Saturday, June 25, 2011

Messy Thoughts of Family and Friends

Most of my physical life couldn't be better! The weather is delightful, the garden is bursting with produce and much of the hard work of planting and mulching is behind me. There is lots to do that offers time for reflection while I work. The harvest is coming in, putting it up is a happy chore for me. I'm getting ready to plant the fall garden in about a week. The physical ease and time for reflection have enabled these messy thoughts.

I've had several challenges in interpersonal relationships lately. I spent a week with my blood family, my siblings, my 93 year old mother and a nephew. It was largely amicable, some real fun times and only a couple of meltdowns. All in all, a good time and I think my generation has come a long way in terms of mental health and "normal" relationships. It's wonderful that my mother is still in fairly good health. I rarely see these people, once or twice a year for some, every several years for others. Long time together stirred memories from the past while making new memories.

I spring from generations of "dysfunctional" personal relationships with a good dose of alcoholism and mental illness. Some family members ignore this legacy and pretend that no matter how cruel or bizarre people's behavior may be, such incidents should never be discussed. My father, bless him, was an alcoholic with a short temper. He was the nurturing parent, he truly was the best father he was able to be. The week with my family generated messy thoughts of who I am and from whence I've come and how far I've come. It's all mixed together, I carry the child in me, the maiden, mother and now crone. Perhaps I've acquired some distance and wisdom with age but the child in me screams to be heard. (I was a screamer, I would have attention of any kind.) The mother in me nurtures that child and the crone takes a zen, unattached approach to the volatile emotions. I am blessed to have blood family, to be a sister, daughter, aunt.

And then there is the matter of friends. I've lived in the same place for decades. I've been a fairly public person. My albinism makes me a memorial person plus I've been an artist, musician, dance caller, dancer, all of which have put me in the public eye. I have many many acquaintances. It is a privilege to have so many opportunities to get to know people. I've traveled a lot and some of my neighbors have traveled a lot. It's a fairly cosmopolitan community for being in the boonies.

I find myself and others willing and able to relate to each other in a myriad of ways from the most casual to the most intimate. I know that the younger me had little ability to be a true empathic friend, I was much too self-obsessed. Yet there was often at least one true friendship when the walls and narcissism were put aside enough to allow true communication and support.

These friendships are nurturing, they allow for growth. Real communication happens and both people feel heard. They share the truth as best they can. They share the highs and lows, the mundane, the extraordinary, and the confusing. True friendship creates a safe place where one can confide one's fears and celebrate moments of clarity or triumph. Fortunately, I have real friends.

I've lately found myself very short with people I see as incapable of such friendship. I've little patience with others "failings" I'm feeling very judgmental of what I see as poor moral choices. I've no tolerance of narcissism. I've easily bored, a rarity for me, by people who stick to platitudes and refuse to actually reveal anything about themselves. I'm becoming quite the curmudgeon and I don't much care. Well, there goes my contemplative Buddha nature.

A friend pointed out that I needn't give energy to a friendship that doesn't nourish me. Sometimes personal boundaries made sense, like good fences make good neighbors. I keep reminding myself that people's weaknesses do not make up the sum total of the person. It's easier to "love" people when I don't actually have to deal with them.

Then there are the virtual friendships. You dear readers who take the time to read this. And the writers who share their thoughts freely through the internet. I treasure my time with these people, I feel privileged to have glimpses into their lives. These are easy "friendships" much like the pleasure we can find in books, music, the other arts and hobbies.

Once again, I've no real neat conclusion to this post. Perhaps by putting my thoughts in words, my mind will clear a bit. I know that I am privileged to not be dealing with more dire questions. I am blessed and I am grateful. And I'm off to mow the grass.


Blogger Beth said...

Human relationships are so complex, aren't they? So many layers of thought and feeling.I can relate somewhat to what you're going through as I've had occasion of late to contemplate my relationships. It gets so overwhelming at times that I've found great solace in the simple,repetitive outdoor tasks that gardening and yardwork require. Thank God for mountains and trees and birds and flowers and bright yellow squash. :-)

I hope that you find your contemplations helpful and enlightening, Chris. I pray I can find the same in mine. Meanwhile, thank goodness we have grass to mow!

5:44 AM  
Blogger Joe Klein said...

I so value real sharing where people are able to reveal themselves because I think that's how we grow. I appreciate your words and have some parallels going on, as you know. xo

4:29 PM  
Blogger colleen said...

Oops Joe's been using this computer again, forgot to sign out/sign in.

4:31 PM  
Blogger Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Don't all families have alcholism and mental illness?

I've been contemplating friendships as well. Lately I have no tolerance for people who I don't feel are "good" friends to me. And luckily, a much greater appreciation for those who are.

I wish you'd write more often Chris. I like your deep thinking.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Shrinky said...

I agree with greener pastures insofar as the alcoholism and mental illness goes (smile). I am so glad to have tripped in here, I relate to much of what you have so eloquently said. I guess we all have grass to mow?

2:38 PM  
Blogger Tabor said...

Thanks for stopping at my blog. You are the one whose words would be most significant for that post. My highs and lows are similar...if not so yours. The place you seem to be right now is pretty amazing. You seem to have been honed like fine gold after all the flame. Thanks.

2:29 PM  
Blogger BIKBIK AND RORO said...

I really like this honest, simple post. And people -- well, they're human after all haha.. I've actually been wanting to post about them.. about my learning (slowly!) patience and tolerance and walking in love.. Life is made up of such experiences I guess. And mowing the lawn.

9:26 PM  
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