Much Ado About Family Histories (Making of a Family Culture, Pt. 5)

Are there things from our respective family histories that we’re happy or unhappy with? How can we change them if we’re unhappy?

Perhaps the songs we come to sing often go unsung. We spend our days stringing and unstringing our instruments.

Thoughts of my family conjure their own sweetness. I remember waking up just before 8 a.m. in my grandpa’s condo, my brother that morning letting me win a game of chess. I remember my mom teaching us laundry the summer of 7th grade, the crinkled wide-ruled notebook paper taped on the cupboard above the washer spelling it all out. It’s not that there wasn’t a song to be sung, nor that it was never sung. We just never sung it enough to know the lyrics.

Climb into my skin, and you’ll see that I am always trying to do everything on purpose partly because my family rarely did anything that way. I am sure both of my parents wanted us to grow up in a stable and loving home. But nothing ever seemed to happen proactively.

You get away with that when your family is emotionally healthy. Maybe there’s four quadrants. The x axis is emotional health; the y axis is level of intentionality. Your family is low on intentionality, but high on emotional health and stability. My family is low on intentionality, and low on emotional health. High emotional health and high intentionality is the holy grail of families. Maybe.

Except here’s the catch: I’m not sold that your family can be highly intentional and emotionally dysfunctional. I think that’s why, at the end of the day, I hang my hat on doing intentionality. It’s like I’m doing it all over again with my family, countering instability with ritual.

I am happy that my family had a song to sing. I am unhappy that it has yet to be sung. I am heartbroken that my parents never tried to even learn the song themselves. Of all family memories, that sin looms largest, a tender pain I am apparently driven to never repeat. We’ve got to make spaces to do life on purpose, to learn the song our marriage has come to sing.


photo: just me double-fisting some nelson's ice cream, why do you ask

#family #marriage