For the past couple of weeks, I've been feeling different. Not as anguished. Not as dejected. Not as aggrieved. The intensity has subsided, and gone is the constant agitation. I don't know what happened, but I no longer feel as if I'm in the middle of a heated ongoing conflict. The crisis has passed, and I feel like I crawled out of the wreckage and am watching an ambulance drive away.
Maybe it is because three of my girlfriends from law school flew in for a getaway weekend. We did the typical things. A spa day. Dined out. Joked about past boyfriends. Gossiped about who's where and doing what. But we also laughed. The kind of laughing you do with friends who know you. They also let me cry in front of them as I filled them on all my family drama. They listened, and tried to advise me, and listened some more.
I've been blogging about the situation with my sister, but I haven't talked to too many people about it. Mainly because I can't stop myself from crying whenever I talk about it. But I let myself cry with my friends in the middle of a festive restaurant as strangers laughed in other corners of the room and as our bowl of orecchiette turned cold on the table. As I talked, I saw the understanding in their eyes. Not just an understanding of my point of view, because they didn't agree with everything I said. But they understood the depth of my calamity. And they understood the context. And the impact it had.
Maybe that's all it took. For someone to understand the situation. For someone to listen and to nod along.
Others have listened and nodded along. Jeff. A few other close friends. But it was different this time. Maybe because I was able to tell the whole story, from beginning to end. Or maybe because these friends knew me from a different time and knew how things were 20 years ago.
I've been struggling with this on my own for so long. Internally. Trying to understand it. Trying to make sense of it. And reeling from the disappointment I feel toward my family. Their inability to help, to be the kind of family I want them to be.
But I'm beginning to realize that it is my perspective that was faulty. I always assumed that my family would be there for me, to help me in times of need. That now seems so naive. I think back to the way we grew up, and I wonder why I even picked up that ideal in my head. Why did I ascribe such attributes to my family, when I can find no evidence of them in my memory? Most memories I have of my family are of me trying to help them. Of me cooking for them, listening to and absorbing my mother's sadness, trying to make them happy. And not vice versa. What I remember are my parents' absence. Absent at my high school graduation. At my college matriculation. At my college graduation. Of me helping my sister, and of her not even considering that she could be in a position to reciprocate.
I don't know why I thought my mom should be able to help us. Maybe because I could think of no one else who could, and I thought surely, my mother of all people should be able to. But she has never been one to help me, at least not when emotions are involved. She comes from a culture that believes emotions should be tamed, not caressed. I remember when one of my friends died in college. She gave me one firm hug, and then told me not to think about it anymore. She believes bad things happen if you voice it. That articulating it makes it come true.
I was never able to rely on them. I knew from early on that I was on my own. That if anything needed to get done, I would have to do it.
Maybe I attributed such ideals to them because I was in a void. In their absence, I was free to construct a family in my head, a family of perfect people.
I'm learning that people can disappoint you. Profoundly. And in a way that is critical. But I'm also learning that I have to work through the disappointment. There is nothing else I can do.
I am where I am. And I'm okay.
There has been a difference. It feels as if someone focused the lens. All of a sudden, I am looking at my kids with all of me. They seem clearer. I find myself wanting to absorb them fully. To take them all in. Maybe this is what happens when you clean out some of the clutter in your head.