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.