coming to terms

January 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

I have had difficulty with the Christmas / New Years break for many years. The problem has been the issue of how to connect with my family of origin but not allow that connection to put myself in harm’s way.

Examples of harmful experiences with my family of origin are not difficult to recount. I can almost count some kind of harmful incident arising from being in the same room, at the same event, or being in a vehicle with a family member. On Sunday, December 27, I met my brother from far away, who made a surprise visit to see his family and friends, arriving in my city in the early hours of the morning. We arranged to rendezvous at a local restaurant before heading off to a pantomime performance. My sister had arranged the outing for dinner and the performance and did not know my brother was in town. It was a very sweet surprise when she saw him at the restaurant.

I decided to drive with my brother down to the theatre. The drive could not have been more than 10 blocks. In that time he managed to make at least two moving violations, making U turns on a busy thoroughfare instead of driving around the block to make legal turns. Really quite extra-ordinary. For my part, I had to sit tight and silence myself. Because I had suggested taking a legal route to get to the theatre. This is a minor example, but it shows how likely I am to be put in harm’s way when I am in the presence of family.

This holiday break I was very careful to make plans for myself that kept me in a safe situation. I did attend a family gathering for Christmas dinner and I was careful to ensure no one was going to serve me alcohol-laced drinks, food, or desert. I was also careful to not reveal my true self to any of the guests at the gathering. I was careful to maintain the fictional representation of myself that ensured no one was made uncomfortable because I was emotionally open or honest. I acted like it was normal to see one of my brothers, whom I had not seen for over a year, maybe two years. But that is what is normal in my family. You don’t see people for a very long time and you act as if it is normal.

What I realized in my journaling this morning, which is giving me a little more freedom from the insanity, is that my relationship with my various family members is not an either/or proposition. In the past I have imagined I had to do something – I had to quit the family wholeheartedly, or I had to pursue building relationships with family members that were healthy, honest and authentic. What I realized this morning was that I don’t have to do either of these options, or I can initiate these options to some degree, or not. That is my point. I don’t have to DO anything. I can simply continue to go about my life as I see fit.

The heartache I have felt, of being insignificant, of being invisible, of not being worthy of attention, that heartache is of my own manufacture. It is a heartache manifested of expectations, imagined relationships and fantasies of family coherence. When I actually assess the state of the health of relationships amongst my family I realize they are all, to some degree, stuck in rituals and habits of interaction that I find dull, and to some degree, dangerous to my well-being. That heartache is my problem and there isn’t anything anyone in my family can do to make it go away. In fact, it is my belief that there is anyone left in my family that can make it go away that is my problem.

My terms of engagement with my family are mine to constitute through my own awareness of what I am capable of tolerating. Just for today, I am going to see if I can take a guitar to my youngest brother, to donate to his music program. I don’t have expectations that we will have a nice visit as well. I expect that we will not have a visit at all, that he will take the guitar, say thanks, and hurry off to something else, if he is there at all. I will have decluttered another item out of my space and contributed to a music program. I do not expect to have a meaningful conversation with my brother. Meaningful conversations with my siblings are extremely rare and certainly not the norm.

Today I am setting up my library, music, and art studio to begin processing creative works. I am excited with the possibilities as I pick up each book and think about drawing an extract for further contemplation, music making, and drawing/painting explorations.

All is well.

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