The Empty Woods

If a tree falls in the woods
and there is no-one there
does it make a sound?

What is a family,
what holds them together?

It is not blood or genes.
It is not location.
It is not love or hate.
It is not appeasing the view of those looking in,
or the expectations of those looking out.
It is not even familiarity,
or shared experiences.

There comes a point when the pull of those things, things that held a few very different people together can turn out to be no longer enough.
When the pull of individual needs and differences has become greater than that which draws them together.

I experienced this pulling apart, the dissolution of the traditional family. Yet I still have a family, its just not the one I thought I had. The ties that bind are still there, they are just not straight lines to my ancestors. They curve in and wind through friendships and choices instead.

Changing from that traditional viewpoint has been profoundly difficult, and yet I don’t know what the difference is fundamentally.

At first I couldn't see what the "thing removed" is, nor what the thing added might be that makes me different now, yet I am different than I was with them. Hindsight allows me to see that I am now just me. I am not in a state of constant tension trying to maintain a shape that didn't fit. There is a simplification of everything. Choices I make are informed only by those I choose to use as reference. The cacophony of unfulfilled needs from the past is silent.

When I was looking to find my own happiness I found an author who advocated drawing up a cost benefit sheet of what you got from relationships, in order that you could see, if you were in conflict, what the benefit of that conflict was to you. After all you could just submit - and by not doing so you are propagating (or maintaining) a conflict, so the reasoning went. The conflict therefore supposedly had to have a benefit.

The overarching idea was that you should accept blame for your part in the breakdown of any relationship and by looking at what had driven you in this direction you had to acknowledge that the breakdown in some way benefited you. Thus you could admit that you had culpability in the breakdown.... and could therefore start to move towards conflict resolution.

This headed towards a rephrased version of "You are unable to change others - but can change your attitude towards them."

I dutifully did as instructed - and found I did have some selfish reasons to not want to continue the relationship with my parents.

To end the constant feeling of anguish.
The worry (gone now but almost ceaseless while the relationship continued)
No longer having to hear my imagined inadequacies listed for my (supposed) benefit.
The small minded selfishness that sucked away my life, my joy, my chances, would cease.
I would not have to sacrifice care of my own small family so that I could take on the care of someone who cared so little and so badly for me.
I would not be punished verbally or mentally for my supposed failings, well not if I wasn’t able to hear them.

I think this author has really missed a point - or perhaps I did?

Yes It was self serving to end this relationship, but to continue it, to change myself so that this relationship could survive, would have had to be on such draconian terms that I effectively would  be culpable in my own destruction. The terms were that I subsumed myself and my family to their needs wants and whims, and that even then there was no guarantee that this would be considered adequate and judgement would not be on fixed, but movable terms.

I'm quite sure that this could be read as an exaggeration, but to give you an idea of my general level of self serving-ness, when I did a quiz on are you a narcissist ? (online foolishness)  - I scored a resounding 6 out of 50
that’s pretty much so self effacing that I blend with the wallpaper and I had pushed myself to be a "bit bitchy" when I answered.

I am so very unselfish that even self preservation seems quite like selfishness to me, I am, I finally realised, the child of someone so self serving they are able to treat their children with malicious contempt.

So if a tree does fall...

Perhaps the question should be, "Why are we all pretending it hasn’t or that its sad?" It had to have been rotten to fall and soon there comes a time when that corpse is overshadowed by the new trees growing into the light the old tree made when it fell.

I have done my denial,
denied the rot,
denied the fall,
wished and wished for it not to have happened, but that family I belonged to doesn't exist any more.

It was never my responsibility to hold it together. It turns out that the best way to resolve some conflicts is to stop trying to fix it. It would have been nice to know that sooner, but I'm not going to give wishing for things any head-space, instead I'm going tend to my own garden, grow my own new family.

The deep dark woods can tend to its own.