Sunday, January 26, 2014

This is who and what not to be

Sometimes I love it when my family visits. Other times, not so much. I love my family, don't get me wrong. But, many times, I don't like them. And most of all, I don't get them.

I often feel as if I am the orphan at the table. The red haired step child. I always seem to have one view and the others all share another. And Liv sits there and listens to this, takes it in. I only hope that what she gleans is that there are certain ways NOT to be.

Maybe it's vain of me. Maybe I am too self sure. But...these are things I don't get:

1) Why everyone in my family is so against the legalization of marijuana. What the FUCK is the big deal, I ask you? They are all heavy drinkers, even joke about getting bombed now and then. Marijuana has been studied ad nauseam by the medical community. And it has shown that, used in moderation, it has no ill side effects, in fact can be useful in treating many illnesses. Yet, my family continues to look on in horror as Colorado does what should have been done years ago, hopefully opening the door for the rest of us. I see their faces. Visions of this are flying in their heads:

I, the lone supporter, venture forth with the opinion that the legalization of marijuana is a good thing. They all look at me as if I have just stated that public hangings should be brought back. One of my sisters asks me if I would be okay smoking it front of my child. I tell her that no, not today, but only because it is illegal and I try hard to follow the law in front of my child, but that if it were legal, I would be fine with it. I then point out to her that she was once so drunk at a Beach Boys concert in front of her daughters that they still bring it up at family dinners as a funny story. Is she okay with that?

"Well," she snips back at me, "That's different. Alcohol is legal and everyone gets drunk now and then. And they are teenagers."

Oh. Well, then. Okay. There are so many holes in that logic that I don't even bother to point out that alcohol wrecks havoc on the liver and even destroys brain cells. Marijuana does not.

2) Only one of my sisters refused to attend my wedding. She told me that she had to stand by her beliefs. I get it. But what I don't get is that she also recently attended a Sir Elton John concert where her ticket price was donated to the funding of gay marriage. I found that rather interesting. She won't go to my wedding because of her religious convictions, but she just donated over 100 bucks to the advancement of gay rights? She is also a teacher at a parochial school and read her students the Harry Potter books. One of the main characters of the Harry Potter books is gay. Albus Dumbledore. When I brought this up up to her, she argued that J.K. Rowling was wrong, that Albus Dumbledore is NOT gay. I had to bite my cheeks not to laugh at this. The AUTHOR announced that Dumbedore was gay and she was WRONG?

Right, that makes perfect sense.

No, she pushed. She didn't perceive Dumbledore as gay, so therefore, in her mind, he wasn't.

Explain that to me again?

3) My oldest sister is a chameleon and it bugs the hell out of me. When she is with me, she behaves in one way, is very supportive of my lifestyle, etc. But when my younger sister is with us, (the one who didn't attend my wedding) she suddenly starts pontificating about how much she loves Sarah Palin and how uppity the black population is getting. I find this unsettling and bothersome and well, I see her as a bit of turncoat but if you ask her, she will tell you that she is just keeping the family peace. What this really means is that she is afraid to upset our little sister but not too concerned about upsetting me. I let this one go because, in my heart, I understand her reasoning. She knows that our little sister is very, very prone to bearing grudges and that I am not. So, it is easier to piss off me than her. But Liv sees it and she mulls it over. She has told me that Aunt Patrice is a bit of a coward, don't I agree? I say that yes, I do. She is.

4) My younger sister has three daughters. Lovely girls. The eldest is 22. The youngest, 16. What troubles me is that I don't see the older two girls developing their minds much. They seem intent on remaining in small town mindset. I look at those three smart girls and I think of that big wonderful world out there and how much they could add to it. They are, all of them, smart, funny and sweet. With the right education and open minded teaching, they could pluck off those heavy blinders that their Mother has kept them in and start seeing the world in technicolor. Instead, they choose to remain close to home, holding tight to family values. They would NEVER argue with their Mother, ever. I see this and want to weep. I was raised much the same myself. And broke free. I took on my Mother when I was 24 and was disowned for loving a woman. At the time, many people told me that I should have just made nice, gotten through med school on her dollar and THEN made the jump. But, you know, the best lessons I learned were the ones I learned when I was banished. I learned to be self sufficient. I learned to trust myself. I also made some bad mistakes but these were not because of my being disowned. They were the mistakes of youth that even the best raised can fall into.

I want so badly to see my nieces start thinking for themselves, to raise themselves up and be the women that they are meant to be, could be, if they would just listen to their own drum beat instead of their Mother's iron handed one. But, as Bing has told me more than once, perhaps this is the way that they are. Perhaps this IS their drum beat.

I hate to think so.

Selfishly, I want them to hear mine instead. Or at least something in the middle of mine and their Mother's.

And to be fair, my sister probably feels the same about my daughter. She probably thinks that I brainwash her. But, you know, I disagree. I have always encouraged Liv to think for herself and some of her choices dismay me, but as long as she isn't hurting anyone or herself, I allow her to make them. I am not happy with her choice of a Catholic girl's academy to attend high school. If I had my druthers, I would have her in Montessori until graduation. But, I see the good in her choices, too. I see that she is being taught her curriculum well by gifted teachers. I am not pleased with her lessons of Catholicism, but she hasn't shown any signs of embracing the religion, although she does seem fascinated by it's history. And she says that her friends have told her that they have never known anyone who comes from a family with two Mothers and that they have learned that, yes, we are a family, too. So, perhaps Liv is teaching them as well. I worried so that this would be an issue for Liv at school, that girls would shun her. But no. She is president of her class and there have only been a few snotty comments. The friends that she has sought out have been open minded and a lot like her. She has friends sleep over a lot and she spends plenty of time socializing (too much time sometimes!)

I guess what I need to express about my family is that I didn't choose them. And they certainly would never have chosen me. And I often feel as if I live in a crazy dichotomy. Some of my happiest, most cherished memories have occurred with my sisters. And some of my bitterest anger has come because of them. I love all of my sisters, all of my family. I just don't always like them. One of my nieces told me once that she felt as if I was her eccentric, odd Aunt. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I am hardly eccentric or odd but in my family, the truth is that I am considered extremely odd and very eccentric. I sage my house to protect it from bad spirits. I believe strongly in reincarnation. I am a die hard liberal Democrat. And I don't believe that my soul is saved because I was baptized a Catholic. I think that ALL of our souls are saved if we choose them to be and that good deeds and a loving heart define a person, NOT a religion. Like Karl Marx, I believe that religion is the opiate of the masses. I think that Obama's health care system will be a success. My entire family is ready to burn him at the stake. I tell them to watch and wait. Watch and wait. Yes, there were glitches. Yes, that should not have happened. But, watch and wait. Watch and wait. In the long run, this will work. Our country is being bankrupted by those who don't have insurance. Now that everyone will be required to have insurance, our financial troubles will ease. But this will all take time. And patience. And faith. And no, family, Obama's health care system is NOT socialism. That is a Republican hate catch word that they threw on the table with the hopes that all you little Republicans would scamper up to grab it and use it with your friends. Do me a favor and go educate yourself about the word socialism before you throw it at me with your smug little hands.

I often feel so torn. I keep saying this over and over because it is true: I LOVE MY FAMILY. I went without a family for over a decade and after our Mother died, my sisters and I slowly found our way back to each other. It was not without pain. Especially on my part. I was bitter and angry, but also extremely proud. I had succeeded without them. Made a career for myself. Had a lovely child, a lovely home. I had found happiness without them. But not without suffering. A lot of suffering. A lot of pain. The pain of rejection is something that I don't wish on anyone. It stings like a motherfucker.

And my sisters felt guilty and shamed. My sister, Celia, had never really left me. She had stayed in touch with me even though we both knew that if my Mother had ever found out, she would have disowned Celia too. I will always love her the most for that. The courage that she showed. Jessie came back within six months of my Mother's passing and Patrice, the most stubborn, two years later. And, at last, we were all together again. I had missed them so! And then I felt almost overwhelmed. I went from famine to feast. All at once, I was invited to holiday dinners and birthdays and movies. Liv, who was about 3 at the time, went from having just me for family, to having a whole slew of relatives and cousins. At first, it was lovely and then little by little, our good manners stole away and our true natures came out and well....there you go. Orphan at the table. Red haired step child. That was me. I discovered that my years away had bought me something else: a completely different way of looking at the world. Since I hadn't had the bosom of family to retreat to, lean into, I ventured out into the world on my own. And what I learned there was that thinking for oneself is a very, very good thing. I vowed that I would teach that to my daughter. And I have.

But, the love, the need for family still rings in me. I still pine for it. That part of me that went without for so long, still aches for it. A part of me wants badly to just play along, not rock the boat. But, the other part of me, the stronger part, knows that I have to rock it. I have to follow my own heart, say what I believe.

And therein lies the rub. I have to straddle both fences somehow. And it taxes me.

One of my nieces once joked that I should have this song at my funeral and you know, I think I will!

So, tell me how you fit into your family? Where does your particular puzzle piece fit? Are you blessed to be a good fit or a round peg in a square hole?


Anonymous said...

My husbands younger brother was gay, everyone knew it but refused to say anything in front of his Mother, when his crap living philandering dad died, the shit hit the fan, he was with him in the same city when he died, he was helpful but overcome with grief, I did not care if he was in love with an ale, a bale of hay or a whale, he was hurting, our only child adored him and when he died young of complications from AIDS she had such grief oh, my living God..I have seen people live in the river of denial. I hate it most know their family members are gay, accept it and love them already, they are your flesh and blood nothing should change.. I am from Spanish blood over in Spain no one give a shit about if one's family member is gay, they accept all in the family, how sad here in the USS people get their knickers in a wad when someone comes out, really really??? I don't get that..Keep your head high you sound so lovely and your daughter too. Your blog is sweet, don't take to heart and to your soul the unpleasantries of your familia, they will pay with Karma I have seen it in my own lifetime, what you spew to others and the universe you pay for someone it comes back to slap one in the fact, be kind with words for the words will be unkind or kind to you however you use them..This week, peace, joy and love,,ciao mjs

lily cedar said...

I don't fit into my family either. I don't want contact with my siblings right now, I'm still angry about the fact that they would not visit my mum more, or help with her care. Their answer to my request for help was, mum should go live in a nursing home. My mum died six days after she was told this.

I have twin sisters who are 67. I don't fit in with them. I'm not their twin and I'm almost young enough to be their child. One of the twins has a brain injury and she's odd but not cruel. She has not empathy and is a little emotionally labile, a lot actually. The other twin is the oldest and has been angry with me since I got pregnant at 20. She would deny this. She would also deny that she was ever angry with my mother for not going to her son in law's funeral. My sister lives in denial. Big time.

And then I have a younger brother who is immature and self centered. He once told me, in front of his children, that he was glad a coworker had cancer because she was such a bitch. I lost all respect for him then.

I gather friends around me, hoping that they will feel like family. They don't but I hope anyway. The big guy has no contact with his family, big fight, false accusations and I'm guessing a fair bit of drunken ultimatums.


My sisters and my brother have never asked me about my divorce from my husband. Not one of them has ever offered to help with Katie, not even for ten minutes! It hurts a lot. So I sit here, angry, unable and unwilling to trust any of them with my most vulnerable self. They probably think I'm a bitch and I guess I am to them. But I will not let them hurt me again and again and again.

Hey, you asked:) And thank you for asking. It's been on my mind lately because it's been almost a year since my mum died. And they wouldn't fucking come and see her. It makes me sick.

John said...

I enjoy reading your thoughts and your outlook is refreshing in its honesty. As you, I love my family dearly although at times could quite happily strangle the lot of them. Certainly the last few years as I've firstly succumbed to and now started to try to live with depression have brought both hitherto unknown depths of love, bigotry and ignorance from them.

Mitchell is Moving said...

As far as I'm concerned traditional family is not all it's cracked up to be. I was close with my sister, but she died when she was only 29. Until that time, we were very different, but were always able to talk about things (and she was never hateful or judgmental). My brother is learning disabled, so it's more a parent-child relationship. My problems come from my 16 aunts and uncles, 17 cousins and the 25 children of those 17 cousins. I'm happy to have an ocean between us.

I'm glad Liv has you and Bing!

Danielle L Zecher said...

It's very impressive to me that you have as a relationship with your family as you after having basically been kicked out.

My relationship with my family is odd: my parents are ultra-religious and almost everything (holidays, politics, homosexuality, sex before marriage, etc) is WRONG to them. My sister and I left all of that behind a long time ago, and have become much closer since then. We bascially take a don't ask/don't tell approach to those subjects with our parents. It's probably not the best thing in world, but it seems to be working out alright for right now.

Joanne Noragon said...

The most affirming part of reading all the lovely blogs is proving my long held maxim, there is no such thing as a functional family. We all do the best we can with what we have for who we have. Hooray for all of us.

e said...

I fit in well with my family, who are all a bunch of oddballs. I have a younger brother who is mentally ill and has issues with me and our older brother, but by and large, we all get along.

Lucky, I guess.

Bibliomama said...

I've never had to deal with that kind of cognitive and emotional distance. I've been really lucky with my parents and my sister and then my brother-in-law. We regularly spend holidays and travel together, and genuinely enjoy each other's company. My mother is Catholic and has some hang-ups about homosexuality in theory, but she knows we don't agree with her and she doesn't project that dislike onto individuals. I can't imagine having to swallow that kind of bitterness and unfairness in order to keep the parts of your family that you love - and I really admire you for it. It sounds like your daughter is a strong-willed, independent person in her own right, but it also sounds like you've set a remarkable example for her.

Jacquelineand.... said...

I love my family...and repeat that to myself frequently. They got a bit of a shock a few years ago when I'd finally had enough and cut off all contact for a year and a bit; if it hadn't been for a family member's illness I'd probably not have allowed contact again.
Did I miss them? Like a toothache.
I stick out like a sore thumb in my family and that's okay; I love them but don't fit well with them. I keep tabs on them and take a break when I need to.

Kate Brainerd said...

I love my family, but we are not close. When circumstances bring us together from our far-flung lives, we are happy to see each other; but we can also go for a long time without contact. My sister has not communicated with me in any way for three years. Sometimes I think that a possible cause is the deaths of two children between the older two kids in my family, and the younger two. To people who don't know our history, this looks like a 7 year gap between my older brother and sister, and my younger brother and me. But maybe my mother sees that as a hole. I don't know. We never, ever bring it up. Forbidden topic. We are Midwestern, after all. :) I sometimes wonder if that horrific period in my mom's life affected her ability to bond; especially with me. The only people who would know are Mom herself, and my older siblings (dad is dead now). But I can't bring it up, so I will never know.

Trop said...

I don't get my family and they don't get me. I've always been the odd one out.

I am the only one of my siblings to leave my hometown; my sisters both live within two miles of my parents and my 56-year-old brother NEVER left home! He's a hoarder and has taken over my parents' home. He's also a Dinesh D'Souza republican and lifelong NRA member, scared to death the government is going to take his guns.

They'd all have embolisms if they knew that three out of the four neighbors adjacent to my home are >whisper< "Black."

I'm closest to my younger sister who is still too religious for her own good, but she's more open-minded than most evangelicals. She and I have always been the closest of us siblings. My older sister has Asperger's and though she's sweet she's hard to be with.

My father has worshiped Rush Limbaugh from the moment Rush took to the airwaves. My father has always tried to bait me with "Rush Limbaugh says...." I hate it! He's proud of his PhD daughter, but constantly puts me down for being too educated.

My family never accepted my first spouse because he's Bengali Indian. We divorced on account of his mental health issues, but my family could NEVER wrap their brain around that. When I broke up with Raj, my brother asked if I wanted a gun! Raj is the gentlest man I have EVER known--but to my family Raj was the Taliban (wrong country, wrong religion, didn't matter). They would talk about him like this in front of my daughter as if he was a terrorist, not her father.

My mother HATES that I am a lesbian, and she barely acknowledges my wife Courtney. Mom's become quite combative in her old age. For a long time she made a sport of belittling me whenever I'd travel there for a visit. And when my daughter would spend a week of vacation visiting my them, my mother would make her do chores; my brother LIVES in their house and he's not expected to do chores!

A few years ago I called them out on all of their hostility and I stopped driving the 300 miles to visit them. Things improved after this time-out, but much of it remains the same.

And of course it is always us who visits them, none of them have visited me in over a decade (since I came out). My parents are too old, but my sister's could make an effort. My brother would be scared in my house on account of my neighbors. Did I mention that my neighbors are >whisper< "Black"?

My younger sister and I think my brother is gay, but he's too seriously homophobic to ever come to terms with that. It's sad.

Nowadays my dad has dementia and my mother is not far behind, so I see them when I can and I just ignore all of the crap. They'll soon be gone, and despite everything I will miss them terribly.

Kass said...

My feelings about my family are SO similar to yours. I was raised Mormon and raised my children Mormon, but somehow they missed the point of the kindness and tolerance lesson. My sons think they have to "take a stand" - a very verbal stand against what they have deemed is "God's plan." I want to say, "shut up"...and sometimes I do.

I love my family to the point of tears, but I don't respect some of them for their narrow views.

Miss Healthypants said...

Thank you for writing this, Maria - it's good not to feel like you're not the only one who doesn't exactly fit in with your family. I love my family, too, but I'm so different from most of them.

Miss Healthypants said...

Thank you for writing this, Maria - it's good not to feel like you're not the only one who doesn't exactly fit in with your family. I love my family, too, but I'm so different from most of them.

Anonymous said...

THIS is anonymous the last one on your blog, are you having a better week??? surely hope so, no one can live in one's own body and soul, you should not get hurt about the family you were born into, you had nothing to do with the circumstances, if others prefer to act like yahoos it is not your fault, find people who will care about you and love you without any judgement that is what I did, my hubs is the absolute best person, he judges no man, woman or anyone for that matter, he is not hateful or unkind and he actually is decent and kind, loving to the band of outlaws he calls his siblings..and to my familia too! He wastes no time with bitter and crapy people whatsever, preferring nature and love to be his guide, spiritual but not attending his temple (jewish) rather to live the torah in his life, our only is free as a bird she judges no person, plane or train as she likes to quip, she has a wicked sense of humor and is so sweet and loving she tries to brighten up others lives not bring them down..Keep your head up high love your girl and keep happy, people who dump on others are miserable, you are not, ciao happy Chinese new year, Year of the Wooden Horse, may this year bring you only love, joy and peace, ciaoX(()()

Anonymous said...

Jocelyn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jocelyn said...

Btw, what a fascinating comment thread. You started something here, he?