Have you ever finally realized that you’ve spent an inordinate amount of your life time trying to create what you thought you wanted but never had? I’ve spent so much time trying to create the family I never had. I wanted everyone in my family to be open and to tell each other how much we loved each other and how loveable each of us was. I wanted us to be important to each other – not for what we did but simply because we were family. I wanted no confusion and no questioning, no anger and disappointment. I wanted the glow of the safe, warm fuzzy.
As I look back on some of the happy memories I have of each of my family members, I know that I’ve created stories for each one – stories that fit what I thought ‘family’ should be: going to work with my father and going to Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street; taking long walks with my mother and us hugging each other á la Helen Traubel and Lauritz Melchior; having cherry pit spitting contests with one sister; writing long letters to the other sister who was away at nursing school. I latched on to the opportunities which would map to the family that I so longed to have. I told myself that each of these memories meant that I was part of a loved and loving collective.
It might be that I was lead to believe that there was such a thing as the perfect and functional family. I grew up watching Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best and the Donna Reed Show. Hard to beat the cultural influence of those shows: dad went out to business [but we never saw him at work], mother stayed at home and made sure that everyone had a cared for and warm place to return to at the end of the day, all the kids liked each other and were good students who didn’t talk back to their elders and didn’t gang up on or bully other kids. Life was calm and orderly. Everyone had their own place in the hierarchy of the family with dad at the top – the one who made all the important decisions for the entire group – things like where the family would live, what the family would do together, what had priority now. No one ever lost their temper. No one yelled. No one ever felt unsafe. Each member of the family just knew that they were loved and accepted. The whole structure was something each member of the family could count on.
That’s what I have tried so hard to create. And each time that what I got did not map to what I wanted to have, I would redouble my efforts to produce what I wanted. I think I figured that it was my mission, within the family structure, to do that. I would look for chances for the others in my family to join me in fashioning the perfect family [even though I didn’t let anyone, including myself, know that that’s what the goal was]. I covertly reasoned that if the others joined me, then they would see what it was possible to have. And they would be so mesmerized by the beauty of our creation that they would also take on the task of crafting the family I wanted to have.
And I have finally grocked that that is what I have been doing.
So what was it that opened my eyes to this? I invited one sister to come to the next Emerging Futures retreat – The Pause for Potential: Listening for the Emerging Soul. I thought about what my intention was in sending her this invitation before I extended it. And the reasons behind it and which I wrote in my emailed invitation, were and are true. And I know, now, that there was one more reason behind it all. I wanted the sister I believed I used to have back – the sister of my stories, the one who was funny and witty and who was the buffer between me and the chaos at home. I know that I thought that if she was away from the influence of her husband and her environment, she would see who she is and would step into her own strength: she would let go of the story she has told herself about what is possible for her and find the woman who I have thought has been lying dormant underneath.
I sent her the invitation with the link to the write up for the retreat. And she took a few days and then wrote back that she would not take me up on my offer. She said she had her own good reasons for that. And I don’t know what they are [although I’ve been mind reading what they might be]. As I read her email, I got disappointed with her and with myself but mostly with her. [Thanks to my best friend who helped me let go of that energy.]
And so I now know that having what I wanted and felt I had never had [or had lost] is just so much wasted energy. I cannot stand in my ruby slippers and click my heels together three times while repeating, “There’s no place like home.” That would be being trapped in my illusion. What is important is now. Not ‘if only’ or any other version of that phrase.
And I know that I cannot coerce anyone to see themselves or the world as I do or as I would want it to be. I cannot want for them what they do not want for themselves. Just as I know that what anyone else thinks of me is none of my business, so too I know that what I think of them is not important to my evolution. And, while the story I’ve carried inside me is a very pleasant one, I recognize now that that’s what it is: a story, a fiction which is not reality. And, as I read this over, I know that I feel no sense of loss in truly grocking this. Interesting.
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