All families are crazy. This can be good, this can be bad. This can be happy, this can be sad. This can be loud, this can be whispered. But let’s be honest, all families are crazy.
Mine included. Some days, I think mine especially.
I watch my friends and siblings who still have young children and I am amazed at how busy they are, the constant running, the activities, the school work, the obligations to other family and other friends and wonder how they hell they do it! And then I watch my friends who are coping with aging parents, the slowing bodies and disengaging minds, the fear and anxiety, and the pressure, and wonder how the hell they do it! My own little whirlwind of activity and anxiety seems nothing in comparison although, as I have pointed out before, given the essentially selfish nature of most of us, my anxiety and activity will always trump yours! Well… for the moment any way.
The reason for bringing this up are a few bitter moments I watched over dinner last night. As it’s not exactly my story to tell, I won’t provide details but can make a few observations. First, we all seek allies. I saw that happen last night, one person confiding in another seeking the approbation needed or the confirmation desired. The fact that we need to unload our troubles means we look for sympathetic shoulders on which to weep, even when what we should rather have is someone to slap us across the face and say “wake up! you’re actually fighting about something quite different here than you think you are!”
It is so hard for us to recognize when we have chosen the wrong path, or at least, are staying on a path was a good one for awhile, but has now become the wrong one for us. I saw that last night too, but I think maybe I was the only one who did. And it’s also hard for us to not get the support and kudos we think we should for doing a job that’s hard to explain to others, demanding of our time and even of our souls, and for which we sometimes feel that our successes and accomplishments are, if not denigrated, certainly ignored by the very people we need to hear say “good job! I’m so proud of you!” I also saw a little of that last night, although I might not have been the only one to catch that feeling.
What did the poet say – home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. Substitute ‘family’ for the word ‘home’, and you know what we want family to be. This perfect place of love and welcome, where we all think alike, and behave alike, and share values and goals and dreams that match each other to a ‘t’. Ha! Maybe in Jim & Margaret Anderson’s perfect “Father Knows Best” world but not in mine… or yours… or yours over there in back corner pretending to be interested in something other than the fight that’s going on.
We are born into family, and they are ours for better or worse, and we always want them to love us and accept us. We make family out of friends, and because we have chosen them they may provide us with more validation but may also come to the dinner table with less honesty. We marry into family, and they are ours until death us do part, and we make comparisons between the family by blood and by marriage and who does the stupider things, but we want our significant other’s significant family to also care about us as they care about the s.o.
Family is crazy, and messy, and demanding, and rewarding, and loving, and pitfall-y, and ugly, and imperfection seeking absolution. We need it, until we don’t. And then we miss it, and we ask to be let in again, and we wonder how could we live without family, and how do we cope with these crazies, and so the cycle goes.
Until it’s somebody else’s turn to host the next family dinner….