No matter our location, our age, our temperament, our prestige, or our personality, we will somewhere, sometime, encounter people who treat us as inferior.
Often those people are strangers, sometimes colleagues, yet sometimes those people are friends, and sometimes, sadly, family…
As I typed the word sadly I thought about what a therapist once said, “We don’t have to like our family.”
But for crying out loud, shouldn’t family at least be able to get along? To be nice to one another? To put aside their differences of opinion long enough to come together for a meal or a ball game?
I’m a bit stubborn that way, believing there’s strength in the family structure.
If we don’t model forbearance and forgiveness, then how will our children learn those traits?
If we can’t act out those behaviors within our own family setting, then aren’t our children doomed to repeat intolerance and hold grudges?
Family feuds live on for generations and generations because of intolerance and ignorance.
One person doesn’t get her way and pouts for eternity or another feels left out or treated unfairly and chooses to cut ties.
It is often easy to identify the bearer of bad blood.
And yet, maybe, just maybe, even those of us who are functioning with open minds and compassionate hearts can do better.
Sue talks about being part of a family who doesn’t treat her like one of its own.
A small group, she has been the only female omitted from wedding parties, and was even seated among the general guests during the events.
The separation is even more blatant during Christmases and birthdays where she is given a few token gifts while everyone around her has laps full of cash and other expensive items like cell phones and other hot electronic commodities.
Samantha shares with me that her spouse’s family has often put her down in front of her spouse and her children.
She laments that nobody seems to understand her hurt because the slights are always made in joke form, and she worries that her children will not only believe the put-downs, she fears they will adopt this conduct and continue the dysfunction’s lineage.
And she is beside herself because her sister-in-law allows and encourages all of the children to participate in age-inappropriate behavior like four-year-olds watching R-rated movies and gambling with adults.
Sue’s spouse has done a great deal of reflection and acknowledges his family’s lack of consideration but he struggles because he recognizes that he “can’t make them like anyone.”
Samantha says her husband acknowledges her feelings and that he tries to keep the peace, but says he always feels like he’s in the middle.
Both of these women acknowledge that they are an outsider in their views, that their belief systems don’t jive with that of the family they’ve become part of.
Both feel like their feelings don’t matter, that their needs don’t matter, that their principles don’t matter.
Essentially, they both feel as if their lives hold no significant value within their family structure.
I can empathize.
After Warren and I married, started a home and a family of our own, I realized there was a stark contrast in the way his family operated and the way I thought families should exist.
My new husband’s family was tightly woven in every aspect of their lives, with a patriarch and matriarch that controlled the apron and purse strings.
That was their normal.
They were okay with it.
I’d been on my own for four years, had moved halfway across the country with two dogs and though I always had family to fall back on in hard times, I was reliant on no one but myself.
That was my normal.
I wasn’t okay with the dynamics that didn’t change, as I’d expected, once Warren and I became Husband and Wife and Heads of Household.
(Which is one of the reasons I’ve encouraged each of my children to seek out pre-marital counseling once they begin entertaining the idea of marriage. To speak with someone trained, someone who can initiate valuable dialogue about issues we lovebirds rarely think about, let alone talk about…)
It took me years (thank you, Therapist) to realize (and to accept) that Warren’s family was probably as shocked and disconcerted by this difference in lifestyle as I was.
Sometimes I forget this.
And when I do, I work on remembering that it’s not just about me, that there’s a flip-side to the story.
As I’ve been pondering all of these situations, for Sue and Samantha and for myself, two things came to mind.
The first was an epiphany I had last fall.
Thinking about these Journeyer’s conflicts also made me realize something else, something that I need to tell myself, something too many of us forget to accept, especially when we find ourselves in dysfunctional situations.
I’m not sure why we do it, maybe it’s a bit more obvious than I’m making it, but rather than trust in ourselves, so many of us question our own belief systems ad nauseam.
It’s always prudent to consider viewpoints that contrast our own for it not only keeps our minds sharp, there are times when we can learn something new and grow as an individual.
But those of us who really stress over these differences and feel—most often subconsciously—that something is somehow wrong with us, that we are indeed somehow a lesser being, are living out both of these ill-suited behaviors.
We must knock it off.
KNOCK IT OFF!!!
I’ve recently been feeling kind of icky like Sue and Samantha, like I didn’t matter, so I culled that Patrick Swayze piece from the archives and posted links on Facebook and Twitter.
To remind myself.
And I hoped that maybe, just maybe, someone else might find a tiny ray of hope and light in those words, too.
One reader left this comment, “Oh. My. Word. What a beam of light you have just shot [sic] up out of the darkness! This article is life changing! Thank you!”
Thank you, reader Diane Tolley!
Thank you for sharing, for caring, for commenting, and for validating Me and this work I do.
Little ole me made a difference in this big vast world by making a difference in one person’s life.
You, Journeyer, you are making a positive impact on the world around you, too.
You are the cure, too.
A bright beam that lights up the skies.
Let us make this our mantra for those times we feel weak or inferior or tired or vulnerable or devalued…
Every. Single. Time.
Let. Us. Remember.
When we feel valued and loved and less like foes, when we feel confident and courageous, then the burdens that weigh us down are lifted from our shoulders.
And it is so much easier to live our best personal, professional, and philanthropic lives when we feel lighter.
Let’s feel lighter, Journeyer!
Let’s let our rays of light shine through us and out into the world.
Let’s say it together.
It’s. Not. Personal.
All my love, Journeyer!
Yours in healing,