Caution: This post contains a (small) mention of self harm and eating disorders. Read at your discretion.
Today my family are gathering together. No special reason, except that it is a rare opportunity when we are all in the same place at the same time. My memory is a little hazy but I’m guessing that it is about 18 months since we have been altogether. Of course, one important person will be missing. My father who died over three years ago is a very big absence in the room. Perhaps especially because Dad was always my reason for being part of the family. Now I feel a little lost without him there.
Family gatherings are something I find hard. I have fallen near the tree yet I struggle to find a place for myself amongst that basket of apples. I don’t fit. Perhaps I should say I don’t feel I fit. Actually I have never felt I belonged there. I guess, that I have felt an outsider in so much of life, and the family context is just one more.
In the past I have tried very hard to get my family to reject me. I grew up with this notion of unconditional love, which I didn’t believe really existed and also didn’t really understand. I spent years doing and being something that I expected my family would reject. I would prove that this unconditional love thing was a hoax. To my surprise, they didn’t reject me. Perhaps they didn’t like what I did always, but they never rejected me. I admit I was surprised. I was sure I could prove them out, but I never did. For some reason, largely beyond my understanding, they kept on loving me.
I’m not at all sure that they necessarily like me, or actually ever liked me, but that is a different thing than love.
I don’t fit. I’m not sure that I fit anywhere in this planet (except maybe surrounded by another family of stuffed animals) and so when I am in a group (whether it is my family or any other) I feel out of place.
While my siblings were creating marriages and families (very lovable families at that), I was creating a canvas across my body of places I had dragged the razor blade, not to mention destroying my own marriage.
When they were building careers, I was focussed on starving myself and plans for death.
When they were building lives, I was gradually destroying mine.
Admittedly I am not in that destruction phase now, but I know it still hovers not far from the distance. That’s just what chronic mental illness does.
When their children are growing up (fast), I am by choice, alone. I don’t know how to be anything else, nor do I think I want to.
My life has turned out (so far) very different from my family. Practically, I have no idea what to talk about with them. My interests, let alone my goals are so very different. But more than that, I just feel like I have no right to belong. My achievement for life is to still be living today, and while that is big for me, I know it is not easily comprehended by others. Nor is it something to talk about around the dinner table while the children play. It’s a conversation stopper rather than anything else. I just don’t know how to fit into the conversation in the room.
I’m more comfortable outside with my good canine friend Duncan. He will no doubt be locked in his kennel today, to protect unfamiliar children and Grandma who risks being knocked over in his exuberance and friendliness. Frankly I would almost be happier out in the kennel with Duncan. He’s not worried about social niceties, careers and school reports. He’s not worried about having conversation.
But it’s not like that, is it? I can’t hang out in the kennel, and to be honest sometimes Duncan’s kennel needs some ‘housekeeping‘.
It’s another time when I have to be with the people, yet I feel so out of place.
My family are good people and I know they love me. I want, and need them in my life. I’m still not convinced that it’s unconditional love but I’ve stopped trying to prove that. I’m not sure that humans are capable of unconditional love, but maybe that’s another topic.
I know my family have suffered in a different way, during the years of my destruction. But they seem to have little understanding of my life of chronic illness, both mental and physical. We are two types of apples, from the one tree. I want to be with my family today, but yet again I have no idea of how to be with them. Somehow Duncan is so much easier.
“The boughs, without becoming detached from the trunk grow away from it.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables