Aging Parents · Anxiety · Cancer · Family · Friendship · Life · Marriage

The unbearable hardness of families

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Why are families so hard? I know it must be if not universally true then at least universally acknowledged that families can be difficult to deal with. I watch tv and I see it as a recurring theme. For some shows it is the entire premise. So why is it that the people who should know us the best, the people who see us at our worst, can sometimes be the hardest for us to talk to?

I used to have a hard time communicating with my family, I will admit. It was hard- the age difference between my siblings and me felt like a full generation rather than just a half of one, and I thought no one understood me.  Of course, I was a teenager then, so I was thoroughly convinced no one understood me anyway. Still, as I grew up and became my own person I was more able to communicate with them. I developed my own relationship with each sibling and things were moving along smoothly.  Recently, it has become extremely important to be able to communicate clearly with everyone as we deal with the issues surrounding my mother’s cancer and ever increasing dementia. At this critical juncture I have been amazed that suddenly communication has become so hard. Everyone was doing so well, and now things are being taken personally. We are all getting so prickly about every little thing. We take statements personally. We are sensitive to every tone (which we all know is just so easy to tell in written form) we think we should infer from emails. Communication is breaking down, and it is more important now than ever. So, when it is so important and while we are so close, why now?

After spending a lot of time on this, and I mean more than half the nights in the past few weeks lying awake and thinking all about it, I think I know what is going on. First of all, as I have written before, we are all scared and hurt. We know that hurt people hurt people, and so we are lashing out.  There’s also one more thing. We humans seem to be pretty mean to the people who are closest to us. There’s a lot of language out there to describe it, like “taking it out on” someone you love. We express our anger, frustration, fear, heartbreak, all of it, in the ways we treat those closest to us, those who are in our innermost circles. But why?

Because we know they will forgive us. Or at least, we think they will.

The thing is, if you really and truly love a person, I think most things can be forgiven. We all can take a beating for the ones we love form time to time and recognize it as part of the job. We need each other, and part of what we need sometimes is to be free to be a complete jerk and know that the person we were a jerk to will be there the next day. Often, I realize I’m being a jerk even in the moment, but cannot stop myself from doing and saying the things I do, so I try to be quick to apologize. I can be speaking or writing words and think to myself as I’m spelling them out, “You don’t mean this. You’re needing to be angry right now.” Still, fear or anger or whatever wins and I say or write it anyway. Because I need to, you see, or the badness will fester inside me and become unbearable.

We forgive these actions in those we love; most of us do, anyway. And even when we can’t forgive, we usually let it heal over time. Still, though we know we will be forgiven, we should pause and think before we speak. Just because we will be forgiven does not mean we should say or do whatever we want. I know I will do what I can to become a better person, and as soon as I figure out how to be OK without making others have to deal with me, I’ll let you know. For now I will trust in those that love me enough to forgive me.

2 thoughts on “The unbearable hardness of families

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