I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past several months about relationships. We’ve all had friendships and relationships with family members that have morphed over time, it happens and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I have very little contact with most of my family members – some by deliberate choice and some because we just don’t connect very well and/or have nothing in common and never see each other. I think if I hadn’t joined the Marines when I was 17, I’d feel much closer to quite a few of my relatives but that’s not the way life worked out. It certainly forced me to be self-reliant since there was no one I could call to bail me out of trouble or help me pay for school or gas or food. It was me and TJ making our way and I think we did a fantastic job of it. There were a few dinners of gas station hot dogs paid for on our credit cards but we made it without anyone else.
One thing that I think I did miss out on, though, was the ability to function as part of a larger family. It’s not natural for me to share personal things with my relatives. I don’t have many shared experiences with most of them, not that I can remember anyway, so we’ve not really been able to develop the level of trust that I need to be able to open up to them. And since I’m absolutely terrible at small talk, there’s really not much left. I tend to avoid gatherings unless it would be blatantly rude not to attend. Don’t get me wrong – I have some family that I love dearly and wish that we could be closer. But, in many cases, that’s based on the fond memories I have from childhood summer vacations or holiday get-togethers. In the last 25 years or more, though, most of us really don’t have much in the way of common experiences.
Another area that I think has been affected by not being around a larger family unit is my inability to express my love for people who don’t live in my house. I have absolutely no trouble at all telling Micah and TJ that I love them and treasure them and am so happy and proud to be a family with them. But, with a handful of exceptions, they are it. I was talking with my brother – who I’m the closest to – and his wife about this a couple of weeks ago and damn near started crying because I’m unable to tell my sister-in-law’s mom how much I care about her and how incredibly grateful I am that she took the time to develop a relationship with Micah that he clearly treasures. I’m so moved by the love she’sÂ shown him and the attention she gives him but I cannot seem to say it. I’ve said thank you and that I appreciate all that she does for him and all that she shares with him but when I want to express how deeply felt my gratitude is – not just for what she’s done with my son but for always including my family as a part of hers – I freeze. I’m feeling some anxiety just typing this out because I don’t know how I’ll feel if she sees it. I have no idea what I’m so worried about but it freaks me out.
We have an incredible opportunity to be an active part of a loving, supportive family and TJ and I both can’t seem to bring ourselves to… I’m sitting here and can’t even think of a word to express it. We feel tremendous love for this large group of people and we think they know that we love them but when it comes to participating in events, we normally don’t. Maybe it’s so many years of it being just us and we feel exposed or insecure or.. I don’t know…
Several years ago, I made a conscious choice to eliminate folks who were constantly negative or shit-stirrersÂ from my life. That’s resulted in some family members and previously close friends being cut from regular – or any – communication. I have to say that I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. Life is tough enough without having someone who has nothing positive to say yapping in your ear or trying to instigate problems. I suffer from cyclical depression and, I have to say, surrounding myself with positive, loving people has made a world of difference. So has having friends who understand and accept the fact that I can’t be close all the time. I don’t answer the phone for anyone everÂ and I can’t have prolonged, regular communication with folks. There are many days when I physically cannot bring myself to communicate in any way with anyone. Obviously, I have to hold down a job and interact with my wife and son so I’ve had to figure out coping mechanisms that work.Â But I’ve lost friends because I can’t communicate in a way that they need me to or be as regularly engaged as they need. I’ve felt bad about that but it’s just not how I’m wired. I’m very lucky to have a very small group of friends and family that get me and don’t judge me and simply accept that, sometimes, I can only give a little bit. And sometimes, I can’t give anything at all.
I’ve got no more words in my head now so I should be able to stop thinking about this so much. Thank you WordPressÂ – and anyone who may be reading this rambling post – for being my free therapist.