Friday, November 27, 2009

The Arsenal

A wise man said, “Don’t go into battle empty handed.” Or at least I think it was something like that. If not, there is, I am sure, some cliche out there to explain why after an exhausting Thanksgiving with my Dad’s family and a 4 hour drive back to KC, I would go to the gym and dye my hair before heading to my aunts house for the precursor to our enormous Saturday family Thanksgiving.

I love my family, very very much but there is no one else in the world with whom I feel as insecure, as statement which I am already assuming will offend someone. It does not matter what I do, where I travel or what success I accomplish, around them I will always feel like a chubby awkward little girl who just wants to feel like I belong.

We are many. I use to think of it as hundreds of voices trying to be heard in the world, personalities clashing and melding in unexpected ways.

My family likes to say that while we may be loud and we may be drama-filled, maybe more than some families, we also love more too.

And that is true. There is a lot of love. A lot. An eighty person house-hold a lot.

And you damn well better be ready for all that love or it will run you over.

When I was preparing myself for a family function early this year, my therapist told me I should play mental Bingo. In every square I should put something that drives me crazy about my loved ones. Then instead of dreading the uncomfortable moments I could embrace them, as they got me one box closer to a self-designated prize. She said that her patient who came up with the game actually made paper Bingo cards for him and his siblings.

He had an entire card filled with “When are you going to find a nice girl and get married?” He is openly gay.

So I took her advice and made a bingo card filled with questions about my job and my relationship status, comments on my appearance, the condemnations of my height and insistence on wearing ridiculously high heals. I sprinkled in a few off color remarks from less culturally sensitive individuals and the occasional joy stifling glance exchanged between couples at odds.

After twenty-four hours I earned a massage but surprisingly didn’t really need one.

I suppose it was a perspective shift, a little less weight placed on the opinions of others and a little less time spent trying to interpret what those possible opinions might be.

The anxiety I have felt around my family has always been mine, it is easy to be overwhelmed by that much love, and it seemed time to take ownership of it. I could continue to feel agitated and uncomfortable in situations that remind me too much of the parts of myself I have hoped to grow out of or I could breathe and try to see me for me, without the imagined lens of familial perception.

I am still probably going to make sure to dye my hair and fix my chipped nails as I run out the door - I still feel safer with my arsenal - but I hopefully I will worry about the meaningless moments a little less and enjoy all that loving a little bit more.

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