Thursday, April 26, 2007
On family strife...
Well, not my whole family, just the half who have chosen implosion. Their hapless children are caught in the crossfire and I'm feeling it again, that codependent saviour complex which I enthusiastically blame on my position as the eldest child.
I would love to see a psychological case study of my dad and stepmom. I would love to see a breakdown of the dysfunction. I would love a checklist to complete: pick up milk, do the dishes, fix all their problems, take the kid out for ice cream. There. All better. A checklist solves everything. Also, I can leap tall buildings in a single bound.
My personal opinion is that she's not the only crazy one. Also, that if he considers his marriage to be his own personal hell, that it's a hell of his own making, and together they're creating hell for the child they so kindly brought into this world, a child who deserves so very much more.
Within the realm of Christianity, hell is a place that God created and you can never escape. I think that we create hell for ourselves, but I can't believe that it's inescapable.... I have to believe that there's a way to turn it around. I think that if you can create your own hell, that you can also create your own heaven.
So what are the ways to escape a self-made hell? How do you fix it?
It's important for me to think about these things because I've realized lately how much the state of my father's marriage affects my outlook on marriage in general. Somehow it doesn't matter how many happily married people I know. I am my father's daughter, and I am plagued with a likeness to him and driven by the need to not be like him. I battle with the him that's inside me every day. Where he would yell, I take a deep breath and count to 3. Where he would see despair I struggle for optimism. When he would blame others, I search for new angles. Now that I think about it, I'm not much like him at all. I have fought long and hard for this.
But what if, when the chips are down, I fail to see my own faults. What if I get so frustrated that I raise my voice? What if the violence in me finally rears it's ugly head? What if I can't think straight or control myself, and what if I hurt the people I love most because I refuse to do the work of marriage, until I've created hell for myself. What if he's inside me, just waiting to perpetuate this generational bullshit that just never wants to die?
I had coffee with my dad today, and it wasn't the usual uplifting, refreshing experience. He seems so old, and so unhappy, and kind of sick. And he's angry and depressed and he doesn't want to talk about it. I know he had an argument with my sister, I know because she was on the phone with me in tears, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do for her, besides to say I get it, I've been there, and nothing makes it better, and there's no answer, there never will be. One day you just lose interest in the question, and then you can move on. It's not often that my loyalties are truly challenged, but when it comes to my dad and my sister, there's just no picking. I have to find a way to be there for both of them. I have to tell them both that I just don't know.
I want to pray for them but I just don't know what to pray. I don't even know what prayer is anymore, besides a yearning for something better, and what good does yearning do? You can't control the people around you through prayer, it's not the answer to "what else can you do?" Sometimes prayer just seems like a salve for the conscience of the inactive. Namely, me.
Now I'm in tears, because I can hear that voice inside me telling me that I'm doing lots, I'm doing everything I possibly could. It's telling me that I have broad shoulders for my family to lean on, saying that being present and being involved is exactly what I've been designed to accomplish. I was never meant to fix this.... breathe in. I was never meant to fix this.... breathe out.
It's so easy, isn't it? For families to make us crazy just when we think we're approaching sanity? I guess all you can do is the thing you were built for. The hard part is figuring out what that is.