During one of our recent interviews someone said, “I hope that I come to love my son for who he is, not just what he is.”
That moment crystalized for me. In the smudgy comic book of my mind people started dividing and filling those buckets: Who and What. I realized that if you were to press me about the five people that I call my siblings I can only confidently say that I know who two of them are.
I have affection for all of them and know things about them, we have known each other for 20-30 years, but I think that I have more understanding of Sean and Dee. When it comes to my cousins I think it point becomes even clearer. I have several first cousins that I have only met once. I wouldn’t hesitate to show them hospitality, but I don’t think that I would open in the same way as I would with the ones I know well.
Staying connected with family in many ways means balancing these two aspects. Acknowledging what someone’s role in your family is the least you can do. Showing love really means taking that leap into opening yourself to who they are, what they think, and how they feel.
In my own life I know that I am largely to blame for my distance from my family. In early years I only had good connection habits with one person, my dad. When he died I really never got back into the habit of talking to anyone. Between running from so many things, intense depression, and spending more than a year with neither a phone nor email I just forgot what to do.
By the time I came back to reality I didn’t use text, didn’t think about email, and really never called people unless I was trying to meet up with them face-to-face. Even though it has been a decade since I emerged from the jungle, I still fail at staying in contact with my family. Seriously, multiple times this year I have promised myself that I will write an email to a family member on Sunday. On Tuesdays I tend to realize that I have failed yet again.
In part this blog is a passive way to fight that bad habit. I am trying to get used to telling people where I am and what I am up to. Writing about all of this has given me an excuse, something specific to talk about, and a built-in subject to discuss.
Getting to know who a person is really requires asking a lot of questions. In that moment during the interview I realized that I was getting to know who this woman on the other end of Skype is better than I know most of my blood relatives.
To improve my community, and strengthen my family, I am going to start investing more into asking questions of the people that I love, even when I think I already know the answers. Ultimately, I really do want to love you people for WHO you are.