An Apple Never Falls Far From The Tree

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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


12 thoughts on “An Apple Never Falls Far From The Tree

  1. I found this to be such an amazing and inspirational post. I am really sorry to hear about your pain. I do agree from what you’ve written, that your life is a huge achievement, you are a survivor, thank you for sharing your thoughts so honestly.

  2. you and Sidlet 2 will get along famously, then. She has a huge family of stuffed animals and her goal is to have one of each type of animal in America lol

    I get along a lot better with cats than I do with people so I hear ya.

    Don’t forget you always have your blogging/Canvas family and since we’re all weird in here, you fit just fine 🙂

  3. It feels like I’ve just read parts of my own life story! When we don’t ‘fit it’ with family, it can leave an enormous gapping hole. In my experience, can never be fulfilled. Years ago, I used to latch onto other peoples families. Fortunately, most welcomed me with open arms, but it still never satisfied that yearning to be loved and accepted by my own and neither did I ever find anything close to unconditional love. The life we lead and the difficulties we face seem to be invisible. When they were creating careers and building nice lives, we were battling in the trenches. We were also learning things about life that few of them could ever imagine. Yes, I also beat myself up for not doing as well. However, when we’re on our death bed, I doubt we will wish for better careers or bigger homes.

    1. It maybe a cynical approach to take but I think I’ve come to the conclusion that humans are not capable of unconditional love. We can love perfectly well when everything is fine but when those difficulties hit, the love no longer comes unconditionally. I know I was taught the opposite of that view, but then I’ve never been convinced of the accuracy of what I was taught. That said, I know the teachers had good intentions but that doesn’t stop the pain when you realise it’s not quite how the world really is.

      You know Cat, I think we could have a very good chat (or three) if we ever ended up on the same side of the planet. We have been on such similar journeys.

      1. Our life-journey does sound very similar, Cate. I’m quite sure most would say we are cynical for not believing in unconditional love – hardened, heartless people! Even the greatest love of all is dependent on the other person conforming in one way or another.

        In my experience, the people who shout about “unconditional love”, are often the ones who struggle with it the most. I’ve been among those who ‘love in Jesus’, but as soon as the going gets tough, they get going. To me, that’s all perfectly acceptable because neither am I capable of unconditional love.

  4. Pingback: Love Doesn’t Cure Mental Illness | Infinite Sadness... or hope?

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