My family is as messy as most. It is easy to to get hyper focused on the DYS-function, especially when there’s a lot of hooting and hollering and carrying on – which is true in my family of origin in fun and in failing. But that is not the only thing that is true about my family.
This is a picture taken on April 13, 2016 after a day of shopping with my mom for baby Christian. She loved all things baby and was eager to buy him cute little outfits. She was also in a lot of pain, tired easily, and suffering from the late stages of Alzheimer’s. Although she HOPED to live to see this baby born, she planned for the possibility that she would not. Remember: this is a woman with ALZHEIMER’S! Suffice it to say her shopping days were few and far between even though she had once been a world-class shopper. It was the last shopping trip my mom and I ever took together. By mid-August, she had traveled on beyond us, to her heavenly home. The same week baby Christian came into this world.
Over her lifetime, my mother developed within her spirit the spiritual realities of humility, gratitude, tolerance and even forgiveness. Some came much later in life than others. These were traits I have to remember and call upon because they were not a natural part of our family growing up. They also informed my decision to leave her and return home to sit on an intensely uncomfortable chair in a sterile hospital waiting room for HOURS as my own daughter labored away. When this self-same daughter was born, my mom arrived in Richmond within hours of her birth. Back in the day, hospitals had visiting hours and my mom missed the last window of opportunity to come in that evening. This did not deter her. Since my room was on the first floor she figured out how to skulk around in the bushes until she found my room. In the rain. In the dark. And her first glance of her first grand-daughter was through a rain streaked window late at night. Yes. My mother showed me the way. She had been showing me the way for a long time, even within the confines of a dysfunctional family system.
When we learn that dysfunctional family systems strive to survive even at the expense of the family itself, I say to that system: go pound sand. Because we the family can consciously choose love over legacy. My mother showed me how. It has required a whole village to help me live in love not legacy. After all, the system of dysfunction and shame is still trying to kick a** and take no prisoners. When I fail, the old shame teaches me that he’s lurking in the background, looking for opportunities to assert his defeating ways. My village, the one I have chosen to surround myself with, comes to the rescue when I admit my shame attack. They speak into the experience in a soft, sing songy voice, “It’s ok, accidents happen. No one is perfect….” And sometimes they even help me see that my shame is lying and I actually have nothing to be ashamed of. Which is a weird thought for someone who feels it so often.