Family Revisited

With some strong opinions about our current political situation.

What you see here is my immediate family: Paco and me and me and Paco. Don’t be sad about it, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. After 30 years of therapy, countless self-help books, two or three semi-rewarding careers, and early retirement, this is where I’ve landed. Paco and Portugal are a pretty darned good combination. I can walk him year-round without ever having to step in snow or wear a winter coat. This is the life I have chosen and I believe it is unfortunate that there are people who are partnered or dying to be partnered, who feel sorry for me. Family can be defined in many different ways; for me, family is me and my dog. Trust, loyalty, commitment, and love; none of it questionable or wavering (new).

Pandemic, war, climate change, political division . . . these are the times we reflect on what matters.

A thought I am stating upfront (reprinted from 2019):

Admittedly, this has been one of the more difficult blogs I have written thus far. I have wanted to write about family from the day I started publishing, but I have often hesitated and abandoned the idea. There have been mentions of family; however, I have clearly danced around the topic on purpose. I have decided to go forward with it, play it safe and not name names. I am fairly certain family members know where they stand with me and I think it’s best not to air dirty laundry in a public forum. Darn!

I’m fucking angry at many of my family members and although I know some of them won’t like what I am going to share, it needs to be said. I want to remind several of them, that I’ve been around them for 62 years and I have listened carefully. Anyone in my family who is currently supporting Trumpism wants the following for the United States: 1) immigration exclusively for those who can prove they have means, 2) the end to programs designed to assist the less fortunate, 3) the stripping down of school curriculum so that revisionist history is banned and only the conservative perspective is taught (I’m holding back), 4) christianity is the moral compass of the nation, 5) anti-abortion can continue to be used as a weapon for fighting personal freedom, and 6) power and money can be kept in the hands of the fast becoming white minority. I’m leaving off a few things that are way too personal and would only fan the flames of hate directed toward me.

If you are a close family member and have felt distance and diminishing contact, I need to be clear that I don’t care how much love there has been or how strong the bond, anyone in my life that thinks ‘Make America Great Again” is a good thing should not reach out to me. Clearly some of you are too stupid to know why you vote the way you do, but I know many of my so called “family members” know exactly why they deny the January 6, 2021 attack on the capital was a threat to American democracy. I’m not so sure you’d feel the same way if you lived in Russia or other authoritarian parts of the world (last two paragraphs are new) .

Definition from Urban Dictionary and why it resonates:

Family

A group of people, usually of the same blood (but do not have to be), who genuinely love, trust, care about, and look out for each other. Not to be mistaken with relatives sharing the same household who hate each other.

The words I love here are “genuine, trust, and look out for.” I am fortunate to have family members who check all the boxes. I also have friends whom I can say those things about; I consider these friends my extended or chosen family. None of my true family members are jealous of or would begrudge me of my chosen family. I believe those who love me for and despite who I am, love me no matter what. I didn’t always realize how much genuine love I had or have in my life; this came with maturity and experience.

Not unlike anyone else alive and breathing, I have family issues. There are family members that are as much strangers as the individual walking down my street that I have never laid eyes on before today. It would be easy to beat myself up and blame myself for family “stuff.” They don’t like me because I’m fill in the blank. Since we’re all so different and complicated, trying to figure out why people behave a certain way toward you is bound to cause trouble. Speculation is often dangerous and inaccurate; especially when it’s about family. Our expectations of family members is not the same as what we expect from friends or strangers. We’re often less forgiving when it comes to family.

This thinking that family should be held to higher standards sets us up for failure. In reality, we’re all human and therefore, we make mistakes, we say stupid things, we take others for granted. With a friend you might sit them down and ask them if everything is okay or if you can talk about it. For some reason with family (I suspect it has to do with deep emotional ties) we are quick to allow our anger and resentment to make us dismissive. This does not include the issues I outlined earlier.

Some of the statements we might make to ourselves:

  • He/she should know better.
  • He/she never invites me to family functions.
  • They’ve turned their children against me.
  • He/she never calls me or I always have to be the one to call.
  • I’m so tired of being the one with all the answers.
  • Am I the only one who is taking care of mom/dad?
  • I wouldn’t be friends with this family member if I met him or her on the street, so why should I expect to like this person?

Immediate Family

I have created a life where my immediate family consists of me and me alone (I’ve added Paco since publishing this blog). I could easily share my thoughts on why this might be the case, but I think I’ll spare you the psycho-babble. I would imagine that the larger your immediate family is, the more complex your life might be; I could be wrong. Growing up, there were nine or ten of us living in the house at any given time. Daily drama and breakdowns were a way of life.

I think that most individuals could point to a time when family loyalty was tested. I believe it is during this time or these times, when we shape our opinions of family members and evaluate how deep we believe their love to be. Can one be wrong in their assessment? Absolutely. Judgment can easily be clouded by an argument, a particular incident, and/or a betrayal by a jealous family member(s).

Estranged Family

It seems like everyone I speak to have family members that they do not see or communicate with. The first thing I always think is:  how sad. Then I realize that there are family members I do not speak to and again I think, how sad. But as we all know we don’t get to choose family and we either accept them for who they are or we don’t. I once believed that all family deserved to be forgiven no matter the transgression, however, that is no longer how I feel. I now believe that there are people around us who are toxic. Keeping them around us is unhealthy and unwise. What I have learned over time, is that confronting certain people will only make the situation worse. It’s like the old saying about putting salt on a wound; best not to go there sometimes. There is nothing wrong with self-preservation.

Can an old wound be healed? I think it’s possible to mend a relationship, but both parties have to want it. It is similar to divorce, in that, emotions are often strong and anger deeply rooted, finding middle ground is near impossible. The older I get, the more inclined I am to walk away. It is important to consider regret and the outcome of your actions. You have to ask yourself several questions:

  • Did I do everything possible to reconnect with this family member?
  • How deep is the wound?
  • Do I even remember the cause of the disagreement?
  • Is pride getting in the way?
  • If I choose to forgive, can I forgive?
  • Can forgiveness pave the way for a healthier relationship?
  • Is making the first move possible or will you lose self-respect?
  • Will my estrangement affect other family members?
  • Are their beliefs so backward and divisive, that being associated with them is hypocritical?
  • Are you being true to yourself?

Let me be clear that I am not pointing fingers. I did not have a family member in mind while writing this. I have made many mistakes. I have turned my back on family more than once. I have behaved immaturely and jumped to conclusions. I have avoided conflict and I have looked the other way. I have made excuses. I have placed blame. I have suffered in silence and I have made assumptions.

I am in the process of acknowledging my limitations and I am attempting to figure it all out. I imagine in that way, that I am much like everyone else.

When I wrote this blog a few years back I was deeply hurt by a few family members who turned their backs on me because of my political beliefs and values. I questioned those beliefs and started to doubt myself. I’m happy to say that those feelings are all behind me. I have come out of this stronger and more resolute. I am determined to fight for: personal freedoms, for those who cannot defend themselves, for those who have been denied the tools to help/better themselves, evangelicals who impose their values on others, and anyone who believes that sexual orientation is a choice. The fight is exhilarating and life affirming.

Travel

Liverpool, UK at the end of March, Toulouse and Bordeaux mid-April and Berlin the end of April. Most COVID restrictions have been lifted in Europe; therefore, travel should be a bit easier.

There are other planned trips, however, I’m realizing as I get older, travel can often take its toll. I am re-evaluating the length and substance of my travel.

By CP

I was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1959. I've lived in several different places, but this is the first time I have resided overseas. My career has gone in multiple directions; however, education is my passion. My Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from New York University has opened many doors and for that I am grateful. Writing has become a pastime I enjoy and hope to further pursue. The future holds no limitations and I am keeping all of my options open. I have landed in Portugal and there is a vast and beautiful world to explore.

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