August 28 we did a post where we reflected on an opportunity Ann and I had to talk about important relationships in our life: With God, with our family, with our fellowmen, and with ourselves. On that day we dove into the last one and asked if we really do like ourselves.
Then on September 8 we worked backward on the list and underscored the importance of liking ourselves enough to be able to really like those around us.
Should we take the plunge and talk about those we just can’t get rid of, no matter how hard we try?
I’ve often joked that Ann would like her deposit back on our marriage. Everyone knew that I was getting the best end of the deal when we got engaged. In fact, Ann received a sympathy card with one of the wedding gifts, and that was from one of my friends!
The truth is it has been a rough road.
My Mom died a few years after we were married, making the births of our children bittersweet. Now, 23 years later, Ann and I still lament what might have been.
As I tried to climb the ladder of success Ann was left to pick up all the slack at home. A quick and unforeseen job opportunity necessitated a transfer to southern Utah. The first time that Ann had ever seen Cedar City was when we pulled in driving the U-Haul truck. She was eight months pregnant at the time.
About 18 months later our little girl was stillborn. Ann had her most difficult labor and delivery of all of them, knowing all the while that the child would never draw breath when all was said and done. Postpartum depression is very real and very powerful.
Three promotions and corresponding moves later, the bipolar gained momentum and I lost my job.
A DVT and four clots in my lungs seemed to awaken a neurologic demon that terrified us. The temporary diagnoses seemed to go from bad to worse to impossible.
Two other jobs down the road we realized that I wasn’t able to continue working and continue living at the same time. Ann threw herself into her career.
These were the teenage years for Alex and Nick. Not really an ideal condition for youth who are trying to figure out their place in the world and also realizing at the same time that their parents truly don’t have all the answers.
This is just our story. I don’t think it is really that different from yours. The facts and details would certainly be unique for every family, but the experience would be much the same.
Homes were built and sold and then bought again. Schools changed. Friends came and went.
But our little band of four was the constant.
At the top I joked about not being able to get rid of family, no matter how hard we may try, and that Ann really would like her deposit back.
But there is no joke about that fact that they are still here.
Alex and Nick have left the nest; they very easily could have chosen to never look back. But they do. And it is a joy to see into each other’s eyes over far distances.
Ann is extremely bright and capable. She could have left me in the dust years ago, cutting the tether that is her husband, and spreading her own wings. It would seem that many who are married to the mentally ill see that as the only option left to them.
But she’s still here.
You may be wondering what would be the point of all this?
As you glance through the experiences our family has weathered, it most certainly draws your mind to reflect on your own.
If you are as fortunate as I am to still be surrounded by people who leave us in awe at their simple goodness, then you feel humbled that life could indeed be so good.
The rough road feels like it has been paved over, skillfully and enduringly.
Stop the hectic race of your life and sincerely ask the question: How are we treating these people who didn’t give up on us, when all others could and would?
For some reason we tend to have the sharpest tongues and cut the deepest wounds with those we share a roof with. We present ourselves at our worst to them, saving our “best” selves for the public at large.
Shame on us.
As things continued to darken physically for me, I realized quickly that I only had a set amount of energy to be nice. It took focus and will power to not speak the mean thoughts that filled my mind; it took constant vigilance to not lash out and strike anyone who was stupid enough to get too close to me.
I could do it for those in our outer circle.
Or, I could do it for those on the inside.
I chose the latter.
They got the best of me, no matter how pathetic that was.
Now, we stand together. Sometimes it feels like we are together in a circle, back to back, with fists raised. We are each ready to take on whatever monster may come and attack, determined that we will stop it in its tracks before it harms one of our little pack.
And it’s just that: Her family.
This is our priceless treasure that supports and sustains us as we continue, sometimes running and sometimes crawling, down the road that is both rough and smooth.
We may be born into our families without any say in who is and who isn’t a part of it.
Does your family know that you have theirs?