Monday, February 3, 2014

Monday Afternoon Contemplations

I just got back from taking my niece to the bus. She came to visit for a few days. Due to how thing had been in my family, I had not seen her in several years. During that time she became quite the adult.

She seems to have an understanding many adults do not have. She also feels driven to live life on her own terms, a trait many do not have until later in life, if ever.

We talked about a lot of different things, and it was pretty awesome. What is interesting about the two of us is that we have a few things in common. In some ways we are a lot alike, and very different than others in our family. We both used to have long, curly wild hair. Now we both have shortish, curly hair. We are about the same height. We are both Leos :), and then there are the things that aren't as superficial.

I feel fortunate to have her in my life the way that she is. Given the circumstances, she could have been long gone. There were things that happened when she was younger that others told her meant I did not care about her - things I wasn't aware of at the time.

I have struggled with my family, having not had any of my own kids. Apparently I do not have a clue about how I am "supposed" to be when it comes to them. The one thing I do not understand, though, is why it has to all fall on me, or be nothing. At least that is the way it has seemed, and it is something that perhaps eludes me because of the fact that I do not have the parental perspective.

But let me tell you a bit about my perspective. Maybe it will shed some light for someone who may be in the shoes of my those in my family, and thinks about things in a similar way as they have. Just because a person isn't in the picture at the times it seems s/he should be, it doesn't mean they don't want to be. It also doesn't necessarily mean they are selfish.

What it could mean are a few things:
1. They don't know how to interact with young children
2. They don't know how to interact with the parents of the young children
3. The parents make it difficult to interact with the young children
4. The young children don't express much of interest in talking once, twice, or more, and the adult takes it to mean something, and respecting it, backs off
5. There is no effort from the family of the children to help make the bridge between that person and your kids.

There is a reason to communicate something to the adult who might be friendly with your children, but not in a way that makes them wrong for how they are. Communication and creation are a 2-way street, and what does or does not happen within the dynamic does not solely and squarely rest on that person's shoulders.

I am far from perfect, and the majority of my family would likely be glad to fill you in on all of my seeming imperfections. However, I love my family in the way that people love their families, but that does not mean I have known how to interact with them over the years. Sadly it has affected my relationships with my nieces and nephew - but it doesn't mean I love them any less. Unfortunately, they may never know how much I love them, depending on where they go with their perceptions of me and my actions over the years.

For my one niece, the shadows of comments made by others ultimately did not influence her negatively in regard to me. She was able to see past the things said. I can only hope the same will hold true for the others in time. I hope to have the time, if they have the inclination to find out more about me. (If not, perhaps one day they can be directed here to find out more about what made this person tick. So much of who I am is revealed here.)

I have been reluctant to interject myself when there doesn't seem to be an interest on their part in speaking with me. Apparently that is how kids are, or so I have been told. The problem on my side is that I don't see kids as kids. I see them more as little people, and as a result I try to give them what it may seem they want. Apparently I have been guessing wrong all these years. I, like so many, have made choices based on what I thought I knew. In my world and mind, there is nothing worse than an adult trying to stick themselves in your life if you have no interest in them being there. 

In the same way that my distance has been wrongly perceived as I don't care, I have wrongly perceived the lack of interest on their side as a message to me that they have other things they want to spend their time on, and people to spend it with.

I share this for the same reason I share many other things, just in case it can be helpful to others in some way. So often we have misfirings when it comes to communications with those who aren't where we are because we somehow think the other party should understand the same things we do. They are, after all, so obvious, aren't they?

I saw something today about Phillip Seymour Hoffman. It was talking about people's perceptions of him in relation to his relationship with drugs and the rest of his life. I bring it up in this context because there is something that this and that article share, and that is the idea that we are often not only unable to understand another, but then proceed to add to what often becomes a mess by judging them for what they do or don't do as effectively as we think they should. It is the exact opposite of empathy, which is what allows us to connect to the person and their dilemma through an aspect of something we can relate to.

The problem is that we try to put so much distance between us and those we think are doing things that are wrong or bad. Many times we want nothing to do with it, or them. Often that will only make things worse. If we were willing to truly connect, then there is a greater chance that we can have the kind of impact we would like to have.

In between writing this post and doing other things, I commented on a thread that linked to the above article. I am going to share it separately. Check the next blog post if the conversation interests you. I don't want to go too far astray in relation to this one.

In the end, all I can say is that there is always more going on than we realize, and if we think we know something, it will not likely be in our best interest to act as though as others know and agree about that thing. If we want something, it is in our best interest to see what we can do to make it happen, instead of complaining that someone else is not making it happen.

And, if you are a parent, please realize that it is you who hold the cards and deals the hand. If you want your child to have a relationship with another, consider it is not in your best interest to get in the way of it by sabotaging things or minimizing its ability to happen. 

In the end, I made the choices I did, and I take responsibility for that, however any relationship I do or do not have with anyone isn't unaffected by the interactions I have with others. We are all in this together. 

In the end, I tend to believe that the relationships that endure are the ones that are meant to. If I wind up having a relationship with someone, then I am meant to have it. I say that in part because of my niece. She didn't have to come around, but she did. 

Many people who know me don't like and/or understand me. It has become par for my course, and started long ago with my more immediate family. If it extends to the next generation, I will not be surprised. Long ago I figured that I would always be that "crazy aunt," that one everyone has in their family. I wouldn't mind some of my family figuring out that it was actually a good thing, though. 

The odds of that happening: slim to none. It is hard when you can't see something beyond what it is, but it doesn't stop you from contemplating what it could be like.

This conversation makes me sad for so many reasons, but if it can help another in some way, I am happy for it. I certainly haven't figured things out, and who knows if I ever will. I am just feeling a really great sense of being wrong for everything. The problem with that is that it is very difficult to reflect on something that seemingly went wrong. If you knew you were doing wrong at the time, odds are you might have tried to correct it. If you don't know you are doing wrong, how can you do anything differently? And when you know things aren't great, and you don't know what to do about it, that sucks, too.

So you do the best you can and hope for the best. At times it might just be that everything was as it was meant to be, but it won't suck any less than you want it to. At other times, though, it will just seem as though your best just wasn't good enough. But who gets to decide that? There will always be many judges, but one opinion is the only one that really matters in the end.

I am sorry that I wasn't the aunt my family thought I should be, but I am not sorry for being me. This really does suck. There is a lot of pain here. As I write it occurs to me that by staying away from my family I get to stay away from the pain of their judgments and criticisms and disappointment. If that is the case, even though it was never a conscious thought or choice in regard to that particular perspective, I guess it comes as no surprise that I have kept my distance over the years.

Whatever my family's "shape" is, it is not mine, and I have never felt like I fit. And that "fits" my world family, too. I have never really felt like I fit - anywhere. Occasionally I had a friend or two, but those closest to me have been rare finds. In time, they have faded away, too. I don't know if I ever will be able to explain it in a way that anyone will ever be able to understand. But I suspect that there may be a few others out there who have felt similarly. 

Even if you don't get the big picture, I bet you can understand how I feel in some part, if you just amplify the feeling you had one time when you didn't feel like you fit in or when you didn't feel acceptable or judged. If you could pinpoint that feeling (quite yucky, I would imagine...guessing it isn't one you'd like to conjure up) imagine what that would feel like as an undercurrent to your day-to-day life, and then maybe you have some idea how I feel.

If you act like someone you are not so that you do fit in, you may know what that feels like, too, as you are going to great lengths to avoid that feeling. I never felt comfortable trying to be someone I wasn't. I always wished, though, that I was like other people so I could fit in, never realizing that many of them might not even be who I thought they were in the first place.

This is turning out to be a much deeper, greater conversation than I anticipated. That does seem to happen quite often. I kinda feel like I am in a crater. Ugh. And my radio show is about to begin in about 15 minutes. 

That should be interesting. A part of me thinks I should do a replay. Another part thinks I need to talk about this stuff. We shall see what happens.

Got to go for now. Later gators.

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