How and when do you know you’ll probably never reach a deeper understanding between yourself and your family/parents?
I guess there are many degrees of toxic environments to grow up in and I definitely got the ‘lucky’ end of the stick. Still, certain patterns do form within relationships, no matter what kind; hidden, denied or not, and today I realized mine. I may always have known it was there but I also thought I was merely reading too much into things; that I was being dramatic and pathetic; that I was more at fault than others. And though this may sound dramatic either way, I can’t help but telling what I know to be the truth for me. Especially, if the truth comes through the seemingly smallest of incidents, followed by a silent epiphany that tells a message somehow all too familiar to oneself; one you have always known deep down. Especially, if it comes the very first day back in the family’s bosom – and unfolds in its usual and all too disappointing pattern.
Moments of epiphany come in many shapes and sizes and mine came like a stinging reopening of a cut close to my heart, if not on the heart itself. And, as I said, when it happens the very first day back home for the holidays, you know in your heart (you all but literally feel it) that this is wrong – that this shouldn’t be so. When I realize that the very essence of my being can be so easily disregarded and mocked as something silly – still, after all this time – and that I cannot entirely be myself even among my kin. (NB: This may be too subjectively implied, vague and thus uncomprehensive to follow exactly, but I hope to make way for some significant points of self-discovery in the end.)
The thing is: I love my parents yet they do not understand me; they cannot read me. They are my closest of kin – they made me – but they do not understand me – which makes it hurt all the more. This may sound awfully reminiscent of a moody teenager’s voice speaking, but I have outgrown that teen; I know myself more than I did then. I know that this feeling is not ‘just’ the cause of a coming-of-age, hormone-charged fad. It has been brewing for a long time, never building like a snowball of anger and bitterness but simply just there; a constant sense of displacement, of a wire snapped.
They don’t understand why I seek away; why I seek elsewhere than where they are, because that crucial connection is missing. And if they do not understand or cannot read me by now, I don’t think they ever will. It saddens me because I thought I had shown myself; that I was as close to my developed self as I could be by now – or, at least, that their love for me would have shown them my heart and mind by now. I know; you can never truly know what a person thinks or feels, but isn’t the idea that you’ll get to know and learn about them along the way? Apparently, that isn’t the case with my parents and myself. It seems we are always meeting at cross-purposes no matter how well-meaning our intentions may be. I try to reach them, yet they pick up the wrong clues and mock those they have found, throwing away precious chances to come to a greater understanding. I don’t know if it is their embittered hearts that have no more room for such tender dealings or if we simply have very, very bad timing since we continue to go wrong of one another. My mother misinterpret and my father misunderstand. Not in any necessarily big, dramatic way, but in the undercurrent of every benevolent interaction or passionate discussion lies the risk of misunderstanding simmering and waiting to attack and screw us up. I think my parents feel it as well because they make sure to trample down every aggression and passion, even positive passion and conflict, or judge it as misplaced or misleading, fearing it will set off a potential avalanche they wouldn’t know how to handle, thus making it close to impossible to discuss important matters. I’m always exhausted rather than relaxed or exhilarated by their company. I cannot talk with them. We tolerate each other, and sometimes we barely do. I do not ask them to be like me (you can hardly demand everyone around you to be like yourself), but simply to understand me on an entirely basic level. Or just, for once, listen without making too-quick judgments or (mis)interpretations, nor make derisive or self-absorbed comments when I open my heart and mouth a little ‘too much’. Because of all the people I should be able to unburden myself to, uncensored, it should be my parents … Right?
As such I don’t mind being mocked by family since it has always been so, more or less; again, not in an evil-intended kind of way, but for the mere chance of poking fun of one’s antics, I guess. And I happen to have many antics! But I have accepted them because they are me. I have enough self-irony and self-consciousness of my shortcomings as it is; the shortcomings my parents already know, yet cannot help to continue to poke fun at instead of treating them with understanding and acceptance. After all, it’s healthy and constructive to be taken down from one’s own – sometimes – unconscious piedestal (in order to know you even had one in the first place), but there’s a fine line between laughing with you and at you; constantly doing the latter while excusing it as the former. I sometimes fear that I appear more arrogant and self-important than I feel I am (which makes me doubt whether I really am arrogant?!) and if it looks like I put on airs in a discussion when my intention couldn’t be farther from the case. It leads back to the ‘problem’ of being an INTP; that “…people think you argue because you have to be right, but arguing is just a part of your quest to learn”. But my parents aren’t simply ‘people’, right? They are my parents.
Maybe your parents were never meant to form any deeper understanding with you? Maybe this is an all too common, universal and perhaps even banal problem and I’m far too blinded or naive to have noticed it before? The problem of what parents ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be is perhaps as old as time.
But still something grates me. The world doesn’t revolve around me – I know – but among all people isn’t it your parents who should be the first ones to respond to you and celebrate you? If your parents can’t even see the development within you then who can? And what does that say about your relationship with your parents?
I find myself saddened and disappointed by the fact that they are apparently so blind to things I have learned to see now, because I have finally come to various self-realizations about myself and though these realizations may not sound like much, they are significant to me – despite the possible ‘selfish’ nature surrounding them. Perhaps that’s the impediment to our wrong-footing? These moments of self-realization may be barely visible to the naked eye – even to your closest of kin?
I cannot help myself: I have finally learned the art of learning to love myself; of celebrating myself as having come this close to a developed self; celebrate that I have virtues as well as flaws and that flaws can be good because it makes me human and that I can only learn and develop myself from flaws and mistakes, not from perfection or denying my flaws. I celebrate that I have an open mind, am willing to learn and understand (isn’t it wonderful to be human; to have this ability?), knowing I may never be fully ‘developed’ in mind or spirit but that I’m willing to grow and am damn well close to it (for my age, if that says anything). And the (self-)realization itself shows it, I feel, and makes me proud on a deeper, inexplicable level.
Isn’t that what life is about? Not so much being selfish but finding and loving oneself? Connecting with oneself? Forget the hippie clichés and pseudo-spiritual ‘life-inspiring quotes’ hanging on every branch for a bit (though they can be helpful). I’m no survivor of terrible, life-changing events nor hold some celestial spirit connected to the circle of life within or anything like that. I cannot speak for what one have or should have to endure in life in order to find oneself. Such realizations are your own and can show in the most surprising or even familiar of ways; from the outside or within, roaring or silently. And I can only speak for myself, being as human as any of you, and tell you what I’ve discovered for myself. And whether it may or may not be for entirely self-absorbed and pathetic reasons, which I’ll perhaps discover later in life and laugh at, so be it. Pathos is a part of man, after all, as much as ethos and logos.
In danger of sounding too holy and pompous after all, and, I may just write all this as much for myself (if not mostly) as for you, I would like to say that what is important is right now – what you have learned for yourself along the way – in order for you to take the next step, no matter how big or small. As long as it is significant to you. Of course, it’s tough if others (esp your closest ones) don’t see it as well, nor even try to see. Our self-image is not entirely self-made after all. But even if you discover the self-realization is somewhat off or misconstrued, at least you had some sort of realization (all your own); one that is important for your own self-image and -discovery right now, making ways for new and even different ones (of the world and the people around you as well), enabling you to learn from yourself, choose for yourself and accept yourself. Knowing and reaffirming your own ability to learn.
If that is not the first and foremost most important thing in your life; the love of thyself, flaws and all, keeping an open mind and willingness to learn, I don’t know what is.