(Note: Originally Authored on June 14, 2012. Since, read The Family Furnace and The Scorpion and The Frog).
Day 10 : Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.
This is a rather difficult post, because most of the people that I could’ve written about in this topic were let go years ago throughout certain circumstances. A lot of things change when a person gets married, and even more so when a person has a child. Many people fall away, as a result of the social structure changing. Even so, many people were disassociated voluntarily, most through unfavorable circumstances. That being a marriage to a highly desired man. Or, a certain amount of jealousy toward my family and the woman no one expected me to become. And lastly, over interpersonal struggles that had been present for many years.
Plainly said, I don’t allow a person to exist in my life who does me harm.
With one exception.
Family. An antiquated notion anymore, and yet we all still are drawn to the traditional definition of such.
What is family? It has different meanings to different people. For some, especially many that were raised by people that are not related by blood, family are the people closest to you, care for you, and treat you as if you belong. They are the people who love you unconditionally, and would do anything to oversee your health, safety, well-being and general welfare.
For others, family are the people that are kin by blood, or by marriage through blood. These are the same people that share genetic matter with one another. It is the blood that bonds, and should generate those protective and loving emotions. The family contains a mother, father, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins (however distant), and grandmothers and grandfathers (however prefixed with great or otherwise). It is the hierarchy that provides the structure and governs the family system.
In this setup, certain rules of conduct exist. Family members are expected to treat others with a kind regard and respect at all times. Family members are not permitted to have all-out fights, as it insinuates contempt for another, and spells a potential of a deviation from the family. Although, if there is a deviation from the family system, that person is excluded, because they abandoned their duties to the family, meaning that they have not the love required. Family members are obligated to each other, even when there is a dislike between two members. Dislike can exist, but can never be expressed openly. And family members are private, to be kept within the family system. No outsiders.
The second is my family system. The family system that attempts to replicate those of 1950′s television families, and falls incredibly short. The reality of a family and the fantasy of the television family cannot intersect, because there is no commonality, except the tradition of family.
Now, I come from a heavy Scottish heritage. Scots are notorious for their clans and said allegiances. The thing about clans is that they are often family. And the thing about rival clans is that they are often family, too. They are several branches of family that had irreconcilable differences, due mostly to conflicting views and stubbornness against compromise. Scots are a proud people and intensely loyal. And that’s how a Scottish family system operated. Family looked out for each other, because if they didn’t, who would? And chances are, if you weren’t affiliated with a clan or didn’t follow a clan’s way, then you would be abandoned and left for dead.
What does this all have to do with someone I need to let go of? I need to let go of the antiquated version of family I grew up with. I need to expel the notions of the Cleaver family, and realize that it is nonexistent. Well, in my family anyway.
Everyone in this world has at least one secret desire that they know is absolutely impossible for them. That is exactly why it is a secret. One of my secret desires is to have family that unconditionally loves me, and treats me like I belong. I have always desperately wanted parents who treated me like they appreciated my individuality, and could come to terms with the fact that I am not the child they envisioned. I’ve always wanted them to be proud and express positive emotions toward me. I wanted loving parents, who weren’t afraid to say they love me, and show physical affection.
I wanted an extended family that I could really know. Scots are notorious for their huge families. I mean, that’s how you grow the clan, right? I have a huge extended family. I’ve stated this before, but my “sister” is not biologically my sister, from the same parents. We are related by blood as third cousins. Yes, my family is close enough that I know my third cousins. My son and her son will likely grow up as family, cousins, although according to the state of Pennsylvania, they are not related. (5th cousins. Who can say they know their 5th cousin?) But, as my extended family goes, my sister is the only one I continue to have a good relationship with.
I knew my Pappap. We had a fantastic relationship before he passed. I miss him. I really do. The anniversary of his death is coming up – 16 years ago. And he was the head of our clan. Hell, he was the head of two branches of our clan. (That’s how I know my sister’s family at all). And when he passed, the glue of our family started coming apart. He was the only thing that held it together.
But, just because my Pappap held the family together does not mean we were apart of each others lives. In fact, quite the contrary. My aunt, also serving in the capacity of my godmother, made the attempt. The fact was, she just didn’t like children. Another aunt of mine lived in distant California. Another aunt of mine was just too jealous of the fact that my mother had a daughter and she had two unruly boys. Another aunt of mine was a part of my life, and really was my friend. Until she met her now husband and moved away. Then, there was my young uncle, a bachelor and professional. He hardly made an appearance at any of these events. We were quite estranged for many reasons. Many that I couldn’t understand at the time.
As a teen, the question always lingered in my mind; Why don’t I belong in my own family? If I didn’t belong anywhere else in the world, why couldn’t I seem to fit into my family. In theory, there should have been a guaranteed spot where I would be accepted, understood, and loved unconditionally. But, as I grew more symptomatic, the more I was pushed away. The gap was noticeable at that point, and I came to the realization that I didn’t fit some kind of mould that was created for me. I wasn’t a lovely blonde girl with big blue eyes who spoke softly, smiled sweetly, and was brilliant in a humble way. I was something entirely different, almost monstrous.
It was at that time that I discarded any sentiments that I could fit in, because I knew it was just not possible for me. And I stopped trying. It actually inspired me to attempt to embody everything that was the opposite of what was expected of me. I didn’t want to conform, because I did not want to “belong” to anyone. Love should not have contingencies, and I should not be expected to be anyone but myself. That should be more than good enough to people who call themselves “family” to me.
That does not mean I discarded my longing for family. Family are the people who love you, no matter what. Feats or failures. Achievements or disappointments. They are the people who help you, not out of obligation, but because they really want to see you in a better place. They don’t judge you. They don’t hold grudges or debts. Family should be the people that are guaranteed confidants, supports, fail safes, and friends.
I longed for parents who would provide me with support, affection, and guidance. I longed for grandparents who would fawn over me, and lend me wisdom. I longed for cousins that could be friends. I so desperately desired aunts and uncles that could teach me about life, give insight on my parents and adulthood in general, and be confidants. Instead, I got parents that berated me for being me, and gave up on parenting altogether when I turned seventeen, because in truth, they didn’t really want to be parents at all. I lost my grandfather young, and ended up with a grandmother who was indifferent to her grandchildren. (According to my mother, she was indifferent to most of her children too. I don’t take that personally). I had cousins who held a grudge because I was “the baby” and the only girl on this coast. My eldest cousin resented me for having the responsibility for looking after me during family events and vacations. I had an aunt who despised my existence, and another who attempted to use me as a surrogate child, and later decided she wasn’t cut out for kids.
And between all of these people, throughout the years, silent grudges and resentment started opening up. I had realized that I was caught by accidental crossfire, but it hurt just the same. All of the trauma still follows me, and I’ve felt like the only resolution would be to have that ideal family.
I need to let the notion of family go. The only way to resolve that trauma is to understand that definition of family is not the only definition of family. I didn’t have a mother for guidance. I stumbled around adolescence and had to find my way to womanhood alone. I didn’t have a father in the traditional “daddy’s little girl” sense. I had a dictator, who wasn’t much of a male role model for later men in my life. I had to fumble my way around dating and men myself. And in the end, I still ended up with a man much like my father, without the hands-on approach to family.
I need to give up on the idea that my parents will suddenly become parents, even though their sudden appearance as grandparents gave me false hope. They are who they are, and they’ll always regard me as the person I am, no matter how much I grow and change. My mother said to me, with a sigh, “I see a lot of myself in you. A lot of the things that you tell me about your . . . mind, it rings a bell.” It gave me false hope. It gave me this idea that she would become my mother and help me in hard times of my marriage and parenting. But, I know she won’t. My father will never be a father to me. He hardly ever was. He is at least a friend now, anyway. But, he’ll never brag to his friends about his beautiful, intelligent, talented daughter. He’ll never express pride or admiration toward me. Neither of them will.
That’s the way it is. I need to let go of my family and let it be what it is, instead of hoping that it will suddenly turn into something it never was, and never will be.