Thursday, February 18, 2010
what's your function? No really, what's the payoff for dysfunction? I had lunch today (well really a late breakfast) with my girl bestie A. She was telling me about the latest drama between her and her mom, who is visiting LA for a few weeks. It's funny because I always thought I owned the franchise of dysfunctional family stories until I met A. We can go head to head for hours and I think she might even beat me. Sadly this is a contest that neither one of us want to win. Her family dramas are unlike mine but both tell the same tale, and while our stories may belong to different genres, they are both located in the horror section. This is something that we joke about constantly and while our childhoods are kept in the past where they belong we both fear repeating the sins of our mothers.
I can tell you that this fear alone is enough to ensure our daughters will not have to live the lives that A and I did. While some people grow up and learn valuable lessons that they will pass on to their kids, we took our childhood as a lengthy seminar on what not to do. The funniest thing about both of our mothers is they don't have a clue (or at least they don't admit it) to how deep their dysfunction has actually affected us. They are both guilty of telling us what we are doing wrong with our kids. They both told us that we were spoiling our babies when they cried and we gave them immediate care and comfort. I'm sure that ignoring us when we were crying uncomfortable babies (and later as children and into young adulthood) spoiled us, very much the way food spoils when you forget about it for too long. Ouch. The good thing about our moms is the physical distance between us, for me it's 2726.33 miles, A is the big winner here, with a distance of over 7500 miles.
Now this isn't to say that it's all bad, in fact I have made peace with my past and allow my mother freely in my adult life. I also allow her the pleasure of spoiling her favorite granddaughter, only this time the spoiling involves unconditional love and a never ending supply of candy, toys, dolls and teddy bears. I think she knows better now and maybe has even learned a thing or two (or a thousand) from me, and while we never discuss past crimes the guilt she feels is something she has to live with every day. A hasn't fared as well though, while she clearly wins the medal for distance, her mother still refuses to acknowledge the cemetery of skeletons in her parental closet. This could be an age thing, my mom is a little older than A's, maybe with the passing of time she too can get with the program and try to mend the fences that she spent a lifetime kicking through.
Or maybe not. Either way K and J (A's little girl and K's friend since almost birth) are reaping the benefits of years of therapy, years of soul searching and years of a friendship that has bonded us in ways that I never thought possible. Most people hide the parts of their life that embarrass them or makes them uncomfortable. The very first time I met A she opened up to me about the truths in her life making me want to do the same. When she opened up about her family I knew that I had met my soul-mate in friendship. I knew from that moment on that I would never have to feel shame about the inadequacies of my formative years. Not only was I free to let the stories flow I was also free to joke about them with someone who had been down that road as well.
So now when we get together we swap tales of good and evil, and marvel at the fact that the journey we both took led us to a place of healing, that good can come out of bad and that our kids will know that dysfunction is a hard word to spell and not a way of life.