I have been wrestling with an internal struggle lately.
My parents, specifically my mother, have blown through this family, torn it to shreds, and flung out all of the unworthy pieces into the ether. Never to be seen, spoken to, or acknowledged again. A few years ago, I became a victim of this behavior myself. Unreal, right? Totally. Unfortunately. Real.
So now I am thinking back to all of the victims past. My mother’s sister Betty. She was disowned, along with my uncle Norman and cousin Jenny by association, back when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. The story my mom tells is that Betty didn’t do her share of sibling work when it came to caring for their mother, my grandmother, after she had her stroke and was sick. Perhaps this is true, perhaps this is embellished by years of frustration. But regardless of the severity of the alleged actions, does it warrant family dis-ownership? Definitely not. Temporary silent treatment – or screaming match – followed by a tearful apology and subsequent forgiveness? That’s more like it.
My mother’s other sister Margie. She was disowned, along with my uncle Dave, and their two children Lisa and Laura by association, back when I was 11 or 12. She claims that Margie has been mean to her her entire life and finally it was The Last Straw at some family function they were at together. They got into a fight, there were nasty words exchanged (by both I dare speculate) and <wipes hands> that was that.
My dad’s mom and brother. His only family outside of her and us kids. I was a little older for this one, in my tweenage years, so I recall a lot of details around this. My mother claims, and my dad supports (or at least allows her to claim) that his parents always treated my mom badly. Because she was Chinese. Nevermind that my dad’s parents were immigrants themselves. A few years after my grandfather died, my mom got into a fight with my grandmother about what, I am uncertain, but again it was The Last Straw, and my mom told them to get out of their lives, and my dad apparently agreed with her. Or, at least didn’t fight back. Now looking back in hindsight, I’m pretty sure my grandparents saw how destructive my mother could be – how she alienates people from her life, and therefore also my father’s. I feel nearly psychic in my ability to see how my grandmother would feel about a woman controlling her son the way my mom controls everyone in her life. I’m sure she tried to control my grandparents too. So, yeah, they probably treated her badly and had it out for her the whole time she was married to my dad. They were willing to stand up to her and say something. And then… axe.
When I was younger and my mom told me these stories, I felt so proud that she stood up for herself. That she wouldn’t let anyone get away with treating her poorly. This is how she instilled lessons in me about self worth, which I obviously learned very astutely! I also learned some pretty nasty habits such as the desire to control others, and having an insane ability to be able to emotionally detach from anyone in my life with whom I no longer want to associate.
Now, I no longer feel proud of her, I feel proud of all the people in her life who had the guts to stand up to her, be authentic and speak their peace regardless of her reaction, and live with the consequences of her no longer being part of their lives. Whether they were right or wrong, everyone deserves to express their feelings and have a discussion about things that bother them. And, in a family, your right to express your feelings and be authentic should feel like a safe experience because you know that right or wrong, you will be heard. And there will be a loving resolution. This safe environment was not a place where I grew up. I have never known a safe environment to express my feelings before I met G. Truly.
So my question for you is, now that I have joined the ranks of my previously disowned family, should I make an effort to reconnect with them?
You’re thinking, why the hell not?
I think that too, most days. Other days, I fall back into my old way of thinking that tells me that if I get cozy with a bunch of family members that my mother hates, tell them that I’m divorced and remarried to a woman (none of them know!! Some don’t even know that I got married the first time except perhaps through the grapevine), that it will 100% no questions asked close the door on any possible relationship with her – or my dad because she clearly is a hard boundary on his relationships too. I’ve always said that my heart is open and that my desire would be for my parents to come around one day. She won’t. But still…
Some days I am even worried that since my mom came from a family and culture that is very invested in the “honorable” path in life, which excludes controversial issues such as divorce and gay marriage regardless of your personal happiness, that if I reached out to them I would be rejected.
Rejected by the rejects.
Rejected by the people I kind of look up to for their ability to move on happily in their lives without my mother in it.
I’m pretty fortuitous, but I’m sure it would take some therapy to get over a disappointment like that.
My grandmother has since passed away, but I found many of the others on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn… they’re all there with their smiling faces and glimpses of the last 2 decades of pictures that I’ve missed out on.
I know the right answer. I just need a little push over the edge. I know to put one foot in front of the other, but I don’t know how far to go.