The Thing I'm Thankful For: Messy, Broken Relationships!

Family relationships are complicated, messy, and often painful. While I consider myself pretty well-adjusted, no household is without it's pain and drama/trauma. Probably because of my personality more than my actual environment, I have spent a lot of my young adulthood wrestling through wounds, hurt feelings, and what was probably an excessive amount of bitterness. Bits and pieces of that carried through to recent years - I suppose no one ever really "gets over" big injuries caused by loved ones. But I'm hardly blameless - I know I've hurt them too...

Yesterday we spent Thanksgiving with my parents for the first time in a couple of years. Just a year ago, we spent a lot of time deliberately processing through a lot of emotional shit. Painful, face-to-face, venting, explaining, apologizing, reconciling, sharing responsibility… and finally, commitment: not to let our relationships disintegrate to that point, again. We said out loud (something to the effect of…) "I know we're going to hurt each other again, and some of us are going to get offended, and we're going to misspeak and misunderstand and disappoint each other…" (all of this, in fragments spoken by different people) "but we are going to remind ourselves, and each other, to believe in the better intentions of each of us. We're going to fight the urge to presume the worst. We're going to choose to love each other for who we are, not for the way we wish they were." And there were lots of tears, and after a few weeks of that, we drove to the Portland Grotto to look at the Christmas lights (, and we all felt lighter and closer than we had in a long time.

The Grotto Lights
The year following hasn't been perfect, but it's been better. We haven't spent as much time together as I hoped, but it was more than previously. It was better.

Around the Thanksgiving table last night, we took turns saying what we were thankful for. Sort of cheesy, like a Hallmark commercial, or Folgers Coffee: a bunch of white people in sweaters, the Chihuahua sitting at the table in my mother's lap. But it was sweet, and reminded me again that I'm thankful for the way my family communicates out loud, even when it's really akward.  For better AND for worse, feelings get shared, and at times like these it's a gift.

These feelings don't undercut my ideological struggle with the history and meaning of Thanksgiving.  Some of my friends have been frustrated with observations I made here and on Facebook.  I get that.  It's easy to be an armchair ref (or judge) in the blogosphere.  But I'm not speaking from some dualistic vantage in this area, ignoring one perspective on the holiday - and on this country - while I feed the other perspective. Life is complicated, just like family. We love and mourn at the same time. Morality is complicated too. We do our best, day-to-day, while people suffer, and we hope to make the world better in our spheres of influence, but we prioritize the people in front of us, and there's always more we could have done. It's a cruel reality, but somehow, life can be lovely.  Maybe that's where dualism is unavoidable.


Deidra said...

Your words to each other (in italics and quotes) read like a practical application of I Corinthians 13. You know - the love chapter. Reading that chapter, or hearing it recited at weddings, it sounds so...well...lovely. But the real truth of love lived out with real people is - indeed - quite messy. It is still love, though. And the messiness is something for which we can truly be grateful.

Lutestring said...

Wow ... suddenly I feel grateful for some very awkward, tangled, broken things. And faintly realizing life wouldn't be life without 'em.

Peter J Walker said...


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