Friday, July 30, 2010

What I’ve Realized About Me and My Family

Okay people you asked and you receive. This is long, way longer than I realized it would be when I began writing it. It is a stream of consciousness posting with little editing done, mostly because I couldn't bear to read it again. Just writing it stirred up emotions, and I don't think I could stand further stirring.

Let me start by saying that my perception of myself and my family, meaning the one into which I was born and then raised, has included some misperceptions. I think that’s the case with a lot of people and a lot of families. We see ourselves, and our families, differently than those looking in from the outside see us. What I am going to detail in this post are some of those misperceptions that I have had and the realizations I to which I have recently come with regard to them.

First the misperceptions, without reference to cause, effect, or reason, just the perceptions I had for the better part of my life:
Misperception #1: The way my family is and the way they do things is the right way and far superior to all others, who are merely average and misguided and less happy than we are.
Misperception #2: If I were different and had fewer “issues” my family would get along just fine.
Misperception #3: If something is wrong, it must be my fault.
Misperception #4: I am the black sheep of the family.

Now let’s go look and dissect each of these little misperceptions, one by one.
Misperception #1: The way my family is and the way they do things is the right way and far superior to all others, who are merely average and misguided and less happy than we are.
For as long as I can remember, Mom and Dad (particularly Mom) pushed the idea that by virtue of certain truths we were better than other families in our community. In the world according to Mom, we were better because we were true Christians, not just some poser Christian like Catholics or Lutherans. We were better than that. We knew how things really were because we were . . . well, what were we? Sort of Baptist, sort of Methodist, sort of sleep in on Sunday folk. That didn’t mean, though, that we didn’t believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. No, we had a personal relationship with Him that those pseudo-Christians didn’t have. We were the enlightened. We were better than others because we sinned less. Nobody in our family drank alcohol, used bad language, or had sex outside of marriage. We were better than others because we were intelligent and well schooled. We were better, and we didn’t need to be associating with others who weren’t all that we were. Somewhere, I believed, was a place where people like us lived, but it wasn’t where we were. We were strangers in a strange land. As such we had to keep our guard up or we might turn into average people.
What this left me with was a longstanding battle internally trying to reconcile my desire to fit in with the rest of the crowd and to fit in with my family and be acceptable to my parents. On a certain level I have known intellectually that there are all sorts of ways to be that are acceptable, that no one has to do and be and think just one way in order to be just fine. On an emotional level, however, I continued to struggle with it. There was just a part of me that wanted to believe that my parents had it all right and the rest of the world had it wrong. However, now I’m getting over that. I am just as acceptable and fine a person as anyone else. We’re all human. We all have our faults and flaws but that doesn’t mean we aren’t good enough to be here, to stand tall with our heads held high. I’m finally starting to believe what I tell N all the time: “As long as you do the best you can do then you’re doing great.”

Misperception #2: If I were different and had fewer “issues” my family would get along just fine.
If I were thin my family would like me. If I called my parents more often and visited more often and did everything they tell me I should do then all would be well. That, my friends, is magical thinking. Also, it would mean that I am not an adult. An adult listens to advice and criticism, processes it rationally, discards what is not helpful, takes to heart what is helpful and moves on, knowing that it is impossible to please everyone all the time no matter how hard one tries.
I have now come to the realization that my family will never get along just fine no matter what I do or don’t do. I do not have the power to be the salve that soothes all pains, and more importantly, it isn’t my place to try to be that salve. Everybody has to deal with their own shit.

Misperception #3: If something is wrong, it must be my fault.
This goes along closely with #2 up there. Goodness knows, if anyone looks upset or acts grumpy it doesn’t necessarily mean that I have anything at all to do with it. However, I am by nature the type who wants everyone to be happy and works to be all things to all people in order to make it that way. This is, my friends, too much burden, and it is a burden that nobody but me ever placed on me.
I realize now that I have just got to quit immediately assuming that I’m the one in the wrong every time there is tension. I have got to let others bear the weight of responsibility for their own shit.

Misperception #4: I am the black sheep of the family.
I saved this one for last because this one is the trickiest one for me to talk about and pin down. A lot of it stems from the enormous pressure I felt to live up to my parents’ expectations of me, and they really had some pretty high expectations, at least academically. While I have always enjoyed learning and absorbed most classes like a sponge I have my weak spots. While the expectation was all A’s and most of the time I could pull that off, once I hit college level courses at a major university with a bunch of other brilliant students it wasn’t so easy and proved to be undoable for me. Certain required courses were damned hard for me, and while I tried I got several B’s in college, a couple of C’s and even one D. I didn’t pass the CPA exam on the first try, only passing two parts conditionally and then still failing the other two on my second try. By the time I graduated with my Masters degree I had plenty of job interviews but no offers. It was pretty much at that point that I decided I was a failure and the black sheep of the family. My parents did nothing to contradict that and really did and said many things that convinced me that my view was correct. I learned that if you aren’t at the top you aren’t anything. I remember that as a senior in high school I was not valedictorian nor salutatorian. In fact, I had the sixth highest GPA in my school out of a class of over 350 students. I remember this because my mom said to me, “Oh well, sixth isn’t too bad.” My parents never said they were proud of me unless I was right at the top, the very best. I buckled under the pressure of it all once I was out of college and accepted myself as the family’s black sheep, not good enough in so many ways besides academics. I was too interested in boys, for example, and not the right kind of boys, not the good Christian boys who were on the fast track to success. No, I was interested in boys with whom I felt a connection, boys who were willing to settle for someone like me. I drank alcohol (mostly in moderation), smoked cigarettes (occasionally, not every day), and ate too much. I was also too damned independent, always wanting to think for myself and not always agreeing with my parents’ viewpoint on every subject. So screw it. I felt like a major fuck up and quit trying. If I was going to be the black sheep anyway I might just as well go whole hog.
What I have realized is that I am not the black sheep of the family. Well, maybe I am in the sense that I am not like the other members of my family in some pretty distinct ways, but it doesn’t have to mean that I am a black sheep in terms of not being as good as other members of my family. When I look at it through a more objective lens I can see that I am no worse fucked up than the other members of my family. We just have different ways that we’re fucked up or sometimes even the same ways. I don’t call my parents as often as I probably ought to, but then again they don’t call me unless it’s to tell me (several days after it occurs) of a hospitalization or something. One of my flaws is that I have a rebellious streak a mile wide and will go out of my way to do rebellious things. One of my dad’s flaws is that he believes everyone should conform to his way of thinking rather than respecting different opinions and beliefs. One of FU’s flaws is that he is OCD and has been since he was a young child. As far as I know he has never been officially diagnosed with it, but it doesn’t take being around him long to see it plain as day. I could go on and on. We all have flaws. Indeed we do. So I’m not the black sheep. I’m just another one of the nuts on the family tree.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

'Tis a Quandary

Well, I’ve started two posts recently and finished neither of them. Then my world (at work) explodes. So which thing to write about. . . that is the question.

One was a post that I started to write about how I grew up believing certain things and then as I matured and learned more and expanded my horizons I came to see some of my beliefs as wrong. It was turning into a very long post and was/is very disorganized and needs some major editing and revision.

The second one was a post that is begging to be told from inside me about revelations I have made about my family in recent weeks. I have “seen the light” about certain things and spent a good deal of therapy this week discussing my thoughts on this.

The third thing I want to write about is work and what’s been turned on its head since somewhere around 8:30 this morning.

So. . .

It’s a quandary.

Dear readers, if there are any left, which post would you like to read first? I will work on them in the order you dictate. Discuss amongst yourselves and vote over there in the poll on the right. Vote quickly though because it will close soon. In the meantime, I’m going to try to work on one post or another as the fancy strikes.