Family of Choice or Family of Origin: We ALL have a Choice in The Matter
Family of origin… the family in which a person was born.
Since late 2009, I have read approximately two hundred books. (If a person aspires to be a published author then read – read – read.) Most readers and close friends also know I have invested hundreds (Yes, hundreds... my health insurance would certainly corroborate my statement.) of hours in my wellness plan and organized work with doctors, specialist etc.
Prior to 2009, it never occurred to me that I have a choice whether I want to have a relationship with a blood relative. (Otherwise referred to as a member from my family of origin.) There again, for most of my life I never knew that I could or should exercise boundaries. I am the daughter of a military officer.
In 2011, shortly after I read Ashley Judd’s memoir, “All that is Bitter and Sweet” my eyes were opened to a stark fact. We all belong to two families: our family of choice and our family of origin.
I guess that means in 1992, I found my surrogate parents.
More than likely, my surrogate parents know more about me than my own mother and father. They are my family. Throughout our friendship, we have spent holidays together, I have attended both of their children's weddings and we have sat across the table as equals to discuss life, woes, problems and happiness. And when necessary, they assume the role of parents to me.
Three years ago when I plummeted to my emotional bottom, I was prepared to do what I only knew how to do, immediately pick myself up, dust myself off and start again. I was three days away from signing an acceptance letter for a job which meant I was one week away from flying to Rochester, New York to train for my new job. It was within the three days before I accepted the job offer that my surrogate mom convinced me to drive to Reno. They wanted to *see me*. I agreed and indeed I traveled 350 miles to their house. They spent an evening talking to me...observing me and finally said,
“You are not well. You CAN’T accept this job. We have known you for over 20 years, and this is not YOU. Look at you!"
It was through their love and understanding I found the courage to *stay down* and accept physical and emotional collapse. Other than one cousin, it is due to my surrogate family that I made the decision to take the steps I did these last 3 years….necessary steps to save my own life. Where my family of origin is concerned, I suppose it is an accurate statement to say, "It is due to my family of origin that I have remain motivated and committed to my work these last three years."
Ashley Judd goes on to admit, “…my family of origin, the one in which I was born…. was not a healthy family system.” It has been through Ashley Judd’s memoir, I learned the term *family system*. It has been through my wellness efforts, doctors and specialists I have learned *correct words* to clarify so much about myself, my family and my childhood.
April 2011 was a pivotal year in my work. Ground breaking! Way too much information to go into on a blog, but most certainly included in my manuscript. Where dad was concerned, my heart was softening, and I was receptive to his phone calls. The times we spoke on the phone helped me realize that we loved one another. In various conversations, we agreed life was at times, messy tense and chaotic. Very importantly for me, my feelings of anger and pain were not fueled by figments of my imagination.
It has only been since dad’s death that other pieces of our history are falling into place. It is much easier for me to trace the woman behind the man – step mom – and her role in my often times stormy relationship with my father...
During my organized work as I slowly began to realize I do not have to endure, suffer, accept or make allowances for cruelty or bullying from family-- such a HUGE burden lifted from my shoulders! And during my revelations, I found no reason to sound the trumpets to tell anyone about what I had learned. More than anything it was such a relief to learn I was not sadistic and I DO NOT have to go back for more.
As I slowly make peace with my past I know it is only *ME* who gets there*. My work does not change others. It simply helps me to take people as is, establish boundaries and know when to leave for the day. No more year long grudges. Just simply talk on another day.
In recent blogs, I have referred to a certain night in 2010 that big brother drew a line in the sand with me. For those who wonder….the Readers Digest version of big brother's *writing on the wall* spelled out if push came to shove then he would see to it that I went to jail.
WOWZERS, huh?? Understood it might prompt a reader to ask, “What the hell was going on.....what on earth were the circumstances?”
Let's just say my efforts to bring light to a situation that was spiraling down real quickly before *auntie g’s* eyes created serious concern that death might be a result. Fortunately my work to date with doctors and specialist (and God) guided my decision. Without hesitation little sister – auntie g – former sister-in law removed herself from the situation.
Prior to travel to dad's on July 4, it had been 18 months that not a word had been spoken even though we all live within about a ten mile radius of each other.
Dad died on July 8, 2012. We buried dad on July 11, 2012. So yes, in dad's final days, hours and for only a few hours after his burial all of *us* were under the same roof. *gasp*
Referring back to a recent blog, Man Up Big Brother!! He's my dad too ass hole. | BlogHer
In the blog, I share that I learned big brother and I would be under the same roof on a weekend in June and that I did NOT change my travel plans. To my step mom I said, “Time is ticking, and dad is not getting any younger. I am not traveling to town to resolve a lifetime of problems with big brother....
...plus I know how to be cordial and polite and exist under the same roof.”
Without a doubt, I felt the same way as I travelled to Mississippi on July 4. I mean come on! Dad is dying. Hospice has transferred him back to his house so he can die under his roof! So, no, I never thought about, "I wonder if everybody will get along.” Give me a fuckin’ break. Or rather, get some fuckin’ help if this was a number one concern for anyone!
Shortly after my nephews, big brother and the girl big brother is F-ing arrived, step mom felt the need to point out to me that I was being ignored by everyone.
“Really….not much paying attention...
...and I don’t really give a shit as I am not here for them.
I am in this house for my dad.
Maybe step mom thought she was being helpful, but she brought *this* to my attention several times in different ways. I finally had had enough. It was not that I cared if I was ignored, it was the way step mom communicated I was being ignored.
“Just give them time to be around you so they can decide if they want to interact with you….”
Talk about a ton of bricks toppling down on my head. ENOUGH with the fuckin' scapegoat routine stepmom. As each second ticks away and I try to mentally prepare for someone to bear the unthinkable news, "Dad is dead." I was not exactly in a mind set to hear her words as we stood in the upstairs bathroom. Finally I stopped step mom mid sentence, looked her in her eyes and said,
“STOP! WAIT! Do you think I am in this house *on show* for my nephews, big brother, little brother, little brother's girlfriend and the wretched girl big brother is F-ing secretly hoping they decide to accept me into their life or want to have a relationship with me? Understand this step mom, it's a two way street here. And yes, it's difficult not to observe family member's behavior behind the scenes of dad’s death bed. And yes, while we are on the subject, after all is said and done, I am sure I will have made clear decisions about who I want in MY life, be it big brother, little brother, nephews, niece. Get it through your head that a desire to have a relationship with each other works BOTH ways. No one in this house is the judge and jury of me. So be it if I have to make a decision to love certain family members from afar!”
I think it went without saying that the same applied to her, little brother and little brother's girlfriend too.
Like fuel to a fire...before July 4th... when I thought dad would live step mom created different ways to make comments about other family members…..”What if they don’t care why you disappeared for three years?”
My reply, “Ummmm, I don’t really care if they don't care.”
How many different ways or times can I say it, I refute BLAME! I am no longer this family's scapegoat. It is not my fault nor do I bear the burden of ongoing drama in our family system. Dysfunction, shame, and disease have intertwined itself around every member of this family like a fuckin' albatross.
So no, I did not travel to dad’s house with a secret desire or hope to rekindle relationships with people who exiled me from their lives--ignored me seconds after MY FATHER was dead -- not to mention did so under the roof of my father's house.
The man who died was not just a grandfather, husband, mentor, friend or the father to big brother (Hear that wretched girl who big brother SCREWS? Speaking of... I never missed former sister-in-law SO MUCH with all of her compassion, sensitivity, love and class as I did during that week.) The man who died was MY father and some of you had shit for class. Yeah, yeah, yeah, grieving....this is me grieving.....now pour me another drink. WTF-Ever.
Today – right now, I think it is obvious that manners, sensitivity, compassion, and just downright civility and decency were void in those few days all of us were under dad’s roof. YOU put your hands on me! YOU pushed me into the wall! And today - right now, I am sure of one thing: I will always love my family, but more than likely not care one way or another if I see or talk to certain members ever again.