I just got home from a whirlwind overnight trip to Florida for a wedding. The bride was my niece. Her parents used to live near me, so I saw a lot of her when she was growing up. I joked that she's the only niece or nephew I babysat...more than once. It's no secret I have a low tolerance for children, but I always enjoyed being around this niece. I don't know how she went from being a little girl to a woman to a wife so quickly, but that's what happens over a couple of decades, I guess. And she was such a beautiful bride. So stunning. It brought me to tears.
Of course my whole family was there. I'm the youngest of six kids, so there are a lot of "family dynamics" at play when we all get together. This is hard for me, because I normally live my days as a woman who is fairly confident about who she is, proud of the choices she's made, and surrounded by people who think she's pretty darned neat. But when I get around my brothers and sisters, all of that changes. I become less secure. I feel like I don't fully belong. And I find myself wanting a level of affirmation, respect and acceptance that I don't think I'll ever get from part of my family. I think some of them just don't "get" me. Either that or they do and I'm just not their cup of tea.
These days I don't put a whole lot of stock in the opinions of those who don't see what an all-around fabulous gal I am. But these family things...it's like, inside me, I revert to some version of childhood when I craved affirmation and acceptance from my big brothers sisters and never quite got it. The six of us are only 8 years apart, but we're all so very different it's like we were raised by completely different parents. There's a central core that ties us together, but we all diverged from that core like spokes on a wheel, each of us having ones close enough to our spoke that we can identify with each other, and each of us having ones on the opposite end of the wheel from our spoke. So, in that sense, maybe it's unrealistic to want all of them to really see who I am and agree I'm wicked cool. :D
Someone in my extended family (who shall be protected as innocent) was complimenting me and said, "You're deeper than I thought. I have a whole new respect you for you now. I always used to think you were just a flake." It's a bit of a backhanded compliment, but it got to the crux of how I feel around some of my family...I feel like some see me as a flake or superficial or some other such thing because of the things I believe in and the choices I make in my life.
Again, normally I don't care what people think about that stuff. When people judge it's usually because focusing on others' shortcomings is less painful than focusing on their own. But I guess something inside me wants the people I grew up with, more than anyone else, to understand me and be proud of who I've become. And right now, I would venture to say that, if everyone was really honest about what they think, I'm batting somewhere around .350 to .400. That's a great average in baseball and maybe even in society, but not so good in family, imo. Even if I AM a flake.
I don't know what magnifies this insecurity in me so much around family. Maybe it's normal and everyone feels that way. Maybe it's because my parents died when I was still fairly young, so I had never accomplished anything as an adult that they lived long enough to be proud of. Maybe it's because I'm just a sensitive person. Or maybe it's because my biggest support network consists of three four-legged beasts who, of course, never accompany me to these things and I feel more vulnerable—partly because I AM more vulnerable without my biggest cheerleaders in tow and partly because everyone else has their biggest cheerleaders with them...so we're not playing on a level playing field in that regard. Heck, maybe it's all of it.
For a soul who has dedicated this lifetime to a "solitary" inner journey, family gatherings can be a painful, but valuable tool for seeking out and honing in on any of your unhealed BS—BS you've managed to heal when among 7 billion other humans who don't happen to share your last name. These gatherings are also a valuable marker indicating how far you've come. That can be positive or negative. It can serve both to open and close chasms between you and the people with whom you share common core traits. Those common traits span generations, extending the dynamics and increasing the number of spokes nearest you, as well as the number of those farthest from you.
When I checked out of my hotel room this morning, I stopped remembering who I was as a kid and started remembering who I am as a kickass woman. It's like I was kidnapped overnight and held hostage at the hands of my old stuff...a power that gets weaker and weaker each time I come into contact with it. And I couldn't wait to get home to my cheerleaders, not so I could bury my face in their fur and cry, but because I missed them. They're my family...the family I chose, my biggest cheerleaders. And, like all family, even though they drive me crazy sometimes, I prefer a life with them to one without them.