family and worth
I keep seeing on Twitter somebody quoted about how of course poetry is still relevant — poetry is still read at weddings and funerals and other momentous life occasions because ordinary words just won’t do!
I guess I’ve been hanging out with the wrong people.
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One of my nieces writes poetry — I’ve read one of her poems. One of my cousins said she wrote poetry, but I’ve never seen any of it; she’s seen mine, but had no comment.
My aunt taught journalism to kids who went on to have careers in journalism.
My aunt liked at least one of my poems, and the poem my niece wrote. (She’s blunt and no-nonsense, so I have to assume she’s being honest.)
Years ago, I read 1 term paper my little brother wrote in college. I read 1 essay my sister wrote for college; and 1 short story she wrote for herself — iirc, there were vampires involved, but all of this was 15+ years ago, so I may have some of the details wrong.
But outside of letters and emails, that’s all the writing I’ve ever read of any of my relatives.
Many people who had more-than-bog-standard-dysfunctional/epically shitty families of origin… went on to form “families of choice”.
I haven’t been able to do that. I can’t even figure out how that could happen.
Of course, the whole idea of ‘family’ just…
I mean, the word is useful for a cool concept, but…
Back when I called myself a Pagan, whenever people would talk about the Great Mother, or the Mother aspects of the Goddess or anything to do with mother archetypes, I would… shudder deeply (even if not visibly, then) change the subject as quickly as possible.
Although it’s not nearly as fundamental, anything about sisters, or sisterhood, same thing.
I could do Grandmother.
I could maybe, sort of, kind of do Aunt.
I could definitely do Cousin, since the word might encompass almost any degree of kinship.
Father didn’t come up much, thankfully.
My dislike of the archetype isn’t nearly as visceral as for Mother, but it definitely doesn’t appeal to me. In 39 years of a relationship with my own father, we had exactly 1 conversation where he talked to me like I was an individual — that he knew well — that he liked. Lots of talking at, when any audience will do. Lots of unwanted/unhelpful advice. Lots of heated arguments because he enjoys them (“debating”).
Lots of deferring to my mother.
Let’s be honest. The father of my childhood preferred boys to girls. And he infinitely preferred my sister to me. My father avoided me every chance he got, while going out of his way to spend special time with my siblings.
It’s almost like I was… adopted. Or, a stepchild. Or something weird.
Thankfully, a Brother archetype never comes up. My little brother might be cool, but I don’t know him at all.
The one good thing I can say about my other brother is… he seems to love his daughters. He actually spends time with them, and knows what is going on in their lives. Presumably, he actually talks to them; maybe he even listens.
(Am I coming up with crazy ideas or what today?!?)
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Since my father only has 2 granddaughters, 0 grandsons (and afaik, 0 nonbinary grandchildren), I hope he has learned to love girls that maybe aren’t so similar to his wife and the daughter he liked.
Whenever someone tells me the elder of my nieces is “just like you, Mea!”, I… flail inwardly. If she were truly just like me, she’d be despised or ignored by everyone she loved. She’d grow up thinking she must be a monster, otherwise why can no one love her?
(I was not close to Gramma until I was an adult.)
Instead, my niece seems, from the outside, to be beloved, well-adjusted, to have a respected place in both her nuclear and extended families of origin. People want to spend time with her.
That’s not like me at all.
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When I was younger (and not married), there were 2 friend groups that I thought I was (at least nominally) part of. Captain Awkward says, though, that people in friend groups are friends with individuals in the group; that you can’t be “friends with the group”.
I wasn’t friends with any of the individuals, I realized much later. They tolerated me. But we weren’t friends.
I don’t know how to behave in a group of friends. I’m always waiting for everyone to turn on me, to bond over scapegoating me and pushing me out. Or just ignoring me.
That’s what ‘family’ means to me.
So it’s probably not surprising that I haven’t tried to recreate that dynamic with the friends I have had.
In fact, I try to find friends who don’t know each other. And will never run across each other. That way, if a mob ever forms, I’m less likely to be the target of it.
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It’s kinda like the old cliché that I was raised by wolves. (Except that I think wolves would’ve been nicer. And would’ve taught me some useful social skills.)
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I have never in my life been around > 3 people at once who knew me well and genuinely liked me and enjoyed spending time with me, whom I also felt like I knew well and genuinely liked and wanted to be around.
Whenever I try to imagine the interplay of social dynamics of a group of 4+ people like that, my brain stutters to a stop: I have 0 data points to work with; therefore, “imagining” is not possible.
I’ve seen it happen for other people. I’ve read books.
When it works well, maybe that’s what being on a team is like!
I’ve never been on a team where I was a valued member.
When I’ve been valued, say, in a work situation, it’s been as an individual performer. (Even if it was a “team environment”.)
I’m also happy to help people out, especially if I like them. But that’s because helping people feels good, and is broadly useful, not because we are (or are not) on a team together.
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I have issues with ‘sharing’.
My mother’s idea of ‘sharing’: she would take one of my favorite toys away from me and ‘give’ it to my sister, who would hack it into pieces. My mother would return it to me, saying, “isn’t it nice that your sister likes playing with your toys too!” When I cried or protested that my toy was now ruined, my mother would admonish me: “your sister is too little to know any better. You’re the Big Sister now: you have to set a Good Example!” Rinse, repeat.
My sister enjoyed destroying my toys, and my mother… enjoyed helping that happen, then telling me I was being ‘selfish’ for not wanting to ‘share’ anymore.
My sister never did learn how to behave better, because there were never any adverse consequences for her.
I learned to hide things I valued. To never play with them when anyone else was around, so they couldn’t be taken away.
Sometimes my mother just… threw out random things that I owned. Because she thought I was too attached to them, or that I ‘owned too much stuff’.
I hid that stuff too.
I still have some of it. Not the toys, but the Cricket magazines that I hid in the crawlspace in the basement.
I wonder what it would be like to be valued for being yourself? To be liked for being yourself?
I wonder what it would be like to be valued?