Monday, April 25, 2011

the truth...about family drama

See, here's the thing about the human ego. It interferes with empathy.

All this time I have been loud-mouthing my way through my feelings for my brother-in-law, letting the world know how he made me feel during our interaction-that-shall-no-longer-be-named. My ego was bruised, wounded and dejected. I was angry, righteous, and defensive. And I was wrong.

It's not, it's never been, about me.

This morning, I laced up my new sneakers and ran like the wind through a curvy maze of Maryland suburban brick homes, their manicured lawns and perfectly trimmed hedges, watchful homeowners hiding behind fenced patios. I reflected on a conversation I'd had with my mother-in-law the night before, about her own father's battle with depression -- a bout of mental illness so severe that the end of his life was perhaps invitede forth by that mindset -- calling his daughter (then grown, the mother of my then-teenaged husband) to cry, ask advice, apologize. The cancer that took Jack Hirsch, in the end, was merciful and swift. And now, said my aging mother-in-law -- a woman who simultaneously drives me batshit crazy and loves me as fiercely as a woman can love a daughter that she did not ask for nor give birth to, which is to say not fiercely at all but instead resignedly -- she has to watch her son, her middle child, go through the same mental illness.

I have a middle child, and so do you. Empathy.

Well, Christ. I hadn't thought of his behavior as anything but a piss-poor temper tantrum. His absence at family functions, his mood swings, his lack of response. My ego had dragged me into the depths of a world where I -- virtuous and full of humility -- had been victimized by his shitty temperament. I hadn't thought of him as sick.

To those of you on the receiving end of this message, it will surprise you to hear me process this experience in terms of my relationship with God, because as far as I know, you all consider me if not an atheist than at least an agnostic woman. But I will admit right now that I go to church almost every single day -- it's a congregation with a membership of one. Having only one member makes it easy to accomplish a lot of things larger churches can't -- I can change tact on certain moral issues with a quick vote. I can accept Communion with loved ones and deliver psalms and sing praise at my own leisure. Most importantly, I can lead my people in Worship on a street corner, in a bar, at the beach. And on a run.

So I had myself a small chat with God this morning as I paced through the sunshine, genuinely sorry, asking forgiveness, giving thanks. I have been wrong to judge, as we always are when we judge others in whose shoes we've When the ego jumps over the kinder, more empathetic side of me in the internal game of leapfrog, the side that remains is ugly and I feel a sense of embarrassment that I allowed it to thrive for so long.

So that's where I am at with my brother and sister and law, who are no longer coming to Passover because their daughter has strep. I'd been planning to welcome them with open arms.

No comments:

Post a Comment