My stomach is full of Thanksgiving food, and my mind is full of thoughts today. I am thinking about how our families shape the way we perceive our world, at least initially. We are raised in an environment that has constants – certain patterns, habits, and ways that we never question because we know no alternative. It is our reality. I have realized that many people never break free from this learned “reality”. Many of us stay within the boundary lines of this family pattern, sometimes for generations, without knowing or realizing that the unsaid rules are being followed in every conversation, interaction, etc. So, what happens when you find yourself in a new place – where you recognize all of these driving forces within the family? You realize that you have a choice whether to continue in the same vein, or break free.
This is the place I found myself today while surrounded by approximately 30 extended family members. Feeling caught between the old constant and the desire to break the “family rules” and be different. It can be a lonely place. It’s easier to just stick with the norm…to join in with the gossip, keep the conversations at a surface level, and pretend that we actually know something about each other, even though we see each other about 4 times per year (at the most). I struggle with wanting things to be different – to really know these people who have surrounded me for my whole life – to find out their hopes, thoughts, struggles, and their relationship with God. However, that is not part of the family dynamic. It makes me sad, and I have regrets. I regret that I’m not bolder in attempting real communication. I regret that it’s easier to just tolerate it for one day versus working to change this dynamic. I regret that these people have no idea who I really am (and vice versa).
“Perception versus reality” makes me think…whose perception and whose reality? For example, my recent decision to leave my job and enter this sabbatical period – my reality is a profound sense of freedom and relief and joy, regardless of the perception of others. However, in the reality I once learned from my family, this decision would be totally unacceptable. What I realized today is that I have begun to establish my own version of reality. I am breaking free of some of the family patterns that I want to change – even though it’s a slow process and I will certainly stumble along the way.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for so much. I am grateful for the things I have learned this past year and the ways I have grown. I am thankful that I still have so much to learn. I am thankful for second chances and that our Lord doesn’t hold our mistakes against us. I’m astounded that He uses our poor choices to teach us something new that we may not have otherwise learned. Thankful doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about His unconditional love for us.
Hoping your day has been filled with joy, love, and thankfulness. And very few regrets.