Friday, August 9, 2013

Dream Rain

It's been raining for two days.
While it kind of ruins fun plans like beach days or ice-blocking parties, it's also nice that it rains so often here. We never have the same weather very many days in a row and I like that it's constantly changing.
Funny, it's the thing that is hardest about life, but maybe it's also the best part, I just don't realize it yet.
I had crazy dreams last night.
Dreams about my family, the family I grew up with. Those are always very hard. It's a complicated situation that none of us really have the answers for yet, I think. 
 I don't have any answers.
My parents were teenagers when my brother and I were born. Two children raising children didn't really work and by the time I was three, my father left.
When I was about four, my mother remarried.
I sometimes have little flashes of things from these times, but it was so long ago and I have not wanted to remember. It wasn't a gentle season for anyone, certainly not a child. But then, it wasn't really about the children, it was always, all about Her.  When the stories are told over the years, she's always the central character and everyone else was either supporting or hurting her. Nobody else was real or important.
I think that's how it always went.
They had three daughters and we gave it a go. My half-sisters were simply my sisters and because my father never came back, my brother and I were  adopted by my stepfather and we were- a family.
We were a mess, but I figured that's what everyone was like. Drama, chaos, screaming, crying, theatrics, anger, being lonely, being afraid, being the excuse....
We had times that were great, things that were really good, but nothing really worked.
When all was said and done, what mattered was how you told the story.
If you told it and the right people were the heroes and martyrs you were good, if you told it and dismissed the role of a person who thought it was their story, and instead told your story- you were a liar and a bad person.
In time, we all just stopped sharing any of the stories. 
 I don't know how much of it was real and how much was just the version we were supposed to tell. I know that we each remember things in our own way. I believe that each person's version is true, even if they are very different.  If something did not did not happen, we probably aren't ever going to know, but each person still had that experience and had to process and cope with it. We can choose to feel however we want about that.
We not only stopped sharing the stories, we stopped sharing everything. Family get togethers would seem to go just great and then you'd leave and everyone would start tearing into the person who just left. If you participated in it with others, you'd better believe that they were doing it to you. You had a choice, never leave and save your spot so that the target never fell on you, or let them say what they would and go.
It took a long time, but eventually....I went.
I went and oh, I was the jerk of the family. Every choice I had made since before anyone could remember was rehashed and exposed and criticized and I'd get told what a terrible awful person I was and how everyone knew it.
I just kept going
. I was going away.
At first I'd get mad, I'd tell my side and then one day I realized that it wasn't about the story, it was always about the person. In every case the primary person was my mother and most of the stories were told by her, five different versions of the same story, one for each adult child and each one featured her as the 'good one' and as the important one. Nothing was good enough for her, nobody's experiences were about them and anyone who needed the focus or even just a freaking break was going to get it.
All of us kids were a real mess, I think we all struggled and do to this day to reconcile what we remember and we experienced and allowing ourselves the permission to put ourselves as the central character in our own, personal story. It's scary and when I do it, I feel like I'm going to get in trouble. I brace myself for six or more other people to say "you are wrong, you're a terrible person" no matter how insignificant the issue.
As the years pass, we build higher walls. I think we see family as the enemy, family cannot change because family all draws from the same well. I don't know if that will ever get better. Mostly, we express a great deal of apathy about it and about each other.
I think as we get older we just focus all of our energy into our spouses and children and I think that is the right thing to do. Our relationships with the siblings are messy and gross and we don't actually believe that anyone cares about anyone but themselves, so we just remove ourselves from one another and as our children grow, the walls and distance do, too.
I think it's what my mother wanted, if she couldn't be the queen, the kingdom wasn't allowed to exist.
Wish granted, your highness.
This heavy, no-solution family stuff.
So, few of us even speak- like we haven't spoken in years. Nothing big happened, I don't know of some event where we said we were done or needed a break, we just kind of walked away and kept walking. My feet still move in whatever is the opposite direction of the relationships I cannot deal with.
 Maybe it's like when you are lost in the woods and if you just keep walking, eventually you will return to where you started, you only walk in circles. Maybe we will return again to each other and either things will get better or we will just start walking again after a pause and a realization that where we stopped wasn't the right place, either.
I take comfort when I look at my life and look at the lives of my ancestors. I see some big chains that were carried around for generations. I take comfort when I see the ones my siblings/generation broke. I don't think any of the next generation carries the chain of abuse. I don't think they carry the chain of abandonment, or poverty. They don't carry the chains of addiction.  I think it's a big deal that those chains were broken, they were with our kin for so long and a lot of our cousins have these things in the lives of their children, they did not break that chain. They broke others, but not those ones.
I also see the ones we didn't break. The siblings hating each other and not speaking one is an thick, rusty chain that has been with our family for so long. We didn't figure out how to break that one. At this point, I don't think any of us has the give a damn to even try. It's safer just to take a list of the things we see the others do, declare them bad and walk. It's safer for me. It hurts and it costs, but every time I think of trying again, I just shake my head and remind myself that they don't want it, either. They don't want me and I don't want to be anyone but who I am today. I want the ability to change and grow and figure things out and feel peace. I don't think my family has figured out a way we can each have those things and be together. I don't think we believe that our individual lives and souls are important to anyone else, maybe.
So, I sit here, on a Friday morning, listening to the rain on my roof.
 As my kids wake up, each one comes to my room to say "good morning,"  give me a hug and ask if they can open a new box of cereal. (We keep it in our closet, otherwise the kids would eat 5 boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch a day.) Maybe the morning hugs are all about getting to the cereal, I don't know, I don't care, I love them just the same.
I sit here, after a night of rough dreams and think about my siblings. I think about my brother, how in my dream he wouldn't look at me and said "you know why I don't talk to you." and how I said "You don't even know me" and he'd say "I don't want to."  I think of my sister and the fact that nearly every conversation I have had with her in 10 years seemed to be fine and I find out the next day that everything I said offended her and she needed to call everyone to tell them. In my dream, she was there, in another room talking about how much I hurt her fifteen years ago..... I think of my sister who always connected our family dynamic with the church and decided when she was still in high school that the poison came from the church and she didn't just leave the church, she turned against it. My other sister who came to that same conclusion years later after her temple marriage ended up being nothing but a soul sucking attachment that she couldn't carry any longer. In my dream, they both drifted in an out of the kitchen of the house, tending to tasks and then vanishing when the older three of us came near.
   I know I came to some dark places in my faith as well and ultimately, decided I was using the tools all wrong and before I could blame the church for things not working, I needed to make sure I was using the tools differently. That isn't the answer for everyone, just the one that I had for me and I still do almost everything wrong.
I still talk to my younger sisters, but I am so far away. We all have walls that grow higher and higher. Our lives are not one life anymore, they don't intersect at all really, and we each choose that.
 As the years pass, I wonder if we forget that just as we are constantly changing, so it goes with everyone else. 
 Sometimes those changes are just like a storm that blows in and people wait them out so they can get back to what they were doing. Sometimes those storms have a bigger impact and the clean- up leaves a different soul landscape.  
As we change, as we experience new growth and find the things that work in our lives and try to process the things that did not, I think we get very protective of those new, precious truths we learned and rather than risk having them destroyed, criticized or even ignored, we just build our fences higher and higher. I think we plan to one day let people in, but it's been so many years and we're all so involved in erecting those fences and walls around our own lives. 
Years ago...gosh 19 years ago...I went to visit my Paw Paw in Texas. Parker was a baby, not quite 1 year old. My marriage was crap, my life was crap and I didn't know what to do, so I just fortified that family chain and ran away for a summer.
My PawPaw was known for having the most beautiful gardens that he meticulously maintained. God have mercy on your soul if anyone dared even set foot in his patch of land. We all knew to stay away from Pawpaw's beauties.
One afternoon, I was sitting in the back yard talking with him and Parker was playing in the grass. He spied something in that garden that he just had to get at. I got up to redirect him and PawPaw said "No just you sit, and leave that baby alone! He's playing and having fun and I won't have you messin' up his fun."
As Parker got closer and closer to the garden, my anxiety grew and still, PawPaw motioned for me to be still.
Finally, Parker reached the garden, the prize plants my grandfather had spent so much time and soul into growing. I rose again to get Parker and again, I was told to "still yourself and let the child be."
Parker started to tear up that garden.
He pulled up things by the roots, tore leaves to shreds and flung dirt everywhere. He was destroying that garden, PawPaw's pride and joy.
And as he ravaged the garden and made chaos of PawPaw's neat rows and perfectly spaced vegetables, I could hear my grandfather laugh. As PawPaw laughed, Parker looked up, covered in dirt and laughed, too. He squealed with delight as he made such a royal mess and the sound of my grandfather's laugher filled the Texas sky, blending in with the singing cicadas and a little boy having the time of his life.
PawPaw is gone now and Parker is grown.
It's just a memory I carry with me.
 A memory and a lesson.
 PawPaw had learned how to tend to his garden and protect it, but he also knew why he had planted it in the first place.
 It wasn't about the summer squash or the peas, it was about bringing joy.
On that day, PawPaw's harvest was plentiful.
I look at my children, my garden, the things I have done to protect it, the 'gardens' my siblings have and the pains they take to protect it and wish I could figure out a way to just let everyone in so that we can all have more joy from our labors.
I don't know, but the rain is here in Springfield today and I can choose what I will do with my garden, with my fences and with my life next as the cicadas wake and the rain demands change.

1 comment:

  1. Such a beautiful story about your grandfather. What a beautiful lesson.