“One thing I have learned with certainty is not to stand in connection with those who diminish me. This is particularly difficult when family is involved, because we have a vested interest in perpetuating the family system for all kinds of different reasons. I don’t believe one should endure abuse no matter how attached they are to an idea of family. There are many families (read: soulpod) waiting for us just outside our habitual awareness. We are not responsible for those who diminish us. We really have to get that. We can be compassionate and we can certainly understand where their abusiveness comes from, but understanding the origins does not mean we have to endure it. It’s not our cross to bear.” Jeff Brown
We live our lives and reach out to those around us that we feel a connection with. Sometimes that connection comes from a sense of duty, sometimes it is from a shared activity, sometimes we are moved by compassion. There are times when we share interests with people or just connect on a number of levels and enjoy their company. In addition to all of those, we often make extended efforts with members of our own family because the loss of family can seem so alien to everything we know and have been taught. Families are supposed to be forever. They are the ones that are always supposed to have your backs.
Truth is, families can inflict more pain that anyone else we know. They are often our harshest critics and the ones least likely to forgive or allow that we may have changed. They can be reluctant to see or acknowledge any of our strengths. Some members can place blame on other members and take out their frustrations regarding their own life. They speak to and treat their family members unlike they would ever treat another human being, because they may have a history of doing that, or because they feel the family will take the abuse and still be there for them. Many families do stand by these abusers and cop their abuse for an entire lifetime. And finally, some family members assume their families owe them everything and expect them to bail them out of trouble, to finance their life, to be there if they need something, while they put nothing back into the relationship at all.
When we grow up we become adults just like our parents and siblings and all our aunts and uncles and even our grandparents. If, as an adult, we expect that support and gifts for birthdays and Christmas, as well as financial support for events of our life, then all those other adults have a right to them too. Yet sadly, many people become adults and expect their families to continue to gift their lives as if they were still children. They never transition into a practice of giving and are often angry when they are not the continued recipients of everyone else’s gifts throughout the years. They do not always see the new children in the family who should now be the focus.
It is the sense of entitlement.
At Christmas we think of our families, and we all have dysfunction of some sort, and we consider that we are supposed to be together and love one another. It is part of the joy we experience as we anticipate the holidays. We feel pain if that is missing or lost. But the emotions of the season can be conflicted because at the same time as we anticipate love, many of us have experiences with those same people that is abusive. We get together with family knowing we may have to endure being ignored, or mistreated. We can dread the encounter and ask ourselves, “What is the point?”
This year I have had reason to really pull all this apart and examine it closely, for my own life. I want to live my life with integrity and so I make the effort to connect for all the reasons I stated. I don’t want to be someone other than I have. I don’t want how other people act to control my life. I reach out to people, I include them, I look for ways to heal and move forward and to bless one another’s life, even if it is for nothing more than the sheer pleasure of laughing when we are together. Yet, despite my intentions, I come to this season feeling used and abused by some of those connections.
I had to change the dynamic.
The first thing was to accept responsibility for my belief that tells me I should, or I need to, push myself and try harder, even in the face of absolutely zero evidence of the other person caring or respecting me. I choose to do that. If I accept that responsibility then I could be sure I was not projecting blame. No-one makes me do anything, I choose my reactions especially when I am not spending any time to think about what I am doing. If I can make unhealthy choices that cause me unhappiness, I can make healthier choices that will bring me happiness. Part of that is me realizing that I could no longer be a doormat.
It came back again to beliefs and accepting a premise when it does not actually logically resonate with me. I want a family, I want friends, but does it matter if they come through blood or love? Does the existing definition of “friends” or “family” still have any authenticity? In some respects the family that is formed of love is the stronger unit. It is something that young people have known for years. How long have they fled dysfunction of their biological family and united with people who care about them and deemed them family? We see this in the ideas of gangs, and sororities and even young people who share a career or life path and continue to do things as a group. These are the people who are most likely to be there celebrating with us, supporting us to achieve things, sitting with us through our difficult times. These are the people who know us and could speak to what we like or what we would want said or done for all our important life events.
These are the people who choose to be in our lives. They share our lives. They are not above us, making demands or judging us. They are not sucking us dry of life, demanding we pay for the lifestyle they cannot afford without a care for whether we can afford it or what we have to go without in order to do so. These are our family members. These are my tribe. These are my people.
Intention, Actions and Love are all stronger than biology. Biology is what life gives me. The rest is what I make of that biology. Some people have a biological family that support growth. Some do not. Some families and friends bless and enhance our lives. Some use and abuse us. I have a tribe of people ranging from young to old, all over the world. I have sons and daughters I have adopted. I have sisters and brothers. I have parents.
I realized I could just stop trying so hard. There was nothing more I could do or say to convey my willingness to have a healthy, reciprocal relationship. I had been true to my own heart and extended the invitation. It was not my decision for them not to be here with me, it was theirs. Other people have to answer for their own lives, make their own decisions, and I have to accept their choice. I have to accept who they are but I also have to accept I deserve love and respect and I cannot be fair to myself and allow people who lie and abuse to have access to my heart.
I don’t hate these people. I don’t wish them poorly. I am not on a smear campaign of revenge because I have cried over them. I just do not want to engage in the drama anymore. I do not want to live in a world where that kind of behaviour is “normal.” I am going to take my focus and attention off of them and I am just going to look at the people who are here, my family, and be thankful. I am going to enjoy what they bring to my life. I am moving forward.
At the end of this year I have a huge bus parked outside my life, and on it is every single one of my peoples. We are moving forward. Left behind, as I leave this year, are those who will probably not even notice I have gone. I leave them with love and well wishes but I am not staying here and I am not coming back. There are new adventures, new people ahead. There is life.