offer him the same.

Today, however, he caught me off guard. It wasn’t just his words. His eyes filled with tears as he explained that his kidney disease had been on a long flare up and his medications were no longer enough to maintain fluid balance in his body. His feet and ankles had been swollen all summer and now the oedema was progressing to other parts of his body. He had seen his doctor last week and been told that he was showing signs of pulmonary oedema. Until he spoke to me yesterday morning, he hadn’t disclosed this sad turn of events to anyone.

He is not a candidate for dialysis or transplant. With his medications at full dose the oedema is progressing. His only hope now is that the disease will turn itself off and the fluids will again balance in his body. His kidneys are badly scarred from previous flare ups and multiple biopsy sampling.

His prognosis is not good, and the likely outcome is congestive heart failure.

We stood in the kitchen, making our tea and coffee, talking about his situation and what to do. He doesn’t want to go into hospital when his time comes. He doesn’t want to die alone in a hospital. He is a bachelor, his three grown children live far away, two of them live in another country. In the time that he has been here I have never heard him talk about his family or his children except to mention that he had a brother and sister but he is also out of touch with them. He hasn’t done anything to put his affairs in order. I would not even know who to call or how to get a hold of them if something happened to him. He has 15 years of research papers and data in his room, controversial work that has made him a target for a very nasty cabal of government, non-government, media and scientists.

I told him that he can stay with us through the end. That we need to sit down and ensure he has left clear instructions about his wishes. That we need to sort out what to do with all his papers and correspondence. His first impulse was to have all his work destroyed after he is gone because he would not want to curse anyone else with the task of bringing it forward and becoming a target of his enemies. After we talked about it, he agreed it might be a good idea to put it into a time capsule and let it go dormant for 20 or 30 years. Perhaps at that time the world will be more receptive to his ideas.

He said he wished he could just go out into the wilderness with a tent and camp until his time comes. To pass away quietly surrounded by nature. I said we could probably arrange for that. He does have many friends from years gone by, even if he has been isolated this last year.

I told him it would give him some comfort to prepare his affairs and make his wishes known so that decisions about his health care, remains, and work are not left to those who are wholly unprepared to know what to do. He agreed and said he would write some things down and give them to me.

My friend’s situation reminds me of how fortunate we are to have our health, our strength, and people to share our lives. It is very easy to decide it is too difficult to bother to stay in touch, or put up with others’ foibles. But the truth is that none of us is perfect, none of us is above anyone else. We are all struggling to make sense of our existence. Some of us were lucky enough to be born in a stable country far away from historical war torn zones of conflict.

Whatever our life journey, our paths criss cross and double back as we learn and grow. I can be present for my difficult friend, who faces a prospect that I cannot imagine. Whatever choices he faces in these coming days, we will stand by him and give him what comfort we have to offer. There is not one among us who does not deserve the same.

“What a mistake! I wish I was home.” #alcoholism #mentalhealth #mentalillness #family

August 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

My text to Husband read, “What a mistake! I wish I was home.”

It was Sunday afternoon and I had brought my 83 year old mother out to my sister’s palatial house for a Sunday afternoon gathering. The reason for the gathering was my nephew’s 39th birthday. Mom and I were the first arrivals, although we were twenty minutes late. I felt uneasy almost immediately, I can’t tell what it was that I was sensing. Perhaps a slight manic energy emanating from my sister. She always wears such strong perfume and I react badly to it. She was also wearing this gaudy outfit of prints and beads. It wasn’t that any item of the ensemble was not an attractive piece, but the combination of all of them put together was overwhelming, like the perfume.

My daughter and granddaughters arrived next, and I was happy to see them. I am not totally at ease with them because we are just getting to know each other after a long break. My grand daughters still look up at me and ask, “Who are you again? Are you my aunt?” I have to resist my compulsion to jump in and do everything for my daughter, which is just plain wrong (the compulsion, that is, my daughter is an awesome mom).

I should mention that I had also not been feeling well the day before and had not eaten much that day, and was not going to be able to eat or drink much. If I had not promised that I would bring my mother I probably would have stayed home to rest. So, I have to admit I wasn’t feeling very well to begin with.

We had all gone outside to play frisbee with the girls when my nephew’s father and his ex-wife, nephew’s step-mother, arrived. Nephew’sFather has known me since I was eighteen, that is, forty years. His first comment to me as we greeted each other was to make a joking comment about my hair, at my expense. I did not laugh, I did not really respond, I just felt my sense of unease deepen, that I didn’t feel safe.

I went back into the house and sat in a comfortable chair to tune my ukelele and look up my chord charts for music playing. My sister came in and we sat and chatted for a bit and I felt my tension easing somewhat. Then my nephew came in and offered us something to drink – and that was when the box of wine came out and my sister started drinking. To her credit, it looked like it was her first drink of the day, so she was sober at that point. Yes, it was 2 pm on a Sunday afternoon.

Alcohol and my family has a long and sordid history. My grandmother was an alcoholic, my father, my brother, and my sister are all alcoholics. My  sister and another of my brothers are pot addicts. There is a lot of addiction in my family and I am one of them. I have been sober in recovery for alcoholism and addiction for 18 years.

It was after the wine came out that I texted Husband.

However, I could not leave. My mother was there, the food had not been served, I was stuck for the time being. So, I adopted my comfy chair strategy. I stayed in the chair. I sipped water, and hung out with anyone who came into the room, having nice, meaningless conversation to pass the time. I was social, congenial, kind, and empathetic. And I didn’t get out of the chair. I felt safe in the chair, and there was no reason for me to move.

It wasn’t until lunch was served that I made my way to the table and ate a very modest meal. Once done, I moved back to the chair. I don’t think anyone noticed, because I didn’t actually know many of the people at the party. The people who did know me, and wanted to hang out, could easily find me.

Finally, after a decent time, I was able to load Mom into the car  and we headed home. The afternoon was not a total disaster, except that I was more than exhausted. The wine buzz was only starting to hit my sister and her live-in boyfriend, and I was able to get away before it got out of hand. My daughter and her kids left when we did, so I knew they weren’t going to have to see the ugly that can come up like an 800 pound ocean grouper to swallow people whole.

I had thought it would be safe attending a party at my sisters on a Sunday afternoon, that the alcohol would not be a problem. Live and learn.

I want to spend time with my family, I want to learn to take the good with the bad. After all, I’m no shining example of humanity, so who am I to judge? I do know when I feel safe, and when I feel like the time I am spending with family is just wasting my energy.

Next time I will beg off sick if I am not feeling well. That is a much more respectable way to handle these situations.

I won’t rescue you but I will love you #mentalhealth #mentalillness #domesticviolence #recovery

August 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

Yesterday I met my daughter and two granddaughters, ages four and eight, at a wooden boat festival. My brother has a wooden boat and was a member of the club that organized the show. He had arranged a rowing dinghy for us, and I took the little girls out for a row as part of our outing. It was super fun. The girls made pirate hats, and we ate crepes with sea shanties performed in the background by a small group of musicians. My eight year old granddaughter had a chance to learn to row, and was really good at going backward.

After we finished eating, while there was a bit of a lull, my daughter told me she was thinking of going back to her hometown the next day instead of attending a birthday party for my nephew. She confided that she was very tired and had been single-parenting the girls all summer while her husband was off at trade shows. She also confided the problems she was facing with my grandson, who has graduated early from high school but is depressed and unmotivated to figure out his next steps.

I was so happy to be spending time with my daughter and granddaughters, but, at that moment, I felt sick at heart. I had to fight an overwhelming urge to try to fix her life, to rescue her, to swoop in and try to make things right for her.

When my daughter was 11 years old she disclosed to me that my then-husband (her Step-Dad) was sexually molesting her. I was devastated. It felt like the earth dropped away below me and I was in free fall. I immediately went to him and told him what she had told me. He confronted her with me looking on and came up with the odd idea that she must have been dreaming or that it was a neighbour sneaking into the house. The weirdest part about this incident was that I accepted those explanations as plausible and put my daughter’s disclosure behind me. It does indicate how wholly my ability to rationalize and form a logical chain of argument was impaired in that relationship.

Two years later she told me that it had happened again. By this time, my ex-husband and I were in counselling. When we went to our next session, Ex-husband told the counsellor what Daughter had said, as a way to illustrate what a problem Daughter was in our lives. Counsellor was obligated by law to report the incident to the authorities. The police stepped in and our family was investigated to ascertain the veracity of Daughter’s claims. While we were under investigation Daughter and Ex-husband were not allowed to live in the house together. In my extreme state of mental and emotional battery by ex-husband at that time, I elected to have Daughter move into foster care.

Huh. Now that I am thinking of it, I wonder if I wasn’t trying to protect Daughter from Ex-husband because I felt so powerless to get away from him. At least I could get her out of the house? Because I did not believe I could live without him, and I could not conceive of having him move out. I felt absolutely unable to make the decision to force him to move out and the kids stay with me. I also had two sons, where were 4 and 6 years younger than Daughter.

Daughter never did move back home after that. She was 13 years old. She stayed in foster care until the end of that school year and then moved 500 miles away to live with her Bio-Dad. I stayed with Ex-husband and continued to try to build a life for my two sons. I was terrified to leave him. I did not believe I could survive financially or emotionally without him.

Finally, in 1996, I had a complete break down. Our finances were in ruin. We were on social assistance. I stopped smoking pot and qualified for a stay at a drug rehabilitation program. While I was in drug rehab, I attended daily group therapy and individual therapy sessions. One of the rules of the rehabilitation centre was no contact with family for the first week or two of treatment. After several days my counsellor let me know that Ex-husband had been calling the centre and threatening staff because he believed I was being ‘brain-washed’ to leave him. At that point, my counsellor said I might need to look at what was going on in my marriage if I wanted to stay clean from drugs and alcohol. After I left rehab I never say my ex-husband face to face again. Although I had the strength to save myself and stay away from him, I didn’t trust myself, that if I was ever face to face with him again, that I wouldn’t fall back under his spell.

In the meantime, my daughter had struggled to put her life together, suffering anorexia and never finishing high school. She got pregnant in 1996, and in 1997, gave birth to my grandson. By that time I was back in her life, trying to make amends for abandoning her and betraying her in favour of Ex-husband during those crucial years of her disclosing the molestation and the aftermath.

From that time, until the spring of 2010, I did everything in my power to make my daughter’s life easier. I took care of my grandson for 8 years, basically co-parenting him while she worked graveyard shifts and struggled to put her life together. In 2005 she met her husband, a US citizen, and they moved to the United States. From that point on we had a long distance relationship, talking on the phone almost daily. When I would make trips to visit, I would spend the time cleaning her house, emptying the fridge, and looking after grandchildren. My daughter and I developed an extremely unhealthy imbalance in our relationship, where she would basically convey all her complaints and angst about her life to me, and I would be expected to listen and offer support. In the beginning, I thought I was offering her the mothering that she did to get from me before. But, gradually, I realized I was actually feeling emotionally and mentally burdened in a way that was very difficult to cope with.

Finally, in the spring of 2010, I told her that I could not listen to her complain about her husband anymore. I found it extremely distressing and I did not think it was right for me to have to listen to these details from her married life. At that point she rejected me entirely, saying, “If I can’t tell you these things, then what is the use of having you for a mother?” I honestly could not answer that, I just knew what we were doing was not healthy for either of us. After that she did not talk to me for four years.

This summer there has been a change, precipitated by my grandson, who came to visit. We re-connected, although our relationship with never be what it was. He is now 17, a teenager, and struggling with his own life challenges. I can never ‘grandmother’ him again, in terms of giving him a bath, making sure he has clean clothes, and feeding him.

I can no longer caretake my daughter or her children. It never was my job, and it is even less so now. Yes, they are going to struggle and they are going to find their way somehow. No, I cannot eradicate the past by present deeds. Yes, I am going to have to live with the shame and regret of being a battered wife who could not protect her children from an abusive husband.

What I do have, from yesterday’s visit, are photographs of my granddaughters with me in the row boat, of them standing in the sun with their pirate hats. I have the pirate flag my granddaughter drew stapled to my summer hat. I have a few moments with my family that can be cherished and remind me of the resiliency of the human spirit, no matter what pain we have survived.

Maybe someday my daughter and I will talk about what happened with the help of a professional therapist. In the meantime, we will continue to grow our lives, side by side, and try to make the best of what we have. I do feel really, really lucky right now. It is truly a blessing to have them in my life, no matter how briefly.

Social isolation and educational attainment: why getting educated hurts my head #mentalhealth #mentalillness #academicabuse #dissertating

August 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

I have been writing overtime to try to boot a full draft of my thesis out the door. That doesn’t mean I haven’t needed to write here, it means my writing jam has been so depleted I haven’t had any left over for a blog post. I do not doubt that a part of my mental anguish has been caused by the dissertation process. I now liken it to a form of solitary confinement that leads to mental suffering.
Human cognition is socially generative. We learn about the world and our place in it through our social relationships. In the absence of social connections, our brains turn in on themselves to make sense of our experience. It is a rare person who can survive this kind of isolation without some mental damage. That is because our brains, once they turn inward, only have our individual limited experience to draw from, and if that individual limited experience was damaged in childhood or through other life events, then that is what gets unearthed in our isolation.
Writing a dissertation is a most unnatural enterprise. One is forced to work alone on extremely difficult mental labor for years. The combination of social isolation and unrelenting pressure can be deadly. Education attainment should not contribute to anxiety, depression, financial ruin and even suicide. But it does.
There is something wrong with a system of education that sets out to prepare students for the highest educational attainment, only to make that attainment a lifetime of hazing that leads to failure.
My realization of the damage caused by graduate school isolation has come to light recently because I have hired an editor to work with me on getting the text in shape for the first full draft. It is the first time I have had anyone work over the chapter drafts and discuss with me the flow of ideas, writing style, and writing mechanics. I have noticed that I am feeling better, more connected, a bit hopeful that this nightmare will end someday.
There might be the odd person out there who can work in isolation under excruciating pressure for years on end to some unknown or vague reward. I am not one of them, and I suspect I am not alone. When in doubt, reach out and talk to someone who has your best interests at heart. I guarantee you will feel better and your possible outcomes will improve.

in the blink of an eye #mentalhealth #recovery #mentalillness

August 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

We had an amazing trip to the family reunion. I was so anxious about getting there on time I started preparing for the trip the evening before. Despite my best efforts, we were about an hour late getting underway to make the 45 minute drive. Road Trip!

My anxiety got the best of me as I left the city and managed to miss the on ramp to the freeway. We ended up driving out to the airport, traveling west instead of south. When I realized my mistake, I had Grandson get Google Maps working on my iPhone and give me navigation instructions. As we turned east, making our way to the freeway, we got a text from Brother1, who had just landed at the airport and was picking up his rental car. Hooray! We weren’t going to be the last ones to arrive, even if our trip was only three quarters of an hour and my brother and his family had flown in from the east coast of the United States.

I was so happy to be travelling with Nephew5, Nephew6 and Grandson. And RescueDog2, our 14 year old fox terrier. There was no end of conversation, and they gave me great emotional support, knowing how much I dreaded attending any family get togethers. Nephew5 shared that he has taken steps to deal with his anxiety. He is now on anti-anxiety medication and is starting group therapy. Wow. What a courageous step to take. The beauty of him sharing this news of his own self-care was that Grandson, his second cousin, was able to see us model an unstigmatized talk about mental health and mental illness. Grandson told me he has suffered from depression for 3 – 4 years. I think that conversation helped him to realize that there is nothing wrong with mental illness, depression or anxiety. They are conditions that we have in our family and when we take care of them we feel better.

When we arrived at the family reunion I was excited to be there and to see everyone. I was too excited to eat the delicious buffet of grilled salmon, salads and blueberries. Because it was the middle of the day on a weekend, there was no alcohol in sight. I was very happy to see that. I felt much safer knowing there wasn’t going to be any drinking. With my phalanx of young men I felt safe emotionally, knowing there were a few among the party that understood me and did not judge me for who I am.

My sister was in high drive, very happy and excited to have family over to her beautiful home. She has a wide expanse of lawn on the south side of her house, shaded by a copse of ancient cedar trees. She had set up a stage beside the house, and chairs were ranged on the lawn for audience. Brother1 and his family arrived from the airport not long after we got there, and with that, the music began.

I have a very difficult relationship with music. I was raised in a musical family and I have some musical talent, nothing outstanding, but I do enjoy playing. My family has used music as a way of connecting over these many years, but it has always felt strange and hollow to me, because of the emotional distance and denial. Everyone in my family has lived with their guard up, whether it was emotional withholding, various forms of alcoholism, addiction, workaholism, and ill mental health. But they were always willing to get up on a stage and perform music together, presenting this cohesive front, an enviable impersonation of a tight-knit family expressing the joy of family belonging through music. The truth was that none of them were particularly close, but they were good musicians, and were very good at faking musical closeness as if it were also a form of familial closeness.

This time it was different. Because Brother1 had let his guard down with me when we talked about [summercabin], I felt more connected, and that I could let my guard down. I allowed myself to feel safe to play music with my family, even though I am not a professional musician and most of the members of my family are professional musicians in some way.

There is much to write about this reunion, many beautiful moments of connection. They will have to be disclosed in short posts, though, because I have to get to work. Suffice to say this was the first family reunion where I felt my siblings let their guards down and we had a great time. There is so much love in my family, so much frustration, so much pain and so much fear. It truly felt miraculous that we could come together and enjoy an afternoon of music, storytelling, and clowning.

There has been a deep sense of peace in my soul since that gathering. In the blink of an eye. What a difference a little love can make.

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