Last week a dear friend texted me — she needed a Skype session, like pronto. It turns out that someone in her family, we’ll call her K, has been creating univited drama in her life (again). She’d moved away from K several years ago, and since then things had been much more tolerable.
Recently K moved closer and has told my friend that she must end a very healthy and beautiful relationship with her boyfriend because she doesn’t like it. Controlling much?
This Skype event was on the heels of another conversation I had with someone who’s confused and sad because she doesn’t feel heard or seen by pretty much everyone she’s supposed to be close to, read: family.
It appears to be a trend, this realization that you must remove yourself from your kin. One of my favorite sober bloggers (warning: NSFW post title) has been dealing with this as well.
I’m sure it has something to do with the aftermath of all the crazy astrology we just went through. That and people are either getting more crazy or getting more fed up with the brand of crazy they were born into.
I know the reason my friend called me. We’ve always rapped over problems, but this was special. It was big. And I have been through this all before. I am the experienced one, the seasoned warrior.
She knew that the only way she could live a whole and healthy life was to stop engaging with K. But she was family. How did she even begin to sort this out? Would anyone want to come see her get married? Would her parents come see their (future) grandkids?
“You’ve dealt with this now, for what? Two years? More maybe …” she said, tearfully. “How does it work?”
Because she asked me that, and because this seems to be something that more than a few of us may have to go through, I thought I’d talk about my experience with it a bit and offer what insight I’ve found after the dust has settled.
Several years ago I moved to California. Most of the reason was because, well hell why not? But part of it had to do with putting some space between me and some family members. I won’t go into too much detail about who or what happened here –it’s not relevant. Just know that we were joined by blood.
After it became clear that physical distance wasn’t enough to help me heal the way I needed to, I ended communication with these folks. That, as you may or may not be able to imagine, was quite traumatic. And not just for me. Or for them. But for the family standing all around us.
Of course, I didn’t make this decision lightly. It made me physically ill at times to think about, but it was something I knew I needed to do.
I think a lot of what makes this so hard are the what ifs. What if everyone stops talking to me? What if my family stops loving me? What if I never see such-and-such’s kids grow up?
There are no easy answers to those questions. It could be that you bear the label of Black Sheep at best or Evil-You’re-Dead-To-Me Relative at worst.
But those labels don’t hurt nearly as much as living inauthentically around people who can’t accept you as you are. That’s soul-killing stuff right there.
I had to stop shoulding on myself. If there is one word that kicks up my guilt a notch, it’s should. And when I was first debating what to do for myself, I knew the best answer for me was to cut ties.
What stopped me was I was certain there were things I should do. I should just tolerate it for the good of the family. I should stop being so selfish. I should get over it. I should grow up.
That kind of talk sent me into a frenzy. How could I make a decision that felt right when I knew it was exactly what I shouldn’t do, at least according to my inner critic (who coincidentally is usually programmed by our families)?
I couldn’t turn off the shoulds. I had to ignore them. And after awhile, I could barely hear it. It was one of those sounds you don’t even realize is there after while, like the refrigerator running. Yep, I hear you. And that’s that.
For awhile I grieved. Who am I kidding? For a loooong time I grieved. I still do occasionally, on birthdays and certain holidays.
Leaving behind someone who is part of your past means leaving behind a part of you. That’s not easy to do and it comes with all sorts of unexpected bouts of emotion.
Regardless of how cut and dry something seems, regardless of how awful a person seems to be at a certain moment, emotions don’t see things in black and white. No amount of pros and cons lists is going to make you feel OK. Feeling the pain of loss is normal and healthy.
Part of why letting go of family is so damn difficult is because we’re programmed that way. Think about it in caveman terms. If you told a family member that you’d had enough of their antics and that you no longer want to be in their life, that meant one of two things. Either they leave the cave or you do.
You’re essentially condemning either that person (a part of your tribe, your DNA, your legacy) to die, or you’re offering yourself up as a sacrifice.
Of course now that’s not really applicable. We create our own tribes as we move about into the world. Even if we need to leave and be alone in a new place, the probability that you’ll be mauled or eaten by a predator is pretty low. But that doesn’t mean our base brains aren’t having some deep evolutionary freak-out.
This is your choice and some won’t understand it. But many of them will accept it. It took some time, but I’m in contact with most of my family. I wouldn’t say we’re close, but we’re talking.
Most of the conversations started like, “I know you’re not talking to such-and-such, and I think it’s nuts/I don’t like it/it happens. Yada yada yada … I love you.”
Yes, there are awkward moments. It’s hard to know what to say when I’m invited to family events, although living across the ocean means I can graciously decline without too much of a whoop-de-doo made over it.
Yes, there is anger and denial. One relative just couldn’t understand my decision and told me that the only way we could talk is if I never brought up the issue. I guess it’s easier on both of us that way.
Life is long, and you are stronger than you think. All those what if questions I listed above? Some of them are so far off in the future, cars will be flying by then.
I know it can be hard to think of yourself getting married without your dad to walk you down the aisle or on your deathbed with some family grudge you’ve been holding. BUT if you’re aiming to live a more conscious, honest life, that’s now how things will end up for you.
People change, minds open and forgiveness is possible. Even if the only thing that changes is that you’ve let go and forgiven, you’ll be a lighter, brighter person because of that. And the world needs more shining stars.
People are doing the best they can. I know it can be hard to get out of your own head when you’ve got some serious drama everywhere you turn.
When people ask you to pick them over someone else or folks tell you you’re crazy after you make a healthy life change, you wanna look around and be like, “Is anyone else seeing this? Am I the only one who realizes how insane this all is?”
The fact is simple and I learned it from a lady sitting next to me on an airplane back from New York. She said nothing about my black eye or the fact that I reaked of booze from the night before. She was kind and lovely.
I will never forget her or what she said, “I make the best decisions I can based on what I know today. That might change tomorrow. There’s always new information coming in.”
And that’s how I feel about most humans, even the ones that we need to separate ourselves from — they are going the best they can. They aren’t actively choosing the pain they are causing. They are in pain.
And maybe someday the information will change for them. Maybe a little sun will stream into their dark place and they’ll say, “Oh! Geez! I can’t believe I’ve been doing that! How awful. It’s time to change that, like NOW.”
Why do I believe this? Because I was once that person, the one in the dark little room causing pain and drama to many of the people around me. And one day, I woke up.
I’m not saying I’m perfect now. I can only assume that the folks I don’t talk to are very hurt and filled with pain at my choice. But they could also be thanking the Universe for giving them the opportunity to grow. I know that’s what I try to do now that I’m faced with a difficult person/situation.
Bottom line. There are no sides. You’re not picking some person over another. You’re not condemning someone to a life of misery. You are choosing to live your life, to heal, to clean up your psychic pollution.
When you scrub your little area of the world, you do your part for the majority. We all live on this planet together, and what we do ultimately affects other people. Living an authentic life, living in harmony with yourself, is the best thing you can do for everyone, even if it feels like something you “shouldn’t” do.
Did any of this resonate with you? Please share in the comments.