The holidays… if only the reality could match up with the idea. Right? For those of us whose life was anything but a Norman Rockwell painting, going home becomes just another mountain to climb over, if we choose to go at all.

Home… you know that warm bubbly feeling you get when you think of going home? Yeah, well, we don’t have that. The bubbles are replaced with an odd mix of dread and anticipation. If only we could keep our eyes on the idea part and close our mind to the discrepancies of what actually is.  Like say, your sitting in a room with the same people who caused you so much harm. Maybe across the table “He” sits. Maybe dad was not such a great guy. Maybe Uncle Nicolas touched you inappropriately and everyone knows. “Can’t you just get over that for God’s sake?” “That was so long ago why can’t you just move on now?”

Family. What a rabbit hole. Idea versus what is.

Family is our first community of people. Here is where we learn to function in a group setting. Here we learn our value. Here we learn what is acceptable in interactions. We learn how to behave and what to expect from others. In this utopian community, each individual’s highest and best would stand equally beside what is best for the group as a whole. Respect is earned and honesty and truth are valued. Here we have home, a nest of safety.

You notice this doesn’t have anything to do with the labels above the heads of its members. Each person would be held accountable for their actions and the effect their actions had on others.

As I worked to find what truly had me tied me to my pain, I bumped up hard against the idea of family. On one hand, I loved these people so much, or at least that’s what I called it. But the bump comes in that to interact you have to reach backwards, into this distorted, entangled place. They want you to go back to the time before, before you spoke. There things look perfect… for them.

There is no room for growth here. So often family holds tight to this Norman Rockwell illusion while your truth screams something very, very different. Many of its members don’t feel that your experiences should have any bearing on what life looks like today, at all. Maybe even Mom or Dad. They want to keep their secrets safe.

This is to those of you who relate to where I’m going… I would like to turn your attention to the watchers. This was a piece that took me years to become aware of. The responsibility for the struggle in moving forward lies with our interactions with the watchers. Their reality is consumed with patching up the fishers on the surface so that things look good from the outside. There was an end date to the actual physical pain. There was a moment when you were strong enough to disengage. Maybe you were 16 or 17 when you had the nerve to stand your ground and take charge of your safety and your body. How old are you now? Is your struggle today with Him or Them? and are they just and idea? Do their actions match up with their words?

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Deepak Chopra once asked me how long it had been since I had actually physically been hurt? This question turned me in a completely different direction. It had been years since anyone had harmed me in any sort of physical way. What was it that kept me entangled in the struggle?

Pain happens… Struggle is a Choice!

We desperately try to hold on to the idea of this group of people. Family. We want desperately for the picture of what we wish were to line up with the reality of what is. We try to weave ourselves back into the fabric of this community. Somehow we have ended up on the outside. Those that you thought were there to keep you safe. They either take his side or your pain is dismissed, completely. The lens of shame is turned your way and for the next 40 years you are trying to convince them that you aren’t really the bad guy. It’s him. Maybe the man sitting at the head of your Thanksgiving table.

They want you to be quiet.

The pain is perpetuated to such a large degree in this struggle. The more I talk with other women, the more I see that my experience with sharing my truth is ordinary at best. Moms make excuses, He didn’t mean it. If you would have just been quiet. What did you do? What were you wearing?

It’s like groundhog day. Right? I know for myself I felt like I had the same conversation over and over again. I explained repeatedly that it made me ill to sit in a room with the man that touched me. I didn’t want to spend my Thanksgivings or Christmases worried about my little girls. This was years after extracting myself, incrementally. I rarely went “Home” by this point.

Except for the HOLIDAYS.

Every year I struggled, we had the same conversation. Sometimes I was told he wasn’t going to be there, and I would walk in to see him grinning. He would immediately want to hug me… Right? Or he would walk in late for the event and no one would notice. It didn’t matter to anyone but me and my little amazing “family”.

What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over with the expectation of a different outcome.

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Relationships come with conditions. Like a a spiritual contract. Mom to child… Dad to child… Aunts, uncles, siblings. Each has a certain set of conditions that we are expected to uphold. Much like the one we enter into with our spouses or adoption. Unfortunately, we didn’t get anything in writing when it comes to family.

We enter the world helpless, completely vulnerable. We do this with the expectation that the ones that “chose”  to bring us here would uphold their end of the bargain. They have chosen to be responsible for nurturing you and keeping you safe. They create the foundation that should hold you up for a lifetime.

We as women have fought hard for the right of choice when it comes to life residing in our bodies. Standing right beside the strength of that right comes even a larger responsibility for the life you do choose to bring into the world. We make that choice each and everyday for the whole of the nine months. That responsibility doesn’t miraculously disappear with the birth. We are mom until our last breath. We can’t un-choose it. Even if we try. With beautiful adopted parents, our child often comes to find us in the end.

So let’s slip back to the idea of the watchers. I have spent a lot of think time around the  “Whys?” of the watchers and have really gotten no where. It still befuddles me. Why does it seem more right for them to surround the perpetrator than to protect and support the innocence of a child? I was asked once if the twist in thought could be related to the fact that it really hadn’t been that long ago that families paid men to marry our girls. The man chosen was more often chosen by stature over integrity. So is it that intellectually we know, but genetically it doesn’t feel wrong?

I recently read about a community that surrounded an admitted and convicted child molester. They weighed his good deeds and his indiscretions and found his good to rise high above this one little thing. If she had just kept her mouth shut. How dare she ruin this good man’s life? He was a deacon of the church… a fireman. He did so much good for the community. He admitted to grooming his son as well. He even kept count of the number of times he had been with her. The son’s case is still pending.  A huge example of how many of us feel within our families. She can’t even rent a house in the town of Dearborn.  

Who is perpetuating her pain? Many of us could gain closure if it weren’t for this odd twist of morality.

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So as we move into the holiday season we must look closely at what we are really trying to hang onto.

Does the idea of what you wish was match the reality of what is? Is the exchange just? Would your choices match the ones you would advise someone else? Can you enter that situation with integrity? Give yourself a break here. Again it’s not as if you are talking about shirking the pope. Every player in the game has and is making choices. Your only play is to be receptive to the next right choice. Your healing is an elevation of your game. Right? Many of us grew up playing kickball and we are choosing to learn how to play chess. We can invite them to play chess with us. They may or may not want to. They may be quite comfortable with the rules of the kickball game. Your only choice is to continue with your chess game and place no judgement.

I think the hole of what should have been, or what we wish were will always be there. Our DNA calls. I think it similar to what I read about phantom pain. You can remove the diseased limb but the pain fades slowly. It never feels quite right. But in the end we have to choose what elevates us. We must choose what is healthy for ourselves and our new families. It requires making a choice to focus on making beautiful memories with the ones that are there and present over the longing for something you never really had in the first place. Your children are the beginning of something new and different if you allow it.

If this is a time of struggle for you… Shake it up! Do something completely out of the realm of normal. Take this time to take your family skiing or spend time on the beach. It doesn’t need to be something extravagant, being together with the ones that love you, for real is what matters. Make cookies, pull out the china. Play games with the kids. Focus on making memories that are really worth remembering. Create for your children the stories you wish you had to share.

You know… the good kind.

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