Posts Tagged ‘family’

From Black and White to Shades of “Grey”: Does being left at the altar mean the end of a relationship?

Wedding Bouquet by Rosen Georgiev/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wedding Bouquet by Rosen Georgiev/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A certain popular television series got me thinking tonight. When do you know it’s right to join your life to another? To add him or her to your hub of your community? To allow him or her access to your other communities?

When do you know it’s right to become married?

I say “become married” rather than “get married” because I do not believe that marriage is something you acquire. Achieve, perhaps, grow into, most certainly, but pick up like eggs and milk from the corner store? No.

Also, I believe it is possible to become married without having a wedding. If you throw the law out of it (which it should be), and if you throw out definitions using variations of the same word (sloppy), then we see the third definition in Merriam-Webster as being:

An intimate or close union

Which is entirely possible to develop without celebrating it, without publicly stated vows, without rings or things or kitchen sinks…

Now, I am not discounting the importance of weddings. I do not believe that in general they are frivolous affairs which change nothing in any relationship. I believe they can be quite transformative, but that every wedding may not necessarily be so.

I’m simply questioning the all-encompassing significance our society places on the altar. Is it truly necessary to have a wedding in order to enter that state of intimate union with another?

And, as in the case of our fine characters who inspired this line of thought, can a relationship survive one of the two not making it to the altar? How devastating to the relationship must it be?

I can understand that to the individual left waiting it must be a tremendous blow to the ego, and to your faith and trust in the other person, and that latter part necessitates that it must affect the relationship – but must it be devastating?

An intimate or close union. Union. That requires two people, two wants, two needs, two schedules, and two perspectives to consider.

And I believe one can be entirely ready for a marriage, for an intimate union, for a partnership of that magnitude, and yet, not be ready for a wedding.

Obviously communication is key, but if you are planning a wedding (and hopefully the after-wedding) with a person, and you show up on the day, brimming with certainty and anticipation and a certain amount of trepidation… and that person simply doesn’t arrive… Does it change who he or she is? Does it change who he or she is to you? Does it change what you want from/with him or her? Do you stop loving him and wanting her and needing him or her?

Or can you accept that it happened and move on and still be with him or her?

Is that too much? Is it an act devoid of self-respect to stay on? To continue the relationship after inconsideration and perceived rejection and (typically) intimate public humiliation?

Obviously, one cannot know until one is in such a position, but I can tell you what I hope from myself, and my partners:

Perhaps I am too romantic. Perhaps I was raised by parents who demonstrated such unconditional love that I can’t imagine any singular act on it’s own changing that type of bond.

But that’s just it.

“I love you forever” doesn’t come with caveats. Unless you put them there.

Perhaps it’s the divorced child in me, but I’ve had enough of secrets and ifs and situational relationships. A marriage is not the place for them. Not for me, anyhow. By the time I’m looking down an aisle (or trail, or path, or ribbon, or slip’n’slide – whatever we set up), I would hope that I am already considering that person waiting for me to be my partner, and for I to be his or hers. We would already be family. Our marriage would already have begun, and would not be solely dependent on a wedding happening that hour, that day, or at all.

You shouldn’t have to say “I’ll have an intimate union with you, only after we sign documents/speak vows/party with family,” it should be a process. An ongoing ever-evolving process. I hope I wake up everyday from the moment I know that person to be part of my family and think to myself “Today, I marry you” whether there’s a wedding or not.

What do you hope for in such an experience? Please share your story below.

Give and Take

Give and Take

A gift courtesy david.orban, Creative Commons License

Alright, I took a week. I’m sorry, I’ve neglected you and didn’t tell you why or give you a heads up. We good?

If only it were that simple, right?

It comes back to this today. At work I am a Giver, with my friends, currently, I am a Giver, and with Dashing, I am equal parts Giver and Cleaner.

Even with family, especially this time of year, I am Giver/Cleaner.

I suppose we could say I use this blog to Take for myself, and it’s true, I do get something out of it (even more than this, although this was nice!). Or I wouldn’t keep doing it, right?

So when is it my turn in real life?

Well, if past experience serves, December? Not gonna be it.

See Christmas is in December, and my nearly Christian family thinks that means something…

Mini-rant: Why do we all have to celebrate holidays at the same time? I get that it makes things easier for employers and the government, but really? It’s so annoying when the shops all close down and when I was a shift-worker who didn’t get holidays with the rest of the country (hotels never close, yo. Service industry For The Win!) it was d*mn hard to keep track. Is this a holiday where I have to remember to buy groceries before the shops close, or is this a “holiday” where consumerism reigns and just the lucky government and school children stop working? I never knew until I was sitting in my car in an empty supermarket parking lot thinking “Wait… I know this… Crap, it’s that day!” And the reasoning behind specifically Christmas (which is my family’s argument every year) and that it’s not about taking the holiday with the rest of the country, it’s about that’s when it is, Baby Jesus couldn’t help being born on December 25th — EXCEPT THAT HE DID! Religious appropriation – puts Christmas right up there with Thanksgiving in my fake holiday book… End Rant. Continue: Mostly Thought Out Argument…

Add to that my birthday is in December, this past week actually. And from where I sit, birthdays rarely seem to be about the person growing older. Maybe it’s my div0rced-child roots showing but if the point is that it’s my daaaay and time for me to do whatever I want then couldn’t I forgo the party? Or by that logic, shouldn’t that be a mandated holiday every year (I had my first uni exam on my birthday, so holiday mandation could have been useful)? At the very least – could I go on a crime spree and have no repercussions? “Sorry officer, it’s my birthday and all I wanted to do today is race down the highway at 150 km/hr and invite myself inside some nice person’s home (side note: now that’s how to make friends!)… ”

It just feels like this period is all about me but not actually for me.

And maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

I get that birthdays are on the surface about surviving another year, and presumably acknowledging one’s accomplishments, and celebrating one’s mistakes, self-reflection, finding enlightenment – but they seem to end up being about how your mother was very uncomfortable once upon a time or how your ex would really like to get drunk and lock himself in your bathroom (true story) or how your community really just wants an excuse to eat, drink and be merry – which means you smiling – a lot… I get that ultimately holidays are about celebrating family and togetherness and gratitude for our communities. I understand that is an easier feat to accomplish when it’s scheduled in the communities’ collective consciousness. I get that the date is not actually important so long as the intention is preserved.

Maybe I’m a Grinch. Maybe I just resent being told what to do and when to do it.

After all, if the point is to celebrate your community and show your gratitude for how they lift you up and preserve you from harm – isn’t making it easier kinda lazy? Wouldn’t it be more meaningful if you took time out and made a holiday happen instead of allowing a religious or governmental institution tell you when to do it?

Wouldn’t you appreciate one of your friends celebrating you on a day that isn’t your birthday more than having to say “It’s my birthday, let’s party, and you can buy me gifts/shots/lap dances?” If it’s not about the gift, if it’s about the thought behind the gift… then isn’t a gift “just because” better than a gift “because it’s [insert holiday]”?

One Last Mini-Rant On This Subject: And for the record, while I would really rather not get anything, if you must buy gifts, on behalf of anyone born in December or early January – Christmas themed gifts are not birthday presents! Buy some new wrapping paper – or use comic books, or newsprint, or fabric, or a dropcloth – stay away from red and green combos (unless the person you’re buying for actually likes that combination – which is cool if they do) and go for red OR green instead, and for goodness sake anything with snowflakes, Frosty, Santa, or reindeer are not welcome unless, you know, the recipient collects that stuff. I would rather you write me a poem, or make a card, or give a gift certificate, or put some thought into what I might like, versus, OK check, gift done. If you can’t find a mug/sweater/tchotchke that doesn’t have Christmas all over it for a winter birthday, you’re not really trying, and it’s kinda insulting. I’d rather not get anything at all. Seriously.

Family: Who Makes the Cut

Happy Family
Happy Family Taking Self Portrait courtesy photostock/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As I write out my Christmas Cards, I can’t help but think of who I consider to be family.

I am part of many families, you see. There’s my mother’s family, and my father’s family with whom I share a common lineage (adoptively speaking), and my father’s created family (those who have standing invitations to our home), and my created family, which includes a few of my friends, and members of each of my other families, and Dashing and a few of his biological family.

It’s a little like this:

FAMILY CHART

FAMILY CHART – BY MISS HAPP

But how do we get there? When you’re little, your family are those people who take care of you, and by extension any whom they call family.

Over years one develops those existing relationships, growing closer to some, learning to tolerate (or not) others… and as one grows and meets new people one adds to the base from which to draw familial relationships.

That’s fairly simple, and common, thinking.

But when is it that someone goes from being a friend, to being family?

For me, it is that line where I would protect them from themselves. I love my friends, yes, but somehow I know they manage without me. I know they can take care of their own stuff, and I trust them to ask for help if they need it. I feel comfortable telling them when I think their behaving poorly, or when they’ve made a poor choice, but if they choose to disagree, well, that’s up to them.

Family though, family is so much more complicated.

Because somehow, in the idea that my life would be truly altered if this person were to leave or be in hardship, there’s the self-protective reaction that says I should do all I can to prevent it.

If a family member has an addiction, it affects me in ways a friend’s addiction might not, and it’s so much harder to tell them “You have a problem, and I need you to get help” because it’s like telling part of yourself that you’ve been let down by it.

If a friend has financial hardship – I might give them some money to help out, but probably not that much, and I might expect it paid back someday. I can understand that a friend might fall on hard times. And I understand that they will get back up on their own eventually.

If I see a family member heading towards financial hardship, I do all I can – lecturing, giving of funds, subtle and not-so-subtle hints about job applications or savings accounts – because underneath it all, I feel responsible for their well-being.

I recognize that, like my friends, my family is mostly full of capable adults, who manage to feed themselves, and clothe themselves, and get to and from work daily without my constant assistance or supervision – but I still feel connected to them in a way where if they fail, I fail. If they succeed, I am proud of their accomplishment, and happy to have helped in any small way. But when family hits a rough spot, for me, it’s an all hands on deck kind of time.

At least, that is the gut, knee-jerk reaction.

But I’ve come to learn that even family, sometimes have to fail on their own.

After all, it’s through failing that we learn our greatest lessons, right?

But even when it’s a hands off – let-em-fall-down kinda time, there’s still that instinct, that basic desire to come between them and the cold, hard ground, because when they hurt, I hurt.

And that’s how I know who’s my family.

Where’s the line for you? Are you more protective of friends, trusting your family to speak up more? What do you think? Let me know below!

Housewarming

Housewarming/Heartwarming

Love Heart And Nest courtesy renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I went to my cousin’s housewarming party this weekend. It was fabulous. Naturally the family all showed up early, so we were hanging out in her new digs when her friends arrived.

It’s so funny being in the middle of all that action. Watching my cousin and her boyfriend creating a new chapter in their lives, seeing them surrounded by friends and family, those who have gone before and those who may follow in their footsteps.

Their house is huge, and it’s a great starter home, with great bones and good updates. It’s right in the middle between their respective places of work, and they’ve filled it out nicely with a mix of new and hand-me-down furniture.

It was amazing watching them juggle the colliding spheres of their communities. Family, friends, his family, her family, cats, and each other.

Then of course the uncles and aunts started in on the poor lad, pressuring him to propose  – “Oh, I guess it won’t be long now” and “Well, you’ve made this commitment, surely you’ll go all the way…” and flat out “So are you planning to propose??”

They’ve just gotten successfully over one hurdle, and everyone is all ready to throw another in their path… as if they can’t truly be part of the community, part of the family without that slip of paper and some rings.

I know people think it’s harmless, just teasing, and most of them are probably just saying it to have something to say, but we were there to celebrate the home-owning-ness.

Still, familial expectations aside, it was fun, and I hope they both enjoyed it. There were snacks and pumpkin carving (because nothing says awesome like tipsy relatives wielding paring knives!) and chatter and nostalgia and hope for the future.

And I guess that’s where all the pressurized teasing comes from. Hope for the solidification and legalization of relationships. Hope for the family structure and babies and all those things that they want to happen after a wedding.

It just seems a little rude to rush them from one life changing event to another.

But that’s family, right?

Which means, even without the rings and the paper, without the officiant or the money, even without the vows and witnesses, they view him as part of the family.

Heartwarming.

And my super power is…

Super power is orbital money??

Flying Businessman by digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

OK, I don’t actually know what my super power is. Maybe the ability to come up with a very detailed and efficient plan super quickly? Or perfecting the junk food medley by situation and companions?

Anyway, it just so happens that whatever my super power is, I am also the best ex-girlfriend ever.

I dated a guy, we’ll call him The Scientist, for three years. It was my longest relationship to that point.

He was funny, sarcastic, loyal, and could be quite sweet. When he wasn’t being arrogant that is. In all reality, I was quite in love with him, and he was very much in love with me. We were going to have smart, crazy babies, and live a very suburban life.

Except I wouldn’t move in with him without a ring on my finger, and he wouldn’t propose without having lived together first.

And then he moved to Italy as part of his PhD work, for nine months. And I swore I would wait.

Well, yeah… Long distance is hard, yo. I couldn’t do it. I mean I tried, and I know he was trying in his own way, but we just didn’t have the communication mesh to make it work. Not to mention while he was away, all those friends I’d neglected seeing came back into light – those friends he felt awkward around, and didn’t particularly enjoy, um, at all.

So we broke up. In that messy, god-awful long distance way, over Messenger and Facebook and Skype… And then he came back into town on Hallowe’en.

And I picked him up at the airport, and brought him home with me to my parent’s house, and the four of us lived together for an awkward and, at times, torturous three and a half weeks while he found an apartment. Then I helped move all the stuff I had been storing for him into the new apartment.

I am the best ex-girlfriend ever.

Then he didn’t speak to me or my family for three years. He didn’t even personally thank my parents for their hospitality. And in my father’s book, that is practically a sin.

But he was raised by wolves – or well, lawyers…

Anyway, three years later, I get an email out of the blue from The Scientist. He wants to meet, catch up, be friends again.

I breathe my sigh of relief that he is a) alive, b) well enough to type, c) over me enough to want to be friends (or possibly under me enough still to use it as a ploy…)

Then I contemplate letting him back into my life. See, it was messy. And we want totally different kinds of things out of life, and basic human decorum has different standards between us.

So we meet, and chat, and it’s heartbreaking, but over in an hour and a half. We hug, and promise to stay in touch. But before I go, I mention that he really ought to give a call or pop an email to my dad and let him know, hey, thanks for hosting me by the way, it was a tough time, you made it easier. Whatever works. I go home and warn my parents he may call so that they’re not too weird trying to figure out who the h*ll is on the other end. And that’s the last I hear from him for six months.

Until he phones my house. And speaks to father to ask for me. And still doesn’t thank him. All he wants to know is if I’m up to hanging out tonight (Saturday night). I decline, because I honestly didn’t know what to say.

I never thought I’d have to make it a condition that he thank my parents for us to be friends again, but frankly, if I have to make it a condition, I’m not sure I want to be friends.

Then again, this totally falls under the “basic human decorum” differences between us, so maybe, since we’re not dating, he doesn’t have to respect my family’s values in order to just be friends with me…

But he should respect my values, right?

So now I don’t know what to do. Obviously, talk to him. But to what end? Do I really want to go through all the effort of being heard and making him feel like a jerk, or do I just let the relationship go the way of most relationships past…?

What do you think?

Expectation versus Reality

I keep coming back to this phrase. Because, really, it sums up the issue in a lot of different instances.

For instance, my mother comes to lunch today. And brings up my father’s behaviour towards my aunt and uncle at the induction ceremony. And it’s no surprise, right? I mean anybody paying attention knew it was coming. It’s (not a big) part of why I ran away and had my weekend of solitude on Thanksgiving. Because while it would be rude of them to speak about my father when he’s not there to defend himself, it would be so much more of a hazard to speak my mind to them while they’re hosting the family supper.

And let’s be honest; they can’t help themselves.

So my mother’s all worked up and wants to know why they all can’t just get along.

Seriously?

It all comes back to expectation versus reality, like I said here.

So, in this case, for whatever reason, my mother is expecting something very Norman Rockwell to come out of it… uh, Norman Rockwell, while under-rated, didn’t paint split families that communicate in proxy and through sarcasm, Ma.

So, I look her in the eye, and I tell her, like the grown up that I am becoming, that it is not my problem. That she (or my aunt and uncle, for Pete’s sake!) can talk to my father about his behaviour anytime they feel moved enough to pick up the phone. But it has nothing to do with me.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings to try to make it my problem.

Ah well, one day at a time, right?

Hooded Man With Spray Bottle by hin255/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This young gent might be more our speed to capture our family portrait… Whadda ya think?

I’m Back

Brick Wall by m_bartosch/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “Brick Wall” courtesy m_bartosch/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Back to reality. Honestly, you’d think I’d gone to the moon.

I decided to stop off at my grandmother’s house first. It’s between where I was and my hometown, almost exactly midway. Grannie was excellent, she always is. She was proud and not worried at all. Empathetic and kind, with a twinkle in her eye when she heard where I’d gone, because she was very close to being right in the betting pool.

She also told me Mom was very, very worried. Seriously.

So off I went to Ma’s place next. Making the rounds. Saying, “Look, see, I’m fine. I’m all in one piece, and this smile – totally genuine, though quickly becoming less genuine the more relieved you get.”

You would think I’d said I was going to start using intravenous drugs, instead of simply seeking out solitude for a weekend. Mom was reacting as if I’d been gone a year, and we don’t see each other that often when we’re both in town to begin with.

Next, I went over to Dad’s. Which is home, really. Plus my sister and her current boyfriend were there. My stepmom was still proud, my sister was glad I was back, but couldn’t figure out why I’d gone, and her friend, well, whatever, I think he’s still figuring out our family dynamics. Dad was tired. Hadn’t been sleeping well. Is it egotistical to think it’s because I worried him, too?

Which is to say that all that family nonsense I was so blithely escaping – was just waiting for me in concentrated form.

Help me, I need a nap.

Thanksgiving

Domestic Turkey by Tom Curtis/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “Domestic Turkey” courtesy of Tom Curtis/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, I am sitting in a Days Inn at 9:30 on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend… because I can. It’s lovely.

I know that we are “supposed to” celebrate this “holiday” by sitting with our families and counting our blessings… But here’s the thing.

My parents divorced when I was four years old. I’m not blaming them or their divorce for anything, at least not in this post. However, the life of a divorced kid can be complicated.

My experience was such that we had two of every holiday. Two Easters, two Christmases, two birthdays, summer holidays split between two cities… and Thanksgiving. It’s the worst.

I know two of every holiday sounds like every kid’s dream, but really, think about the logistics. You have to travel to two households to have at least two family dinners (usually three or four once you factor in grandparents), and you have to do it all in the same amount of time designed to accommodate one (or at most two) central familial celebration.

Easter is usually pretty easy; after all it’s mostly about the candy, right? Christmas, well, it’s spread over three “real holidays” and buffered by two weeks of school holidays, so you have ample recovery time.

Thanksgiving though, you have a weekend, and one statutory holiday, more turkey than you ever wanted to eat, and a driving time comparable to the cooking time of all of the giant birds combined.

Add to that the fact that your teachers pile on the homework “because you’ll have time – it’s a long weekend after all” and that your mother wakes you at 6:30 to start cooking the stuffing and turkey with her “because you’re the oldest, and it’ll be a fun mother-daughter bonding experience – besides, one day you’ll need to know this” and that you have to be nice to the cousin who takes over the conversation and claims to have experienced everything going on in your life before you and that your sister forgot to pack her underwear, again, and so she steals yours and you have to wear a pair of your mother’s and that your stepfather continues to be, well, himself so that when it’s your turn at the table to declare that thing for which you are thankful all you can think of is “My new adventure book, and my own room, into neither of which are any of you invited.” But you can’t say that, so you murmur “Family” and have done with it.

So I grew up to work in hospitality, which I loved. Because one of the best things about shift work, is that you can work all the holidays. Thereby, avoiding the hazards of family celebrations and not having to lie to anybody. Exaggerate, maybe, but outright lie, nope. “I do have to work Mom… my shift is supposed to end at four but you never know…”

But one of the worst things about hospitality is the pay. So if I wanted to be financially independent and own a home within the next ten years… well, I had to go corporate. And the worst thing about corporate life is you don’t work holidays.

So this year, I could have gone to my fella’s parents on Saturday, and my mother’s sister’s on Sunday, and my father’s on Monday, and been exhausted and frazzled come Tuesday but instead, I told them all I was leaving them. I was Going Away. To where I knew not, nor would I tell them if I could. I was going to sleep late. Or wake up early and make all the noise I wanted. I was going to eat what, and where, and when I wanted to, and explore a city for all it’s untold splendour.

My stepmom applauded me, and my father told me to be safe, and my mother was convinced that I was depressed and isolating myself (and she may now be convinced that I am in denial about those conditions), and the boyfriend (I have to give him a name here… let’s call him Dashing) said he was happy I was happy and was behind me one hundred percent. And my coworkers looked at me with pity and asked all sorts of bewildered questions, and my vocal coach seemed startled but mellowed, and the desk clerk checked me in with a “You ran away from home… on this weekend?”

So a mixed bag. Seems everyone has a strong opinion on this. Anyone out there want to weigh in? I’d love to hear your comments below.

A Celebration!

Fireworks by kornnphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Fireworks by kornnphoto/Freedigitalphotos.net

So after 25 years of divorce my mother’s side and my father’s side are destined to collide.

My graduation went smoothly, seemingly, so did my sister’s graduations. But then my sister got inducted into the hall of fame for her alma mater while my mother was in Europe. And so, my aunt and uncle stood in for my mother…

I went with my father, knowing they would be there, warning him they would be there. He seemed unfazed.

Stuck in a gym full of people milling about, no direction to their movements, the air growing steadily warmer from their jacketed bodies, with my silent father, as we scan the crowd for mines… Also known as my mother’s sister and her husband. Praying that when we found them my sister wouldn’t be with them so that I wouldn’t have to go and greet them while my father stood his ground, silent.

And people wonder why I’m wary of weddings or births or funerals…

Don’t get me wrong, I love my father. He may actually be the best man I’ve ever known. But that stubborn streak that allows me to hold grudges?? Yeah, totally got that from him.

See my mother wanted a divorce. So my father gave her one. And then her family ceased to address his existence. With the exception of my Grannie and Auntie B, all has been silent on the western front for twenty odd years.

In my mother’s world, she and my father could just get along. They could sit together at my sister’s tournaments, they could plan weddings and share expenses, they could have a drink, or at least be sociable when they meet in public forums… Heck, sometimes I think she wants joint Christmas mornings!

In my father’s world, well, there are a lot of things he’s like to say to her, I’m sure. So for the safety and sanity of all, unless it specifically has to do with my sister or I, he’s keeping his d*mn mouth shut and avoiding contact at all costs.

So of course we run into my aunt and uncle. And of course, coming from my mother’s world, they greet my father with an air of convention and restraint (or strained convention?) and he mutters “yeah…” as he passes them to see an old colleague who happened to coach at my sister’s school.

Not the most graceful, I know. He’s not perfect. But in his defence, what we’re they really expecting? You ignore someone who was once part of your family, your intimate community, for 25 years and just because you’re in the same room as him, that’s supposed to change and he’s supposed to be fine with it?

Meg & Co. over at apracticalwedding.com talk a lot about how people aren’t necessarily going to change their behaviour just because you have a special event going on. The best that can be asked for is a modicum of civility or avoidance on the day. After all they’re here to celebrate and support one or two people, not to mend fences or rehash old grudges.

I mean it’d be nice if a wedding or graduation or fancy dinner did spur some mending of fences, but it’s unrealistic to assume that it can happen on the day. If necessary, action should be taken beforehand, I believe, so that things go more smoothly and everyone knows what to expect.

In this case, my aunt expected civility and my father expected avoidance… I think my father was basing his expectations on history, and my aunt was basing her expectations on the mystical dogma of society… which if she actually knew my father at all, is a laughable assumption.

Now, who’s dreading her mother’s return from Europe, and the upcoming familial hell known as Thanksgiving???

Student living and me.

Just life. But through the eyes of a Blue-eyed History student.

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