My recent post about living your one and only life despite expectations of family or friends https://missfidditchhassomethingtosay.wordpress.com/2018/06/04/whos-deciding-what-you-do-with-your-one-and-only-life/ generated a lot of response and some questions that didn’t appear in the Comments.
I’m here today to clarify and expand on a few things about this touchy subject.
I have no intention of denigrating the concept of “family,” but a lot of damage has been done under the rubric of “Families come first.” No, they don’t always come first and even the Bible makes the point. “You must leave your father and mother and cleave only to your spouse.” Clear enough.
And the Bible via the 10 Commandments also says we must honor our fathers and mothers. Also clear. The two passages are not mutually exclusive. Honoring our parents doesn’t mean we have to put them ahead of other people we love. And it definitely doesn’t mean we have to kowtow to demands that conflict with what’s important in our own one and only lives.
Good families who support and celebrate what other members of the family do – or don’t do -, families who believe in choice and offer plenty of leeway for those choices, may often come first, but good parents also know – and celebrate – that their kids have found someone or something to love beyond parents and family.
And grown up kids do the same for their parents.
This celebration makes everyone in the family richer by far, generates genuine love, and greatly improves the appetite at family dinners.
For Your Own Good
This is the “looking out for your best interests” place that drove me to the George Carlin outburst last time. And I haven’t changed my mind a bit. “For your own good” and “looking out for your best interests” are code for “I don’t care what you want. I expect you to do what I want you to do!”
Every damned time.
This code is almost always spoken by a child or parent who is demanding, selfish, petty, and narcissistic. And as is the case when dealing with any narcissist, giving in only ups the ante on demands.
If you give in once, you set a pattern that will haunt you for all time to come. Living your one and only life in the face of such demands requires courage. You can do this.
Calling in the Reinforcements
I don’t know about your family, but too many families are highly skilled at “calling in the reinforcements” – getting the whole shebang involved when no one at all should be involved.
Mom talks to sisters, aunts get involved, dad “drops by” just to say hello, brother has something to say on the subject, and on it goes to a place it should never have gone in the first place.
I witnessed this years ago in my own family when an aunt was badgered about a choice she’d made to marry a good man who brought her great joy but wasn’t who “the family” thought she should marry.
Leave each other alone, people. Leave each other alone. Or as we say where I live, “Stay in your own lane.”
Interfering or demanding relatives hate boundaries. For them, it’s all the way, and the child or parent who offers to go part of the way – sets boundaries – is entirely wrong, ungrateful, unloving, spiteful…the list goes on. See more above under For Your Own Good.
This shows up often in how you spend your time and in things like insistence on attending every damned family event no matter what, with no leeway for your other time commitments or choices.
The world will not fall apart if you can spend only an hour at the big get-together instead of the full two or three. Good families are happy for the time you can be there. Not-so-good families insist on more. And make sure you feel bad for having your own one and only life.
Good families also recognize that we are not all cut from the same cloth, genetics be damned. The introverts in the family who want to run from big noisy gatherings and long for one-on-one time know this very well. The “let’s all get together” extroverts may never understand it. And guess who’s “wrong” for not enjoying the big gatherings.
Caveats and Conundrums
Caveat – I’m not a psychologist. I’ve just lived long enough, observed enough, thought enough, read enough, laughed enough, cried enough, regretted enough, and felt joy enough to get what this subject is about.
Conundrums – Did you ever wonder about parents who apparently lived lives their own way and yet want their children to live some family-prescribed life instead of their own?
Did you ever wonder about parents who were not able to live the lives they wanted and yet put the same onus on their children instead of wishing them – and encouraging – happier lives of their own?
Did you ever wonder about families with nothing better to do than gossip, complain, interfere in each other’s lives instead of leading their own lives and letting everybody else do the same?
Did you ever wonder why so many people lack the courage to follow their own star in the face of family interference?
Did you ever wonder what those people say to themselves in the dark after they say, “I always wanted to…”?
There’s much more that could be said on the subject, but these quotations pretty much sum it up for me. I’ve had them printed and out where I can see them for a long time, and now they’re yours if you choose:
“To the best of my lights, this is what I choose to do, although I may know more and choose differently tomorrow.” – Rollo May
“…Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.” – Naomi Shihab Nye
” Mama may have. And Papa may have. But God bless the child that’s got his own.” – Billie Holiday
For my own part, I say let love return to the Raspberry Mountains where we each get to live our one and only life the way we want.
Where happy carpenters do not have to become doctors to satisfy the family or hear endlessly why they should have.
Where happy artists get to spend their days painting and do not have to fend off comments about what they might have been or how to spend their time.
And where love comes to those who celebrate the happiness of others, respect boundaries and never utter the words, “for your own good” or “in your best interests” unless they can provide written proof.