Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Breathe In...Hold...Breathe Out

Dear Self,

Alright. Let's just regroup here, commit some things to writing, and most importantly of all, try to (brace yourself, Self) LEARN from our experiences with our family of origin. We'd really like to avoid repeat performances and subsequent feelings of being all knotted up inside, having less than pleasant thoughts about the people who we grew up with, so if we could FOCUS a bit and work toward GROWTH, that would be super.

First, let's review how we'll react when our sister asks everyone if they want to go bowling, gets impatient when it takes a few minutes to decide, and then, once we agree to go, announces that she can't go after all because she took TWO of her anti-depressant pills instead of the prescribed ONE, and she needs to sleep off her little overdose. Perhaps the not-so-subtle eye roll in her direction isn't actually helping to solve the problem. Next time, just as a thought, perhaps we could ask her if she has any EXTRA pills she could throw our way, because lord knows we're gonna need something to get us through this family gathering.

Second. Self, this is an important one. Let's try NOT to engage in a full fledged debate with our mother and sister about ethics and pride when they start talking about how to get all you can from the Olive Garden Restaurant by just eating the free bottomless salad that comes with the meal all night, and then having them wrap up your entree for tomorrow night's dinner at home. Because engaging in that type of discussion with them is obviously futile, Self. We've learned that now, remember?

Third. When we pay for a family trip to the New England Aquarium, which we know is about equivalent to a mortgage payment on the house, let's not be surprised when the rest of the family lasts not one moment more than fifteen minutes inside, before they start getting hungry and bitchy. Let's not even OFFER them the snacks we thought to pack before we left the house, because we will now know for certain that their need to leave the Aquarium is really their need to flee something within themselves. Okay, Self? Let's just know this and adjust our expectations.

Regarding the CURRENT family, Self, the ones we actually CHOSE or molded into people we like and respect, let's be extra kind to them as they try to navigate the muddy (in fact sewage-y) waters of our family of origin. Let's do all we can to avoid barking at them when they are really the treasures of our life. They are the lifeboats, Self, so let's just sail away on them (say, to Jamaica in March!) and take comfort in their beautiful souls.

Hold on there, Self. Not so fast! There's this issue of our mother and how she pretends that everything is just MAHRvelous with our sister and her daily two hour naps. The mother who laughed when her own first-born daughter spat in a frustrated moment that she was PLAGUED by impatient fathers, referring to her own husband and her own father (husband of that mother of ours). That father of ours looked on to that scene with those two women with a breaking heart. Can we really try to learn from this, please, and not go in with a naive optimism that is actually a demon in disguise? Because when that demon takes her mask off, she's evil. Repeat after me, Self: "Mom can't bear to see her first-born's faults. It reflects too closely on herself." Now say it again, louder. Excellent. We did it!

Now, the next assignment is tricky, so don't expect to get it all done at once. Throughout the new year, we need to reflect carefully on what our relationship with our family of origin should really be. Should we hang out with people who make us feel rotten on the inside? What's it really for? What are the pros and cons of changing or even severing the relationship? Ask bloggy friends for advice (this part you can do ASAP).

Happy New Year, Self. May this be a year of growth and, pleaseohplease, peace.



p.s. Happy New Year to my bloggy friends too! May you also find true peace wherever you look. I'm really glad to have found you! Now start advising me - STAT!


Vodka Mom said...

Note to You...

Surround yourself by people who lift you UP, who never, ever judge, and who surround you with support and love.

do. it.

Serena said...

As this post rings far too true to leave an adequate answer without taking up all your comment space I will just say my resolutions are far too similar, and I agree with V.M.
Our time's too valuable and our children too precious to waste on those who only bring us down.
Feel free to email me. We can form a happy family alliance and support group! Happy New Year!

Laggin said...

Yup. Yup. And yes.

I had a little "self" enlightenment myself this year when I realized that I'd rather hang out with my FIL at Christmas (a man I openly detest), than be with my own mother. I can't say my mother makes me feel bad about myself...she just pisses me off. About everything.

If, on the other hand, she actively made me doubt myself and feel sad, I think it would be easier to cut her out of my life.

I guess you just use that good old test...when you get to the end of your life, which decision will you be happiest with? I have to think that surrounding yourself with love and acceptance is the most important thing you can do for yourself.

Jen W said...

This post rings so true for me, too. I've been struggling with the cutting the ties thing in my family of origin for a number of years.

I can't give any advice though...I'm still in that middle space.

Possibly Moving Mom said...

Families are tough. Holidays can be tougher. Kudos to you for being (or at least sounding) so sane in the face of the insanity you describe.

And ditto to the four above me. Life is short. Your resolutions make tremendous sense.

I was raised to always think of others first and that thinking of myself in any circumstance is just selfish and wrong. My resolution is to break free from this thinking and raise my children without it. Empathy is a good thing, but (in my case) becoming a doormat takes it too far.

Here's to a happy 2009!

patty said...

(sing it girlie!)

happy new year!

DCD said...

Also agreeing with VM (she always gives such good advice.)

Although I don't have this kind of family angst, I do have a certain naivete regarding people I make friends with. I'm pretty much always willing to believe the best of people - which has bitten me in the butt on a couple of occasions. Not that I want to become all cynical, maybe just a little more cautious.

If it helps at all, we love and admire you!!

goodfather said...

Happy New Year! Great post. I don't have any advice for you, other than pursuing peace, as you're already resolved to do.

smiles4u said...

I could relate to this post on so many levels. Thank you for sharing never know who's life you touch when you share yourself and you touched mine. I really do pray that 2009 is full of much more peace in your life. I love the great words of wisdom that other's have shared here...I will take these words to my heart also as they are such good reminders for all of us!

bernthis said...

Been there, done that, go there again, do that again, go yet again, do that yet again and then finally stop going there and doing anything.

anymommy said...

Happy New Year again! Family is... yeah. For me, I could never cut them completely out of my life, but I try really hard (and often fail) to remember that only I decide whose opinions and actions matter to me.

Focus on the people who love you unconditionally and behave like grown ups. Now, if only I could BE one of those people.

heartatpreschool said...

It's the most wonderful time of the year! (did you read that in the tune of the song? cause it reads better that way...)

You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. I think you need to do your best to set your expectations when you do spend time with them, and allow yourself to bow out without guilt when you just can't do it sometimes.

Ms Picket To You said...

oh girl. girl. um yeah.

i keep hoping and wishing and wondering if someday this chosen family, this one i made, will think of me as just the "origin" type. skeery.

lurve you.