Meditation: Balance, Relax Length: 10 minutes Where: In our bed, Michigan How It Felt: Frustrating but relaxing Who Joined Me: Steve
We were totally exhausted yesterday. The night before we stayed up late with the family, and I stayed up even later talking with my sister before we fell asleep. Steve and I had both been a bit sleep deprived already from a hectic week, so yesterday, after brunch with my other sister, Madie, we drove straight home and were relieved to just melt for the rest of the day.
We took care of a few things, made some calls, ordered incredible Italian food, then made our way to the bedroom pretty early to shower, meditate, read, and wind down.
I wanted to explore the Balance app just a bit more, so I chose a “Relax” session. I didn’t want to sleep yet- my book, Where the Crawdads Sing was getting awfully good and I wanted to read- but I was anxious as I usually am after seeing my family or spending much time in the midwest so I thought it might help relax my mind and soothe my soul. Splitting the difference between “put me to sleep” and “inspire me with new meditation concepts.”
The thing about coming home is that you go out into the world and change and grow and become new versions of yourself, then you come home where it’s all as it ever was. Of course, that’s never really true- everyone is changing and growing all the time, but when you all come back together into a family unit, you slip into your ways, your habits, your same roles. It feels the same even if it isn’t.
There is something comforting about that dynamic, obviously, and I’m so grateful for my family, to know I can always go “home.” We would all do anything for each other, and we have fun together, and we love each other like crazy. Not everyone has that.
Still, there are behaviors that were normalized growing up that I am now all too aware are not healthy, not ok, should not be tolerated, because I left and saw the way things can be. How do you help that loved one who accepts abusive treatment because everyone around her makes her feel like it’s ok? What can you do for a family member who has stayed in a town where they feel so alone and different for so long, they just start cutting everyone off altogether? How do you show them how much more there is to life? Inspire them to love themselves as much as you love them?
Coming face to face with these types of questions in person always leaves me down for a few days after a visit home. It’s especially sad because there is so much good there, so much love and support. I wouldn’t erase a minute of my childhood, even the really, really hard parts, because I’m grateful for the person I am today. I decided very early in my life to work as hard as a could to be as healthy- mentally and emotionally- as possible. I put in days and days, hours and hours, year after year, to be sure I wasn’t perpetuating any cycles, that I was breaking toxic habits and not dumping my trauma onto the next person.
What I have yet to understand is how use that information to actually help others do the same…. I mean in a targeted way. You can’t have someone’s miracle. You can’t convince them that they are worthy of all the love, all the joy, the best relationship, everything good in life. I know it has to come from them.
Believe me, decades in Al-Anon have taught me everything I need to know about not trying to control other people’s journeys.
When you grow up as close of a family- immediate, extended, and extra-extended- as we are, it’s hard to separate a sibling’s pain from your own, for instance.
A lot of us have this struggle- loving our families but feeling so different from them. There must be a word that means “feeling completely comfortable, totally at ease, happy and loved, but also totally like a fish out of water and like almost no one around you sees the world the same way you do.” Is there?
And what is the phrase, probably German, that means, “I want to be with these people all the time and never miss a party or boat weekend or baby shower and do everything together because I love them so much but also I want to always be at a great distance from it all actually?”
I want to save everyone, but I can’t. I did manage to save myself, and I’m always, always there to help anyone who needs support doing the same. I try to live my best example, try to show how amazing life can be, even as I still constantly navigate my own issues and trauma. I dedicate myself to staying real, authentic, and open, so people can see I’m not perfect, and I struggle, and I’m still doing my best, so they can feel free to be imperfect, too, and know that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. I’m lucky to have a partner who is dedicated to always growing, being better, being real. I have so many friends who are on the same journeys, or at least their own version, that I can talk to about it all. I definitely have some family members who are doing the same.
I don’t judge, though I think a lot of people would like to believe I do, so they can dismiss me. I find no value in judgement of other people. It brings nothing to the process. I do see through denial, though, and I can tell when someone is claiming to be “SO HAPPY!” and it’s obvious they aren’t. I see fear behind excuses as to why change is impossible. I see possibility people can’t see themselves. I see people I love, and I ache for them to fight for themselves, to demand better treatment, better lives. To trust people. To try something different than what’s comfortable. To see that this is the one shot we get, and if you spend every day being afraid to step outside the lines, you leave a whole part of your soul locked up for life, withering.
These are the things I was up last night until after 4am thinking about. This is why I can’t live at home, or even near home. I can’t separate myself when I love people this much. I can’t not meddle, not try to help. I need to be among people that I can be close to without feeling even one ounce of responsibility for them.
It’s easy to say, “let go- it’s their life.” It’s impossible for me to accept it fully. Why? Why do they have to suffer for no reason, or stay lost in an endless cycle, or accept abusive treatment? Why can’t I help?
That’s life. And sometimes all you can do is move far away and focus on loving from afar, having a great marriage and amazing friends, making art, and saving whatever amount of the world you can save. Help people who want help. Help the planet, help the animals, help children, help people who accept it. That’s where I need to channel my energy. I know this, but I also know I will never fully leave Indiana behind. There is a part of my heart there always.
My family is the type that will be there immediately when you call, when you need them. They will do anything for you, no questions asked. They aren’t constantly hovering, checking in with you, offering unsolicited advice. I need to learn from them in this regard. Wait. Be here.
When the call or text or Facetime or whatever message comes, I’ll be there, no questions asked. That’s how I can help. It requires patience… so maybe, in the meantime, I can work on my patience.
Goodness knows that’s not a skill I’ve mastered!
Maybe meditation can help me there. Maybe, if I build it in my brain, they will come.