Thursday, August 30, 2007

My Life Such As It Is

"To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else."
- Emily Dickinson

Ain't Emily right? I'll admit I'm startled. I'm at a time in my life where my faith in God, the path that I'm supposed to take and my role in life are all uncertain. I feel lost in a different kind of way. Lost in thought and lost in feeling because I'm coming to terms with all the consequences of a life unlived in one sense and too well lived in another. At the time of this writing I am:

1. Trying to dealing with the death of my father from chronic alcoholism.
2. Trying to resolve the deaths of my husband's mother and stepfather.
3. Integrating lessons I've learned being sober (almost 20 years now).
4. Still struggling with normal.
5. Struggling trying to support my husband through his own problems.
6. Married for one year (enough said).
7. Trying to find my new role in my extended family (a.k.a Granny).
8. Trying to figure out what it means to be a wife.
9. Trying to relate to being a "stepmom".
10. Working to accept that I'm good at this writing stuff.

In these struggle there are many funny moments and many moments of pain. I hope to capture as much as I can of both. There's nothing worse than reading line after line of grief and nothing better than having a good laugh. In the middle of it all lies my sanity. If I don't write this I don't know what in the world I'll leave behind. There may be no offspring. There may be no fame or fortune but there can be my words for anyone who might like to read them.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Problem with Family

You know what the problem with family is? You never get a chance to make a first impression.

No matter what, your life is set up for something other than your true purpose. Wouldn't it be great if you could have popped out of the womb and said, "Hi, I'm me and I'm on the earth to be a writer. Please try to keep this goal in mind as you raise me and be warned that all interactions with me may one day be recorded on paper and published for public consumption."

Instead your life is planned out for you as you float in your watery waiting room. Maybe you are being born to give meaning to someone's life or you are the last chance to save a doomed marriage. Perhaps you are meant to fix someone's mistakes from the past or maybe your life will be overshawdowed by the idea that you are the mistake. Your parents commit to raising you different from the way they were raised, grandparents anticipate the chance to correct the mistakes they made and the others lay odds at your success based on your particular circumstances. Every person your birth touchs waits for your arrival with a dream for your existence.

It's all so natural but it comes with a cost - your identity is being formed for you. You will be judged by other people's expectations the moment you enter the world. "She's going to be a handful." "He'll always be a sickly child." The precious you, that is new, will be scrutinized and given other people's qualities. "She's moody just like her father." "He's not as chubby as his brother."

You will be swaddled in expections and qualifications. You will be instantly limited without so much of a thought as to your real needs, desires and feelings. The holy spark of purpose will be buried under bushels of other people's need for you to be a certain way. The fears and dreams of your family will melt into your soul before you even figure out how to cry out for food.

Is it fair? Who knows? It is definitely the human condition. I guess, it's the struggle out of those wrappings that makes us strong if it doesn't kill us. The first year of fragile dependency define for us our relationship with the world outside. Does it feel fearful? Chaotic? Calm? Hopeful? As we grow our rational mind tries to comprehend the imprinted feelings that we have. Does it fit the circumstances? How do we know? Our place in our family now becomes defined by the stories they tell us about ourselves. Are we tomboys, daddygirls or prissy girls? If male, we may be smart alecs, momma boys or troublemakers. We become our labels and our identities are strengthened by the stories they keep retelling. But is it true?

You never get second chance. No one every stops to say, "Maybe we were wrong". I think everytime we get together with our family members we should approach it like a job interview. We should ask, and be prepared to answer the ten most often asked job interview questions:

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
2. What do you know about our family?
3. What three words best describe your personality?
4. What are your strengths?
5. What are your weaknesses?
6. Tell us about a recent success?
7. How did you handle a recent failure?
8. What can you do that someone else can't?
9. How long would you like to stay with us?
10. What are your future goals?

Imagine if everytime you met a family member, they could forget about what you mean to them and really listen to the answers you give. Listen to the you that you are today, not the person they remember from before.

Imagine what would happen if you got that second chance, that only chance, to make a first impression.