Last week I spent the day with a friend in the kitchen making soups for our freezers. We do this every year, turning one of our kitchens into an assembly line of production. It’s one of my favorite Fall traditions, and while I was chatting with another friend recently I said the only thing I get sentimental about were traditions. Not houses, not really even people … but traditions.
Stick with me, they come together shortly.
I’ve thought a lot about that statement over the course of the last couple weeks asking myself if I really believed that? I don’t get sentimental about houses? Or people? Just traditions? Could I really buy into that? Or did I say that in passing, was it an off-the-cuff quip that I said while saying goodbye. One of those add-ons that comes to you as you’re walking out the door and before you know the words have fallen out of your mouth before you really had a chance to chew on them?
I feel incredibly vulnerable after my last post. Which isn’t new, and I’m ok with feeling this way. I’m trying desperately not to glaze over it and just pump out lighter material to create space between the raw parts of me with the more polished parts I’d prefer you all see me as. Put Together Jodi vs Always Falling Backwards Jodi.
When all you have to go on is what I put out there, the picture of who I am can become distorted. Lopsided, even. While my friend and I were making soups I brought up some of my recent past with her, something she’s been walking me through for years, regarding my family. The painful parts, the very dysfunctional parts, the parts of who I am that rock me to the core with indecision and bring up all kinds of loyalty issues and honor issues and boundary issues. For me, so much of the perpetual pain is fed by continuing to take part in the narrative.
When all I have to talk about with my family is my family, there’s a problem with accountability. And I just don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to perpetuate these types of relationships or sadness or brokenness in my life. I just don’t want to keep walking this same, very short, path towards more pointing and hurting and more digging and burying. And more pretending.
Which, when I publish parts of my story that only tell the same part of the story over and over again, I’m forgetting that what I haven’t told you yet is how I’m getting through it. How THIS IS MY TRUTH is also THIS IS HOW I GOT TO A NEW TRUTH which is also THIS IS NO LONGER MY TRUTH.
And all of it … is true.
I feel old enough to be allowed to make these decisions for myself. But I’m crippled with the weight of these decisions. I remember being 5, 6, and 7 playing in my “peaceful tree” in Texas and knowing, just knowing, that I was meant to be a mom. Family has always meant more to me than myself. Which makes how it all played out for me a little bit cruel.
And yet, this is my chance. I read an article once about how humans create the family they didn’t have, that if (scientifically) a child comes from a broken home they’re more likely to create a “home” or have a family sooner because we are wired to belong somewhere. I read it as an incredibly powerful article, for me, at the time. It skipped all the emotional jargon and spoke to the anthropologist inside of me. Human behavior. As if the author was observing animals in the wild, she made it her work to study humans and the beginning of families.
I’ve come to realize that my expectations in this realm are extremely high. The expectations I have for myself, the expectations I have for Family. The unicorn in my life is always right there. When Jessica turned seven it was the hardest year to date for me, reliving my own childhood through hers. But also, it was the best hard year to date. Because it was a game changer. I finally understood that I was going to mess this up, too. That like my family, my parents, I would not be perfect either. That I got to keep trying, I could step into the messy and I could GET MESSY and be me and do the human thing and I still got a family.
So do I feel sentimental about people? I feel pretty connected to a handful of people, some who are no longer a part of my life. I have undeniable triggers that I’m still learning to identify so that when I start to reel and the edges go black and all I hear is the deafening silence of being forgotten: I don’t start replacing my identity with the words of my childhood abandonment.
Do I feel sentimental about houses? Nope. I can get worked up about a house, I can assign all kinds of emotions to a place and I can write for days about what different houses or rooms or spaces have meant to me, but I don’t want to collect them. I have a hard time saying I’m sentimental about people because people are not ours to keep. I feel incredibly grateful for the people who have been a part of my story, whether we’re still walking it together or not, I love my love stories. I always will. The friend love and the first love and the instant love and the hurried love and the hard love and the brother love and the sister love and the love that guides and the love that finds me when I’m sure that there’s no more love. I love love.
But traditions … well, traditions are everything.
They’re the Christmas table and the Thanksgiving feast. Traditions are the birthday calls and the hand written letters. The stamps and envelopes. Traditions are the fabric of a family. The blanket that always surrounds us when we’re cold. When we’re standing in the rain looking for some shelter – tradition is the umbrella. And you can be in six different cities, in every other stage of life. You can be on different continents and walking through different fires. You can be broken or happy, you can be celebrating or mourning. You can be as far apart as it gets and tradition is what always brings you together.
The first snow!
Decorating the Christmas tree.
Making hot chocolate and bon-bons.
When a baby is born.
First day of school.
Dancing in the kitchen to Butterfly Kisses.
I’m still that little girl daydreaming underneath a tree about her daughter named Jessica (true story), playing make-believe about driving a mini van and making dinner and always, always, playing house. I’m that little girl who is enamored by being kissed, who cannot wait to be loved. Who started writing everything down so she wouldn’t forget what this feels like.
While everything crumbled around her, she kept waiting for her turn.
And she got it.