Over the years I have seen my family grow and change. I am number four out of five siblings. Our Mom is blessedly still a big and important part of all of our lives. We have gained, and sometimes lost, spouses, in laws, grandparents, friends and children. Life has taken us all in many directions, and not always in the ones we anticipated, or even wanted to go in. We have more hilarious memories than we can count. But we have some very sad and painful ones too.
Every one of us is very independent and sometimes ridiculously stubborn. This shared attribute can be an invaluable strength, but sometimes our own enemy. We've helped each other, annoyed each other, and sadly, hurt each other too. I don't know if that is ever completely avoidable. Pain, like change, in this life seems guaranteed.
And right now our family is experiencing pain. Deep pain. Each in different ways at different depths and dimensions. But it is a hurt without a vocabulary. And we all need more hugs.
I pulled out one of my journals the other day. I don't do it regularly, or even in the same journals. But when I need to I pull out the one I feel like, and scribble, usually in circles and nonsensically until I feel more organized. When I opened this one, I saw an entry I made eight and a half years ago. All of our lives were very different from the ones we have now. So much has happened. So much is the same. Family can be the ultimate paradox.
I'm not sure exactly why I feel compelled to share this now. I've never shown it to anyone, not even my husband. Not because it contains anything secretive, but I suppose because I was uncomfortable feeling vulnerable. I'm still vulnerable, and I'm still uncomfortable with it. But there are a lot of families out there that struggle...with life, with each other, with themselves. And I believe the sentiments are true for many families. It's not new or profound, but I needed hear it again.
So I'm going to share what I observed and surmised back then. I have copied it directly, and except for spelling, have not changed a word.
May 26, 2005
Families are amazing things. Huge conglomerates of such vastly different, yet intriguingly similar personalities, all mashed together into a unit. They are the people we treasure, and the people we torture. They know everything about us and yet at the same time can somehow be strangers.
In the same family there are those so kindred they feel what the other feels, and then ones whose distance emotionally is equal to the span of continents. It is in this unit that we relax, get angry, allow ourselves to be foolish and goofy.
They are the people who see us as we are, as the individual the public misses. Our raw emotions come pouring out. They are the ones whose opinions we rebuff, but secretly cherish. Whose approval we most desire to gain. Whose goals and dreams for us we strive for and wish to attain. We want to make them proud and happy, or envious and jealous, sometimes all at once.
Sadly though, they are also the ones we hurt most deeply. And whose faces we look upon after and feel pain driven through our insides because words can't be withdrawn or actions undone. We wield an amazing amount of power, most times without ever realizing it.
We often don't realize that while the members of our families are the ones we most want to please, the reverse is very often the case as well. Someone in our family wants to please us, wants us to be proud of them, to dream for them. What we say and do means everything to them. Most often we never realize this until we have wounded our admirer. And some will never regain their status.
A fortunate few will realize their situation and will become faithful stewards of their loved ones cherished valuables. They will encourage and notice more than before, and they will be kind with their criticism, and tread carefully upon dreams. This is the family member we all want to be.
Families are funny things. Nowhere else will you find such a mix and contrast with such unity and spirit.
I wish I could say that I have had great success in applying my own advise, but I can't. I have let opportunities slip by that could have led to greater unity or healing. I have caused pain to those I love, sometimes in ways that could have been avoided or minimalized. I have made many mistakes. We all have.
I love each and every one of you in my family. I love the things we have in common, but enjoy our unique differences as well. We will often disagree, and make different decisions. But that is to be expected with interests and passions as diverse as ours. But no matter which directions life pulls us, I carry pieces of all of you in my heart, in my children, in myself. And I hope and believe, that all of you do the same.