It’s that time of year again, you watch Christmas movies and see how happy some families are and you start to wonder, what the hell happen to mine?

For decades my mother has not really spoken to her siblings, her youngest has passed and I remember sitting in the church at her funeral feeling a sense of sadness, not because my Auntie died but because I didn’t know her.

Even though my Aunt and my mom were not on speaking terms for years, I saw that my mom was truly hurt.  Because of the broken relationship between my mom and her siblings, I don’t know my Aunties and cousins very well.  There are a few cousins that I remember growing up with, but its only bits and pieces.

Unfortunately, the relationship my mom had with her siblings is the same relationship I have with mine.  Growing up, the message I heard was if you hurt me, you deserve my absolute silence and you deserve to feel my wrath.  Family means nothing, helping your sister or brother because it’s your sister or brother holds no weight.  To say hurtful words to a sibling was the norm, badmouthing the family to friends was perfectly acceptable.  There was no support, acceptance or a real sense of caring.  It felt like you are constantly being tested and your mistakes were being tracked and if you mess up, the whole relationship was over. It was easier to build a cacoon and stay by yourself because it was safe.

”I am hurt because you hurt me” or “I can never trust you again”  “I can never be nice to you again because you said something hurtful to me’  these are all statements I have heard and now it’s a norm.  There was no understanding, no allowance of mistakes.  Being around family is like walking on eggshells.  This is how I learned my interpersonal skills. I notice myself crying at times, not because of past events but I would cry for what could have been, the what if moments can be painful at times.

I look at my nieces and nephews and I see a disconnect between them, even though its heartbreaking, it is what it is.  The ones that their parents are on good speaking terms and have a good relationship tend to show support for each other.  The siblings that are not on speaking terms their kids show no love, no support, no warmth, they nitpick, criticize, point fingers at each other.  Yet everyone says it’s not my fault the family is a mess, and I am left wondering then whose fault is it?   When I mention this to certain siblings, they say this has nothing to do with me, I allow my kids to make their own decisions.  Really?    I look and I smile because that’s the same thing I heard certain elders say, so we repeat the same actions unconsciously, we think we are giving our kids an option but we have simply made the decision for them without even saying it.

The more books I read on behaviour the more I see that my family may be passive aggressive.  I talk about passive aggressive in another blog check it out.  I often seek advice from the elders in my family because their experience is greater than mine.  In some situations, I realize that elders don’t always know what’s best, their views are sometimes deep rooted in pain and disappointment so I decided to reach outside of the family and I learned a lot.  I learned there are many different avenues to explore in life and sometimes the path that you are on is not the right one for you.

I grew up in an environment where nothing was absolute, nothing was sacred, not family.  If a family member did you wrong there was no reconciliation or forgiveness. Being the youngest, I didn’t experience the protective older siblings that I see in other families.  It was every man for himself.  It could be because I am deeply close to my mom, and they may have felt her protection was all that was needed.

One day I decided to transform myself, I think it’s God working his magic, I started to have a better view on life because I didn’t want to have regrets and I also see the destruction that thinking a certain way causes. Most people on their deathbed always talk about what they wish they had done, I don’t want to be one of those people.  So I started doing.

I reached out to my siblings for a sit-down talk which was to include all of us, most of them said “no” they are not interested.  I realize at that moment that my family issues are way deeper than anything I could fully understand.

I realize how strong I am and even though I am the youngest, I have a lot of guts.  I was in a class all by myself, my uncle said he was proud of me and he is willing to help the family any way he can.  My kids were encouraged to stand up tall and face their issues because they saw me facing mine, that was the bonus.

Make some changes

Making a difference in one’s life requires a change in daily habits.  Stepping outside of one’s comfort zone and being true to yourself.  I’ve grown to accept certain things for what it is.  I will most likely not have the loving family that a heart would desire but I could have a good time with a group of people that I can interact with occasionally and dance and eat, but I do not expect anything more than that, and that’s ok.

I still continue to reach out to my siblings, nieces and nephews.  I offer words from the heart and interesting ideas because they may need it. My nieces and nephews are younger than I am and it can be a hard world out there especially when your family foundation is weak.

Most of the time they don’t respond or when they do respond it’s almost like a stranger just being polite but I look at the bigger picture, if I can inspire one to live a happier life than i’ve done a good job.

While I was creating an invitation for a family dinner my son saw my work and said: “why do you do these things if no one will respond?”  I laughed and I told him sometimes when you are sitting in a dark room and you see little glimpses of light, it gives you hope.  People may not respond to the good you do right away but that doesn’t mean the good you have done doesn’t mean anything.

Sometimes after years of struggle, you have to humble thyself and be the best person you can be, regardless of the response you get.  Don’t change with the wind.  I think he understood because he sat down and nodded and didn’t say a word, I knew that was a teaching moment and he will most likely do the same, and that made me proud. I’m creating a legacy that will empower and not one that will hate.

All of sudden he responded to my invitation on Evite for a family dinner (he said yes he would attend) Yas!!!!! I knew I made progress, I knew a cycle of mistrust, animosity and bitterness has a chance to change.  I was proud at that moment because he made a decision to attend a family event that I wasn’t going to force him to attend.

I am quietly accepting me. Now I am in a position to help others.  It has taken me a long time to get to this point in life.  Of course, I’m still uncomfortable in certain family settings but it is getting better.  Because I have allowed my perspective of what family should be to go out the window. I accept that I am surrounded by a great group of people who may not have my best interest at heart but they are not evil people and I could hang out with them occasionally and have a laugh at silly stuff.

Carla’s Take

My advice on getting through the holidays with a dysfunctional family is to be a better you.  You are the only person that you can control.

If you have your own family create moments that your children will cherish, don’t share just your painful moments or your disappointments with your children, share the good memories,so when your children see other family members they don’t choose to simply hate based on what was said.

Focus on the things you like to do, and do them. Keep yourself busy, do not sit in the darkness and think of your disappointments, go for a walk with someone and share some stories.

Talk to family members that are open to talking to you, spend some time with them offer advice or be a listening ear.

You can also reach out to other family members who don’t speak to you, just don’t expect anything in return, if you get a polite email/text back simply say “thank you”.

Remember the people in your family may feel the same way you do, just have compassion for their pain, even if it’s not expressed.

Life is awesome!!!  Enjoy your positives and work on your negatives but keep it moving my friend!!! Your presence on this earth is required and necessary.

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