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Families are different – Stan’s Stuff

But not everyone has a family. Why not a do-it-yourself family?

 

The Christmas Season – the most focussed ‘family’ time of the year. The mythology, the expectation is that is a good thing, a fun thing. Really! Not for everyone. Some family reunions are tough going. And what about those with no family?

For years I was part of a Grief Recovery network. The nature of these groups meant that as trust grew, participants honestly shared their feelings. For many the prospect of Christmas season encounters, and events was daunting. It was not something they looked forward to. But because they felt obliged to keep up appearances, they rarely said anything. In our groups, participants felt free to share what they really felt.

I remember that in one pre-Christmas group, a young woman, let’s call her Jane, who had only occasionally spoken, finally shared her heart.  She opened up about her family life and her dread of the coming Christmas.

Her small family was comprised of three females – her sister, her mother and herself. Her Dad was long gone. Her sister was attractive and a high achiever. Jane felt she was exactly the opposite – a ‘plain Jane’ who had worked at the same office job for years. Janes Mother acted in an opinionated and pushy way always praising Jane’s sister and putting down Jane. Jane visited her mother on the weekends and her mother phoned her at least three times a week. Her Mother always compared Jane to her ‘glam’ sister. Jane’s sister’s occasional phone calls were mostly about her exciting life and her achievements. Recently Jane had been dating a man, but the dates did not go well, and she wanted to end the relationship. Her mother was insisting that she keep seeing him. “He dresses so nicely and opens car doors. He must be a fine man,” says Mum. Jane felt guilty about disagreeing with her Mum and not measuring up to her glamourous sister. She dreaded the coming Christmas, the food, the drink and the boyfriend she didn’t want. But, she thought family ties were sacred, unbreakable. Her Mum and sister must be right and her role was to shut up and suffer silently.

The group did not see it like that. Nor did I. Over the years I encountered other individuals who were captured by their family’s lifestyle and life-view. These families created a network of expectations that kept one or more of the family in a prison of expectations. “Don’t get above yourself,” or “Grow too big for your boots.”

 The group had good advice for Jane. “Don’t take your mother’s phone calls,” they advised. “Visit her every second weekend and then only for an hour. Dump the guy and come late and leave early for Christmas lunch.”  She did it and over the next weeks, we saw her face brighten. I was in touch with Jane for serval years. She grew in confidence, became more beautiful, married a man of her choosing. Her phone calls to Mum were now only occasional. She visits her mum every second weekend and these visits are only for a short time. I don’t see these moves as ‘family breaking’. I see moves like this as ‘self-protection’.

One young man well known to us was the only statable person in a family with horrific problems due to alcohol and abuse. He left his family in his mid-teens. Not only has he survived, but his family, in the depths of despair, accepted help and gradually, with a few stops and starts, began rebuilding their lives. The loved son now visits them from time to time. He has survived and he supports their survival; something he could have never done if he stayed. He left his family to find another family, not a blood family, but a family with mutual respect and mutual interests.

I sense that many in our town and district have broken or dysfunctional families. Others have no families at all. I’m all for building new families. What I mean by this is to find others who do not drag you down but who lift you up. They are here! People ask me, ‘do I like living here?’ Yes! I The most attractive and enjoyable feature of our community is the people I have met – so many wonderful people.

If your relationship with your blood family is terrific – celebrate this. You’ve hit one of life’s jackpots.  If your relationship with blood relatives is missing or a bit scratchy, that’s sad, but it’s not unusual. You can build another family. Look for people whom you like and who like you. These are keepers. One way or another, give them something of yourself this Christmas. Do-it-yourself families can make your life worth living.

 |  The Informer  | 

But not everyone has a family. Why not a do-it-yourself family?

 

The Christmas Season – the most focussed ‘family’ time of the year. The mythology, the expectation is that is a good thing, a fun thing. Really! Not for everyone. Some family reunions are tough going. And what about those with no family?

For years I was part of a Grief Recovery network. The nature of these groups meant that as trust grew, participants honestly shared their feelings. For many the prospect of Christmas season encounters, and events was daunting. It was not something they looked forward to. But because they felt obliged to keep up appearances, they rarely said anything. In our groups, participants felt free to share what they really felt.

I remember that in one pre-Christmas group, a young woman, let’s call her Jane, who had only occasionally spoken, finally shared her heart.  She opened up about her family life and her dread of the coming Christmas.

Her small family was comprised of three females – her sister, her mother and herself. Her Dad was long gone. Her sister was attractive and a high achiever. Jane felt she was exactly the opposite – a ‘plain Jane’ who had worked at the same office job for years. Janes Mother acted in an opinionated and pushy way always praising Jane’s sister and putting down Jane. Jane visited her mother on the weekends and her mother phoned her at least three times a week. Her Mother always compared Jane to her ‘glam’ sister. Jane’s sister’s occasional phone calls were mostly about her exciting life and her achievements. Recently Jane had been dating a man, but the dates did not go well, and she wanted to end the relationship. Her mother was insisting that she keep seeing him. “He dresses so nicely and opens car doors. He must be a fine man,” says Mum. Jane felt guilty about disagreeing with her Mum and not measuring up to her glamourous sister. She dreaded the coming Christmas, the food, the drink and the boyfriend she didn’t want. But, she thought family ties were sacred, unbreakable. Her Mum and sister must be right and her role was to shut up and suffer silently.

The group did not see it like that. Nor did I. Over the years I encountered other individuals who were captured by their family’s lifestyle and life-view. These families created a network of expectations that kept one or more of the family in a prison of expectations. “Don’t get above yourself,” or “Grow too big for your boots.”

 The group had good advice for Jane. “Don’t take your mother’s phone calls,” they advised. “Visit her every second weekend and then only for an hour. Dump the guy and come late and leave early for Christmas lunch.”  She did it and over the next weeks, we saw her face brighten. I was in touch with Jane for serval years. She grew in confidence, became more beautiful, married a man of her choosing. Her phone calls to Mum were now only occasional. She visits her mum every second weekend and these visits are only for a short time. I don’t see these moves as ‘family breaking’. I see moves like this as ‘self-protection’.

One young man well known to us was the only statable person in a family with horrific problems due to alcohol and abuse. He left his family in his mid-teens. Not only has he survived, but his family, in the depths of despair, accepted help and gradually, with a few stops and starts, began rebuilding their lives. The loved son now visits them from time to time. He has survived and he supports their survival; something he could have never done if he stayed. He left his family to find another family, not a blood family, but a family with mutual respect and mutual interests.

I sense that many in our town and district have broken or dysfunctional families. Others have no families at all. I’m all for building new families. What I mean by this is to find others who do not drag you down but who lift you up. They are here! People ask me, ‘do I like living here?’ Yes! I The most attractive and enjoyable feature of our community is the people I have met – so many wonderful people.

If your relationship with your blood family is terrific – celebrate this. You’ve hit one of life’s jackpots.  If your relationship with blood relatives is missing or a bit scratchy, that’s sad, but it’s not unusual. You can build another family. Look for people whom you like and who like you. These are keepers. One way or another, give them something of yourself this Christmas. Do-it-yourself families can make your life worth living.