Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Let it Go, Let it Go, Turn Away and Slam the Door

I was asked this week to draw my family tree for a homework assignment. A daunting task when you need to fit so many people onto one sheet of paper. But I did it, and it ended up being a great assignment.

Prompt: Letting Go.

The assignment was designed to make me address the relationships and patterns on both sides of my family. Who am I especially close to? Who are the "favorites," and who do I have more limited contact with? Is there anyone in my family who is actually hated or who feels actual hate towards me? Where are patterns of disease, mental illness, cancer? Where are drugs and/or alcohol prevalent? Is there anyone in my family who is especially controlling or manipulative, or is anyone abusive? Which of my parents' siblings get along best with each other? Why?

I learned a lot from doing this assignment, and it has opened a lot of doors for further discussion and understanding about why my family functions the way it does (both sides) and why I function the way I do within each side of my family.

For example, in my mom's family, I have a very take charge manner; I like to make plans, I like to be the one to plan holidays or help organize things. I tend to reach out and invite my cousins to do things. I am also very vocal and have no problem expressing my feelings to my family on my mom's side. If someone does something that bothers or upsets me, I can express that without fear of consequence - I know that I am respected, loved, and cared about, and that I am free to disagree with the pack.

On the other side of the fence, in my dad's family, I am more quiet and don't generally stand up to take control over something. I know that the way I would do things is different, and I've learned - through my whole life - that going against the tradition is bad. So I don't do it. In my adult life I have also learned that expressing my opinion, or admitting when I am upset, bothered, or hurt, is generally not welcomed. So I have learned to just be more quiet, and to be more selective with whom I share my real feelings.

It is interesting to see it all on paper, and has made me think a lot more about my need to let go of the rotten apples in my family tree. My blood family is huge. But the circle of people who accepts me for who I am, who lets me be real and speak my truth, who supports and lifts me up, is nowhere near as huge. And that's fine. In grieving the loss of the family that I once had, I have been able to appreciate so much more the ones who have encouraged me and validated me all along.
 The good news is, I have finally learned to let go of the people who have let go of me. Why do I need to bother with feeling sad about my family who doesn't feel sad that I'm not there? I certainly don't. So I don't anymore. I've worked really hard to let it go. To focus on the people who are still here, the ones who take care of me and respect our differences.

And I tell ya what, once you learn to just let it is much more pleasant.