I came to the cafe to write a blog post about tarot for planning. I still fully intend on doing so, but something happened between the time I got my sandwich and started writing–my sister came in and sat down at my table. We live about a block away from one another and work in the same spaces, so this isn’t unusual, but what was was the tenor of our conversation.
You see, our parents drink. A lot. Not enough to keep them from living a functional life, but enough that most family gatherings end with hurtful comments and garbled speech, and this weekend was no different. She and I vacillate between acceptance and hurt at any given time, and the dynamic of our relationship with them is a near constant topic of conversation.
Four years ago, I sat down much like I am right now, save that I was in a different cafe with a different coffee order and six months pregnant. I blocked out an entire afternoon to write an email to my mother detailing the ways that their drinking was putting a strain on family bonds. I intuited that if things continued on in this way, our family would begin growing apart. I asked them, for the sake of the family, to stop drinking. I sent the email nervous to the pit of myself, sick knowing what the reaction would be but convinced that I was doing the right thing.
I waited. For two days I received no response. On the third day, my Mom called me. I asked her what she thought. I was so relieved that we could begin to face some of these things, that we could begin talking about the aspects of our relationship that were dysfunctional and needed to be addressed. The relief was premature, however–she told me that she stopped reading the letter and that she thought it unfair of me to ask her to stop drinking. She was going to have her rum and coke, and no one was going to stop her.
I was devastated.
As I progressed in my pregnancy, I kept my distance. My mother was heartbroken that she was unable to share this event with me in the way that she’d always dreamed. Though I didn’t see it then, I think I was punishing her refusal to hear me. If she’d finished the note, she’d have discovered that my concerns also extended to my husband and my child–the former was sober himself and highly tempted whenever we spent time with them, and the latter was unborn, new, pure. I didn’t want her growing up in an environment that normalized substance abuse. I didn’t want to perpetuate the family cycle–I wanted to break the wheel. I didn’t want my daughter approaching her thirties with the same baggage I had. My husband and I quit our wild ways for our daughter; why couldn’t they do the same?
Ten minutes ago, my sister sat across from me with tears in her eyes because she believed that she’d lost our family. The sadness, I think, is not so much born of an inability to accept them for who they are, but rather from an inability to accept that they’re not open to change.
I endeavor always to be open to change. To hear someone out even if it’s difficult to hear. To hold space for them as they express to me the ways in which I’ve hurt them. To do what I can to minimize the hurt in the future.
I’m beginning to develop a genuine understanding of why I turned to a spiritual path in the midst of these events–I needed to know that I had the capacity to deeply reflect upon the ways that my actions affected others, and that I had the tools to alter my behavior so I could be kinder and compassionate to those around me. I had to prove to myself that I had the strength to set healthy boundaries in the event that those around me wouldn’t stop performing harmful behaviors. I had to teach myself that it’s okay to refuse situations that aren’t healthy for me, and that I don’t have to let myself be consumed with guilt as a result. These are difficult lessons to learn and difficult things to face. It’s no wonder that many–like my parents and their parents before them–don’t. In fact, it’s much easier to anesthetize oneself to this pain, but that merely perpetuates the cycle.
As I grow older and time passes with little change in this dynamic, I find that I have less and less to say. I think I’ve surrendered to the notion that my parents won’t change. The same scenarios will keep repeating themselves and the same cock-eyed solutions and apologies will be offered. Somehow it just doesn’t get to me in the way that it used to. Or who knows–maybe enough time has passed since the last blow-up for me to forget what it feels like. Perhaps I’ve kept my distance to ensure that that blow-up doesn’t happen again.
There’s no definitive theme to this post, but there’s a message or two I feel it pertinent to close with: create healthy boundaries. Recognize and understand what you’re powerless to change. Allow for consequences. Stay true and strong and centered in Self as you face these challenges. Return to self when things begin spiraling and know in your bones that you’re worth your spiritual struggles. Invite compassion and empathy even when it’s difficult. And exalt yourself. Love yourself, and reach out to those who build you up.
Much Love Beautiful People,