Self Expression Magazine

The Bough Breaks

Posted on the 30 November 2021 by Laurken @stoicjello

It always does. The wood rots, some sort of parasite or fungus weakens it, the wind blows it down, and lest we forget about the duress of plain, ordinary gravity and time. This past holiday weekend, I saw the growing crack in the bough. In fact, I’m not sure what was keeping it attached to the big familial tree. But the crack was obvious and creaking and seemingly trying its damndest to do one of two things: it was either trying to stay attached or trying like hell to keep from completely detaching. A sensible person might ask, “what’s the difference?” But the 62 year old, 48 ounce cup o’slushy gray matter that I’ve become knows the difference but I can’t explain it. There is no bough, no crack, no tree, but it all certainly feels real.

As families age and its members get older, you have two viable options: you can keep forcing togetherness and resentment will be the long lasting by product or you can accept that traditions die (like people) and we have no choice but move on. Kids grow up, their boredom kills holidays faster than a Christmas Day kitchen fire at noon. Everyone’s favorite, Uncle Freddie, the fun partier, develops kidney issues and is in bed by nine and Grammy Ellen can’t remember what her teeth do. Family gatherings that were once so highly anticipated are now drudgery. There are fights, and eye rolls, hurt feelings, Cousin Luella had the gall to bring canned green beans that weren’t seasoned (clutch the pearls!!!) Hookley, the reverse snob NO ONE wanted sweet little Glenda to marry, continues to rebuke family decorum by eating with his feet during dinner. And there’s always one Commie in the woodpile—the subject veers from taters to dictators and boom!! 💥 💥 Politics result in a table clearing brawl.

No matter how jaded you might be, it’s always sad to witness family dynamics changing in real time. So much comes in to play. It’s an extremely tall order to expect two adults much less three or more, to maintain the same relationship they had in their childhoods. This is true of family or friends you knew in the womb. It’s delusional to think otherwise. If all you & your siblings or cousins have are a few rehashed tales of childish hi-jinx from family reunions 60 years in the past, then it’s time to stop. But stop what? Talking, attending family functions? It’s probably never a good idea to extricate family entirely from your existence. I said ”probably”, but there are exceptions to every rule. If the relationship is boring, then okay, sit out a few reunions. Maybe time can heal certain wounds and make contributions to perspective, but if the relationship is toxic, forget about it. Putting emotional and physical distance where needed can actually be healthy maneuver, especially if the distance has been requested & discussed…you know, as in fully communicated. Rifts, grudges and estrangement are almost always the result of undercommunication.

But let’s be realistic, this kind of communication rarely happens, even though the family unit hangs in the balance. Speak up….don’t speak up, but be aware you have to determine the value, what’s worth preserving or what has to be jettisoned. And some things simply have to be removed from your life.

Nietzsche once wrote, ”Family love is messy, clinging, and of an annoying and repetitive pattern… like bad wallpaper.

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