Posts Tagged ‘life’

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!

Advertisements

The Soundtrack of My Life…

I think acoustic guitar features in my soundtrack

Acoustic Guitar courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So when Dashing and I were just barely thinking about courting, I made him a mixed CD. Full of songs that I liked and was listening to at that point in time.

We’d been friends for awhile, and were both getting out of long-term relationships in pretty messy ways. Mine I spoke of here, and his, well, his marriage was ending.

So I’d been listening to a lot of Matchbox 20 and Dusty Springfield. And I thought some of the songs might speak to him too, so I made him a mixed CD, and instead of labeling the song and artist, I wrote down who or what the song made me think of most.

I think I labelled Matchbox 20’s “Bed of Lies” as You and I labelled Dusty’s “I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten” as either Me or Us, I can’t remember how bold I was feeling at the time.

I made him cry. And then I made him blush.

Music has always been a huge part of our relationship, and a huge part of our individual lives.

For me, I grew up singing motown and rock and roll with my Daddy, and gradually included the Cranberries and Great Big Sea and other assorted artists from the contemporary era.

But I was never the kid who knew what music was in at the time. I didn’t listen to top 40 radio stations, and the songs were usually new-to-me at school dances. It actually took me until university to learn the difference between Prince and Michael Jackson… And they say people don’t learn anything useful at university any longer…

Now, I feel like the media surrounding a person really speaks to and about that person. When I read Lucy Maud Montgomery, I speak and think like Anne Shirley. When I read non-fiction I get introspective and then turn those reflections out onto the world. When I read Sharon Creech, I long for travel, and stories from grandparents. When I read A Practical Wedding, I’m inspired to journal my thoughts and feeling and channel them into cohesive, creative viewpoints for discussion.

When I listen to the ’50s and ’60s, I’m at home. I’m comfortable, and I want to party and reminisce. When I listen to classical, I usually have something on my mind. When I listen to jazz or musicals, I want to perform and invite drama in. And when I listen to modern music that is new to me… well, it does depend on the song, but usually it’s pretty love it or hate it, and mostly, I just want to skip it.

But I’ve been expanding my reading base, going back over classics I’ve wanted to read or to be able to say that I’ve read. So I felt I should expand my music base…

So I bought the Burlesque Soundtrack CD, and two Grey’s Anatomy (Season 1 and 3). Burlesque has Cher, and Grey’s I already enjoy the snippets of music in the episodes, so I figured, baby steps, right?

So while I don’t enjoy every song, I have found Grace Potter and the Nocturnals Falling or Flying to be interesting. I’m looking forward to cultivating more music around me by artists who are still producing, because as much as I love that which is familiar, I, like all people I know, am constantly changing. And the people and things and art we gather to us should reflect that.

So to one who is fighting the stagnation of her radio, what modern or contemporary artists would you recommend?

Break In Suspense

Image "Coin Flip" courtesy Chris Sharp/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Would I truly let this determine my fate? Actually, maybe.

OK this one is all about Dashing…

Dashing loves me. And I am so very in love with him.

That right there, that says everything.

I do truly believe that he and I may end up together. But we are taking the scenic route for a lot of reasons, which I’m not featuring today.

I believe that he and I could be very happy together. I know that I would love to have his children, and to live day to day, and have adventures, and experiences, and disappointments, and arguments, and making up, and flowers, and chores, and finances, and taxes, and growing old together. I want him. I want us to live together – and I don’t mean co-habitate.

I have no idea what our life together would look like. I see flashes. An eighties montage of varied possibilities and they all could be true. But I truly have no idea, because I don’t have his input.

He is afraid. He doesn’t want to make a mistake again. He doesn’t want to disappoint me. He believes he can’t envision his own future, and so shouldn’t be tying me down to create one with him.

I just want him.

I do also want a home. But I don’t care if it’s a city townhome, or a country cottage, or a suburban cardboard box, or a highrise apartment. Alright, I have my preferences. My very opinionated preferences.

I do also want security. But I don’t care if I have to work corporately to support us, or if he wants to work to support us, or if we both have to work to support us. And let’s face it, I’m so frugal and careful that we could probably both be un-employed for six months before we really had to start cutting back on, like, internet usage.

But he says he may need a break. To figure out what he wants. I am all on board with this idea. It’s the word may that I’m objecting to.

See, I don’t always know what I want, but I usually know what I don’t want. Dashing is swayed. Back and forth like a swing. He knows what I want – uh, the grocery clerk, the dentist, and the construction worker on the corner all know what I want. And he wants to deliver – but is it what he wants??? He says he doesn’t know. So please, I say, please by all means, take a break, take all the time you need. And he says, he’ll think about it. And I say, OK let me know when we’re breaking.

And he hasn’t let me know.

We’ve talked about it a couple of times since then, and … nothing.

It’s like every time we get together, every time the phone rings, I’m just waiting for him to say “Yes, now, break time.” And he doesn’t. But meanwhile we are in this weird limbo. Because he also hasn’t said “Break unnecessary. Pshaw, to you, Break!”

And so I wait. And I worry. Because it is important that he call this time out. It is important not only that he take it, but that it be on his call. I worry that he is so scared of hurting me, that he won’t do what he needs for himself.

So he calls, and asks what I’m doing, and if I want to do lunch, or how is this night for date night this week – as if nothing has changed. As if we are still working towards building whatever life together we were working towards. And I can’t say no, stop, wait, do you not see how this is hurting you, and hurting me, and not helping anything.

Because I gave him all the power. I told him what I want, and how I feel, and that I’m willing to wait in the background until he figures things out – but this waiting in the foreground thing is killing me.

If I knew we were on a break I could distract myself, because I assume he would call less. Because he would be figuring out what he wants out of life. Because we wouldn’t have weekly date nights. Or weekends to organize. Because he would be experiencing life without me, so that he could be sure that he really wants life with me. Or that he doesn’t, and that’s OK too. As long as it’s what he wants.

I can be his friend. It will be hard, but it’s how we started out, and eventually we’d find a new balance.

But in the meantime, I need him to decide. To choose. To flip a d*mn coin already.

To take the break. Because nothing will change until he does. He won’t know if he needs it until he takes it and goes “Yeah, I needed this” or “What was I thinking?”

Enough with maybes. I may be (ha!) a woman of extremes, but I’ve tried walking the middle path on this one, and it sucks. So rip the stitches, strip off the bandage, drop the robe, open the door, jump off the cliff, and then… ride the wave home to whatever shore you find.

*I wrote this post Sunday. We spoke at the wee hours of Monday morning. We had date night Monday night. We officially started our break Tuesday morning. I’ll let you know how this social experiment goes…

Let’s Take A Break

Old Book Open by nuttakit/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “Old Book Open” courtesy nuttakit/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Alright. Let’s lighten it up around here.

I’m re-reading Cornelia Funke‘s Inkworld series. Because it’s fun. And well written, and full of vibrant and sympathetic characters.

I just finished reading a bunch of books off my “should” read list – Dracula, Children of Men… I started Gulliver’s Travels and frankly could not stand the thinly veiled preaching and lack of plot. So I’ve returned to a familiar and fun fantasy.

What I like about Funke’s work is that while you can get lost and enjoy the reading, it is thought provoking at the same time. For instance, this particular series of hers is about the idea that reading the written word aloud can bring characters into and out of stories.

I love that idea.

As an actress, and story junkie, the idea that your favourite characters could step into your world, or that you could walk into theirs, is thrilling. It’s terrifying, and beautiful; it’s like forbidden fruit, you shouldn’t have it, but if you could… oh, if you could what depths of pain, and heights of ecstasy would you experience then?

If I could meet characters from my favourite books, I would want to meet:

  1. Charlotte Doyle and Zachariah.
  1. Katherine Sutton and Christopher Heron, and oh, heck Geoffrey Heron, too; he’s a man with whom one could ride a horse, not speaking, and yet share volumes. And the Lady… ooh, she’s thrilling all on her own.
  2. Meriadoc Brandybuck, Radagast the Brown, and Glorfindel. And Aragorn, and Arwen Evenstar, alright, let’s be honest. Oh, and Beorn from The Hobbit, Or There And Back Again.
  3. Peter Pevensie, at any point in his story, and Susan while she was Queen Susan the Gentle.
  4. And last but certainly not least, I would love to visit Anne Blythe at Ingleside, to meet all her children, especially Walter and Rilla and Jem… In fact, if I could be a seasonal tenant of the Ford’s at the House of Dreams, that would be lovely.

I love houses with names.

Who’s on your list??

Choices and First Impressions

Hands Creating A Star by creativedoxfoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “Hands Creating A Star” courtesy of creativedoxfoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

OK, so clearly if you look at the blogs I follow, without visiting those sites, you can assume that I am a hopeless romantic, with a desperate, perhaps obsessive need to marry and procreate, chasing all things stereo-typically feminine, relationships, home, children…

Would it surprise you to know then that I’m actually quite the pessimist romantically? Or that, contrarily, in no way do I feel like if I don’t get married and have children my life will be unfulfilled and signify nothing in the grand scheme.

See if you actually visit these blogs – and you should, these are sassy, smart, strong women, did I mention the sass? If you actually visit these blogs, you will find these talented writers show their battle scars proudly, and openly discuss choices – and how it’s not really about the choice you make, it’s about making the choice, and knowing that there are other choices that could have been made, that others will take, that it’s about humanity and figuring it out and embracing the mess, and feeling the pain, and creating your world through your choices. And building your community. It’s about finding people who support your choices and who will push you to make the choices that are right for you.

So. Pessimist me reads wedding blogs because like Meg says, it’s about hope. And growing up. And pessimist me reads mommy-blogs because they’re about struggle and innocence and growing up and the funny things kids do and about how mommies don’t stop being people just because they created people. And they help me work through my issues with my own mom.

What I’ve learned in my years of blog reading (and yes, I’ve read all the archives of 7 out of 9 of these blogs and I’m working on the other two), is that just as I like my Adam Sandler with some Drew Barrymore, I like my oh-my-goodness-love with a little bit of reality. I like my tragedy with a lot of existential irony. I like my comedy with some poignant revelations to the bigger truth of human existence. And I like it all with wit and conversation.

That is what they offer. That is what I’m trying to build here. That is what I’m bringing into my life, and putting out to the universe, because as people we don’t always look beyond ourselves to consider the other choices out there. We don’t always take the time to laugh at ourselves. To think about what we believe, and why. To look back on what we told the world we believed and say, “Now, I’ve changed. I’ve tweaked, I’ve grown, I find this to be true for me now.”

Because I am still growing up. And these people, I choose them as part of my community as I continue to grow into who I will one day become.

The Unspoken…

"Cemetery" by njaj/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “Cemetery” courtesy of njaj/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

OK. It’s been awhile. Clearly, this journaling thing is more difficult than it used to be. Especially when you need a working computer and an internet connection to get it done. But I digress…

Here, we discuss communities. How to build them, where to find them, how to keep them, when to let them go…. But what do you do when someone elects to leave your community?

Whether it’s because of a fight, a divorce, or the slow continental shift of growing apart – it’s never easy. But at least in those instances you get the choice to work at the relationship, to continue to include them in your community, or to let them gracefully exit.

What about when that choice is taken from you? When someone elects to leave your community… permanently?

Suicide.

There. I said it.

For many this is an unfathomable concept, and when someone chooses this path to leave you, it can feel like a personal assault on reason. When you can never imagine taking this path, never have considered it, the idea that someone you love, admire, and respect choosing it is irreconcilable with your image of that person.

For those of us (and yes, I’m coming out and including myself here) who have considered the dark and shady path… well, things are less black and white. Not easier, necessarily. Just grey-er. Muddier. Murkier… yes, I like murkier.

My story (the not-so-short version): I was a smart kid. Too smart, fairly sensitive to the approval of authority figures, and frankly, I never quite fit in most places. I was that dreamy kid who’d rather spend recess reading or making shapes of clouds or imagining I was Kate from The Perilous Gard…. (Elizabeth Marie Pope, thank you for your story by the way) I was not an athlete, at least not on land (man, can I swim, and I am almost certain I can fly). My entire family is made up of athletes. Competitive athletes. National calibre athletes. Of land, water, and (possibly) air. My mother is sociable, and I am sure she had this fantastic image of her popular, athletic daughters surrounding her and going on shopping sprees and asking her for advice, and working out with her…. and well, that never happened. At least, not willingly on my part.

So I was thirteen, I was angry, and convinced that my mother loved my sister more than me. I wrote an angry, honest letter and hid it under my mattress. I felt unloved, but mostly, unnoticed. Unseen for the unique things I could bring to life, to our family, to a community. Would anyone notice if I just left? If I ran away and lived somewhere where they couldn’t find me and make me feel not good enough anymore? (I was thirteen and dramatic… seriously dramatic) What would happen if I died? Would they mourn? Would they see me then?

Then my father found my letter. And read it. And talked to me about it. See, in my emotional turmoil of puberty and despair and low self-esteem, I had neglected to think about him. My beautiful, fantastic, smart, capable, loving father, who raised my sister and I on his own. Who loved me. Always. And made sure that I knew it. Who celebrated my interests and listened to my stories and encouraged me without making me feel ashamed. He would be destroyed if I left; he would be utterly and completely destroyed if I died. Especially if I chose to die.

So, I cried. And I focused on life, and the pursuits I loved, and anytime those lonely, tenacious tendrils of darkness reached out for me, I thought of him. And knew I was loved, and that I couldn’t destroy someone who loved me.

Then in high school one of my fellows hanged himself. And the principal announced it over the PA that he had passed away. And I was angry. Enraged. No physically healthy teenager passes away. Suicide is violent. It is a wrathful tear in the fabric of life, of the community consciousness, not to mention of the mind and spirit of the victim himself.

Yes, I say victim of suicide. Because while I had my devoted father to pull me back from the brink, he somehow didn’t. I’m sure his parents loved him, I know his friends cared, why was that not enough? Why in those moments, days, weeks, before tying the noose did nobody spring to his mind that he knew would be destroyed if he left them? Why did I have a visceral link to life, an umbilical cord tethering me here, and he did not? Why, in his world, was there no one?

Just to be clear, I’m sure if people had known what he was about to do they would have risen up en masse to stop him. I am sure of that in almost any suicide.

My point is that, in this boys pain, in his world, the place where he existed (yes, I’ve gone a little Descartes, try to keep up), he believed he had no one. No one who would stop him. No one who saw him. So he would show them. I believe suicide is at once a martyr-like attempt to remove oneself from troubling those around oneself, from taking up space when one is so clearly not wanted, and a grand performance. If people don’t see you, fine, they won’t have to look around you for much longer, but you’ll leave them an image they’ll never forget.

People have called it selfish, and I can understand that perspective. It is certainly self-indulgent. But I think most people who go through with it, have convinced themselves that they are doing their community a favour.

So, murky. Yeah.

Now, in my late twenties, I am faced with suicide again. This time it is not someone I know. But someone I am close to has just lost a relative. A relative who had kids, no less.

I’m wise enough to keep my murky opinions to myself, at least while wounds are still fresh. But how do you comfort a family through this?

My friend is desperately trying to rationalize the unfathomable. For he is one of those aforementioned people for whom this thought is not only not an option, but I don’t think it’s ever come up. And now he’s faced with trying to understand it. Trying to reconcile that dear relative who took him aside to show him a corner of the world, that really cool guy that he wanted to grow up to be just exactly like, that husband, that father, that uncle… this volunteer corpse.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Let’s talk about the unspoken… Surviving suicide. Those who have thought and not attempted, those who have attempted and (thankfully, ironically) failed, those who have survived those who attempted and (ironically, disastrously) succeeded, welcome. How did you get through it?

Offbeat Empire

Niche lifestyle network

Offbeat Home & Life

Where awesome lives

Exploring community through thought and experience...

Tanis Miller

Exploring community through thought and experience...

Offbeat Bride

Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides

FreeRangeKids

Give Our Kids the Freedom We Had