There’s nothing like a trip home to remind you how crazy your family is. It makes you confront an alternate reality that you normally escape surrounded by cool friends, a demanding job, and twenty-something misadventures. You go for one family gathering and all of a sudden you feel screws falling out of places where things are usually firmly nailed down.
In some ways, those familiar quirks and pains are strangely comforting. Yes, you’re a bit messed up, but at least you’re well-acquainted with what makes you uniquely messed up: your uncle drinks too much, your cousin just came out of rehab, your sister resents you, and your aunt removes herself from all family functions. Your mother clings to religion while your father buries himself in work like he always did growing up. Not to mention someone is always sick, someone else just died, and there’s never enough money.
But in other ways, those familiar quirks and pains are just as dreadful as they’ve always been. Like red marks after a slap in the face, those “issues” come rising to the surface and you wonder how you ever made it out of there without needing an extra U-haul just for your emotional baggage. What’s even more scary than the realization that you’re blood-related to most of these “issues”, is how, as you get older, the picture of exactly why they are painful and problematic crystallizes and descends on you with a newfound clarity you weren’t necessarily looking for and are now disturbed to find.
What do you do when you see things you’d rather not see in people you love? And what do you do when you look at them and recognize yourself in those same areas?
What you do is you realize that you have two options: 1. you freak out and decide you must really have deep-seeded issues because the people around you have deep-seeded issues, or 2. you choose acceptance. You realize that “having issues” is a choice. You can make life more complicated than it is, digging at areas of imperfection and dissatisfaction, or you can look at what’s right and good about everything you have and focus on that.
Focus on the other stuff and you’re choosing to have issues. Cry about “having issues” and you’re going to get run over by the other people who have faced the same challenges, made peace with them, and got on with their lives.
You can tell yourself that your parents are compulsive, emotionally unbalanced, and have control issues. OR you can tell yourself that you have two imperfect but well-meaning and loving parents and you are a product of a home that was blessed with their example of hard-work and sacrifice — an example that now gives you the power to make a better, but also imperfect future.
What you do is wake up and realize your life is all about the story you tell yourself about your life. As you get older, you have more material to draw into your narrative, which can also cause confusion about what’s really important. We like to think everyone and everything and everything about everyone must somehow be significant, but sometimes things just happen to us and sometimes people we love are a little crazy and sometimes we struggle because of things outside of our control. But these things should not change the over-arching storyline of our lives: good lives, beautiful lives. Imperfect lives.