I am distracted. And struggling not to be. Yes, it is 6:14 in the morning. Yoga, meditation, affirmations, some fictional writing and journaling have already been attended to but I’m losing focus. It makes me realize just how much time is truly wasted with drama.
Mom hit me with some family drama the moment I came in the door from work last night. We had a lovely day Saturday celebrating my Uncle Ernie’s birthday at his home on the lake. We chatted with family and friends, did some catching up here and there. I spent some time on the water, boating, with my Aunt Sharon and Cousin Jenny. And then we came home. Though lies, petty jealousies and childish attitudes have caused some recent splintering in this already fragile dynamic, there was little evidence of this at the cookout. Albeit, fewer faces of loved ones shared the day with us–and they were missed–but everyone in attendance mingled amiably, ate a lot of good food (so much for my 20 lbs by Nov. 20th…), and the gossip and drama appeared to be non-existent. Until yesterday. Apparently, one of my cousins seems bent on keeping the feuds going, posting some rather hurtful remarks on Facebook. I’m not sure why. And I’m not sure I want to know why anyone would get their rocks off of hurting their own flesh and blood; that sort of meanness is just something I can’t wrap my mind around. And, again, I don’t want to. Abuse, no matter what form it takes, is unacceptable.
Of course, this is all hearsay; Mom may have edited a bit to try to keep peace, as I know how deeply hurt she was when the family splintered apart after my grandmother’s passing in 1990. I usually avoid the ongoing dramas…especially on Facebook, where everyone suddenly finds the courage to say things to others they would never have the courage to say face-to-face. While I love many things about the Internet and social media, the use of it as a tool for hurting others is one facet of it I don’t like.
I’m Switzerland. I don’t see “sides”. There is no one member better than I am (or each other) nor do I consider myself better than anyone else; we are all the same in His eyes–and in mine. And there are more important things to worry about than he said/she said. My maternal grandparents had 11 children, 8 of whom are still with us. And, while we may often resemble the Hatfields and McCoys, there isn’t a single member of this family that I don’t love deeply. I may not always like the way they act, but I love them anyway. And yet, becoming that proverbial hermit-in-the-woods is pretty appealing at this point. There are times when I get so frustrated with everyone, it’s all I can do to keep from wanting to sit each family member in a separate corner for timeout so they can get their foolishness under control. This is not at all the way my grandmother raised them to be and yet they continue to dishonor her memory by creating these “sides”. My grandmother’s grave has weeds growing on it. There is an old wives’ tale that this is a sign the person is not resting in peace. I can’t imagine why…
I also can’t imagine that this is God’s plan for this family, that we should fight and bicker and throw hurtful comments back and forth. Yes, I know the old kiddie refrain of “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” That’s not entirely true. Words cut into the soul; sticks and stones only hurt the flesh.
Sitting back and observing, as only a writer can, it seems as this family tries to get back together–or, if we must put this in past-tense–when the family was trying to get back together, various members came back expecting others to have changed, to be different people than the ones they shied away from before. Yes, people can change. But I am reminded of something in my Al-Anon daily reader, “Courage to Change”, about how we expect others to act the way we want them to and then get angry with them when they act on their own. I’m paraphrasing but it is by-product of alcoholism, wanting to control each other, and having unrealistic expectations. No, neither grandparent was an alcoholic (nor, to my knowledge, is any aunt, uncle or cousin) but both great-grandfathers had a reputation for alcoholism. A. It can skip a generation and B. the coping behaviors learned by one generation often get handed down to another because there’s been no one teaching them a better, more respectful way of treating one another–and ourselves. As one of my best friend’s mother phrased it, “You can only work with the tools you’ve been given.” Yes, there are deeper issues behind the family feuds, but alcoholism lies at the root–the root that prevents the type of communication needed for healing to begin. (Denial is another symptom of alcoholism…)
I grew up in an active alcoholic home. My step-father drank heavily and was a violent man when he drank; he fit most of the stereotypical images of the flaming alcoholic. But alcoholism is often more subtle than that. Growing up with active alcoholism, you learn to keep your thoughts and your feelings to yourself. You don’t want to trigger another temper tantrum in the alcoholic nor do you want to be ridiculed or told you’re stupid for your views. This lack of communication, if left alone, often gets perpetuated through the next generation in a family. How can it not if speaking your mind brought on a string of repercussions? The only difference is, that because there is no visible, active alcoholism in the home in this next generation, it is easy to deny the effects, to be unable to recognize them for what they are. Lying, poking one’s nose in everyone else’s affairs, refusing to take responsibility for one’s actions, placing blame, denial, being overly sensitive, sarcasm, lack of trust, low self-esteem and blowing everything out of proportion are all side effects of alcoholism. There’s a reason why both AA and Al-Anon ask us to admit that our lives have become “unmanageable”; they have. How can this sort of behavior be manageable? And, as I type this, I think of how there is a small part of me that is still feeling the effects of my own alcoholic upbringing: I so want to call that “timeout” I mentioned earlier and “force” everyone to get along, but that would only do more harm than good. And that is not my right. So I leave it in the hands of the only One who can heal it, heal each individual, and lead them either closer together, by making all feel welcome and appreciated as is…or allowing those who have been perpetually wounded too deeply to go their own way so that no further abuse or ostracism can be meted out upon them.
Acceptance is where the healing begins. Acceptance that sometimes families are just not capable of being like The Waltons or The Brady Bunch; that is fiction and, while we love it, we cannot write the script or direct the actions of all the players when it comes to real life. Sometimes, though we share blood, we speak totally different languages. And that’s okay…as long as those different languages aren’t used to hurt and abuse each other. When the abuse exists, there’s every right to step away.
Forgiveness is the other starting point. Forgiveness isn’t about condoning another’s conduct. And it doesn’t mean you have to go back into the hornet’s nest and endure more pain and abuse; “family” is who you choose to care for, and that may not necessarily mean “blood”. Forgiveness is about the person, not the act. And forgiveness is for yourself, for your own soul. Matthew 6:14: “Your heavenly Father will forgive you if you forgive those who sin against you; but if you refuse to forgive them, he will not forgive you.” (The Living Bible)
I don’t know where He is leading this family. Again, I am Switzerland. Nobody has the right to bully another, whether by making them feel uncomfortable, placing words in another’s mouth, or by threatening to withhold their love and friendship for associating with “the other side”; there are no sides. And I had enough of walking on eggshells as a child. I am a child of God as is everyone else on this planet, whatever you perceive Him/Her to be. God did not create us to be perfect. He asks only that we love Him with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies; and that we love our neighbors as ourselves. If everyone in this family can remember that, maybe we’ve still got a fighting chance…no pun intended.
May God bless you & keep you!