Writing is a funny thing. There are times when it bubbles up pure and fresh, almost effortless. It feels like magic, and the blank page fills with words. A gift, not for readers, but for myself.
There are other times when I squeeze it out, a few recycled words. Predictable. Mundane. And I dress them up with a garnish and a little paper umbrella, pretending that no one was really thirsty after all.
I sat down to write about our family holiday. Something sweet and palatable about lazy beach days and toasting s’mores in the flickering firelight. We had a wonderful vacation! Idyllic moments punctuated by the exhaustion and chaos of our newly expanded family. The past few weeks we have connected with cousins and siblings and parents. We have laughed and reminisced and made several more “remember when” stories for the dinner table.
But no amount of garnish can dress up the bad writing I’ve produced on the topic. I can’t make it work. It’s a cheesy tourism brochure.
The truth is, I am consumed by the turmoil of family politics. Somehow it seems to overshadow all of the Norman Rockwell we’ve experienced. Like the fog that rolled in on our last day at the beach house, obscuring the spectacular view we had already begun to take for granted.
So this post is not what I intended. It is messy and vague and somewhat depressing. But honest.
Nothing hurts like family.
I write this with the sad comfort that I am not singling out any family member or particular conflict. On every side of both our families is a complex web of hurt feelings and disrespect and misunderstanding. I’m beginning to think it is normal, though it feels very unnatural. Most of the time we sit on the periphery and try our best to play peace-maker. But we’ve played a few rounds ourselves lately.
You don’t need the details to know the story. Over and over again in a thousand little ways and in the big ones too: nothing hurts like family.
Normally, I prefer the irritation and necessary pain of honest interaction. My advice to others almost always involves gentle confrontation. It’s not fair to be angry with someone and not tell them. Words. Words. Words.
Yet in reality they aren’t the magic fix I imagine. Some things are more complicated than diplomacy and amateur psychology can address. And let’s face it, the walking wounded make terrible diplomats. In my own life it is absurdly easy to settle for a thin veneer of civility atop a bubbling cesspool of resentment. I hate to admit that. It makes me a terrible hypocrite.
My husband reminds me to let things go, to be kind and forgiving, to do good, even when others don’t. Even when others don’t notice, which is the most annoying of all. For him, the relationship is more important than the fight. He is the master of conflict avoidance. But sometimes this peace feels like a lumpy rug. Eventually we’re bound to trip on all that skillfully concealed debris.
So we vacillate between conflict and cover-up. And I don’t know which is better. And I don’t have any more answers. And I don’t know what to do next.
But I love my family. All of them. Even the ones who hurt me. Even the ones whom I’ve hurt.
I don’t have a great insight about this subject, not yet. No pithy conclusion. No 10 simple steps to fix what ails us. Just a prayer for wisdom and hope that my words, and actions, and inactions will make things better, not worse.
So here’s me, trying to figure out how we imperfect jerks can love each better.
August 8th, 2012 at 8:52 am
Oh yay friend! We just returned from my family reunion (me and my sibs and parent and married nieces 27 3/4 in total). I hear you, and totally get it, even the husband master conflict avoider. You said it right and I get the hurt. Thanks for sharing.
August 9th, 2012 at 12:19 pm
I think it’s pretty universal – family is hard. I haven’t met anyone (who isn’t deeply in denial/pretend mode) that doesn’t experience some hurt/drama with extended family. Difficulty factor x 100 when it’s the in-laws. I guess I’m more accustomed to my own family’s dysfunctions.
August 10th, 2012 at 12:39 pm
Wow, this is a lovely post about a painful topic. I so resonated, even though my most recent family encounters were mostly free of conflict. I also relate to the way some posts come easy and naturally and others feel so forced or hard you wonder why you wrote them–until someone likes them. Love your words today, friend.
August 11th, 2012 at 9:23 am
Thanks for the encouragement! One of the best parts of blogging is connecting with other writers, people who really “get” this strange/wonderful process.
August 12th, 2012 at 4:13 pm
[…] Nothing Hurts Like Family (soheresus.com) […]