Relationships can be tough, and familial relationships can be even tougher. Maybe it’s the whole ‘blood is thicker than water’ idea, or maybe it’s just the fact that we can’t really escape them – but family is here to stay even though sometimes, I’d really like a break.
I don’t mean this with any kind of anger, but sometimes my family really gets in the way of the stress-less, simpler life that I crave.
You may remember from my first Simple Living post that I have a big family. To clarify, that means two brothers, two sisters, my parents and a step-parent, my parents-in-law, and four brothers-in-law. All of them live within 35 minutes of my husband and me. I chat weekly with one grandmother, who was recently moved to Florida, and I am occasionally in touch with my other grandparents and several other aunts, uncles and cousins.
I love them all. But I could do without the drama and the sensitivity sometimes – especially when I’m taking steps in my own life to simplify and make things easier.
It’s interesting how life keeps giving us lessons. On one hand, I felt great a couple of weeks ago because I finally got around to purging my closet. Because of that, everything in my life started feeling so much lighter. I don’t have to muscle my way through my closet to get a pair of socks, and the whole apartment feels more airy and open. I was finally able to drop off the load of stuff (one big box, one small box, and two stuffed garbage bags) at my local Goodwill over the weekend, so after the stuff was totally gone, the effect was even more refreshing.
But in the midst of this simplicity victory, I was suddenly drawn into a slew of complicated family dramas!
I was just starting to really enjoy the lighter feeling in our apartment when my mother started fighting with her brothers (my uncles) about their decision to move my grandmother to Florida (one of them has Direct Power of Attorney and manipulated my grandma to agree to the move). On top of this, my youngest sister’s past two years of teenage trouble was exposed (no one knew what she had been up to) and my parents were asking for my help and support. As if this wasn’t enough, my other grandparents, who came to visit, were hurt by an off-handed comment my husband made at dinner, and my parents decided to confront me about it. That caused a big disagreement between my husband and me.
But here was my simplicity lesson: After my husband and I talked through our disagreement and worked it out between us, I realized that things were anything but simple in my family relationships and I had some work to do – on myself.
I can’t force my mom to recognize the futility of fighting my uncles on something over which she has no power. I can’t control my little sister’s behavior. I can’t relieve my grandparents’ feelings, or make my husband think more compassionately before he speaks. But I do have some things that I can do to achieve more simplicity in family relationships:
- I can express love and understanding when one family member is upset about something outside of our control, and I can choose to stay out of the situation beyond that.
- I can love family memberS even when they make choices that harm themselves and hurt other family members, including me. I can forgive them and support any effort they make to repair and recover from their mistakes, and I can try to let it go if they choose to persist in their poor choices.
- I can – and must – set clearer boundaries with myself and my family, informing them to direct their hurt or frustration to the cause, and refusing to take responsibility for actions that are not my own.
Above all, I need to assess each interaction with family members. I need to decline to involve myself with inter-familial drama, manipulation, vendettas, and even events and activities that develop unnecessary conflict and confusion – all from a place of love.
My plan won’t be easy, but if I stay vigilant, I think I can do it! I’m realizing that simplicity is more than just keeping my closets clear – it’s also about clearing out old ways of relating to other people, and creating mental peace in the midst of family drama. Do you have other ideas or suggestions? Please share them in the comments area below!
(Featured photo shows, from left to right: Norelle’s mother, a sister, husband, youngest sister, Norelle, and two brothers. 2008)