Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Messes We Make

Families can be messy.

With a quick swipe of a paper towel, some messes can be cleaned up easily. While other messes saturate the fabric of our lives, leaving a gruesome blemish on an otherwise gorgeous canvas.

I have been privy to both types of messes. Neither is ideal, but if I had to choose, I would go the paper towel route every time. Unfortunately, that route is not always the best option.

Choosing to cut ties with a relative verses sticking it out can be a struggle. In every situation, both options have their pros and cons. For me, these types of decisions have always been based on what my heart tells me. So, if someone is meant to be in my life, my heart will naturally fight for that person. However, in opposition to that, when I’m done, I’m done. So, if I give up on someone, it generally means that there is no chance of ever coming back from that. Not because I’m a grudge holder, but rather, I am someone who moves on quickly from toxicity.

With that said, cutting ties isn’t really my thing, mainly because I’ve always been surrounded by people who are capable of having tough conversations without losing their shit. But once I became a mother, the people around me were put under a microscope. All but one survived.

The main reason for the sole casualty came down to family loyalty. This particular relative (on my father’s side) was at a party thrown by an aunt (on my mother’s side). I was videotaping my daughter, walking into a room where this relative was sitting at the kitchen table, boisterously talking smack about my parents to my grandmother, aunt and cousin. Due to an alcohol problem, this relative probably thought her story about how my parents were assholes would entertain everyone around her. But that was not the case.  It was at that moment I decided that this person was not someone who belonged in my life. Seeing someone drunkenly turn on her own brother was a sight and an action that I didn’t ever want my children to endure. (Not to mention, her loud mouth and terrible words completely tarnished what could have been a cute video of my daughter. Though, because the video still exists, it is a reminder of why me, my parents, and everyone who had to deal with her that day, no longer consider her a part of our family.)

Being that Hallmark doesn’t make a “my-relative-is-a-disloyal-prick” card, there was no official goodbye. But that moment made me realize that sometimes, the healthiest thing to do is walk away…even from family. So I did, and I have no regrets.

More recently, I have been witness to an unfortunate familial situation where a mom of someone I love decided to passive aggressively criticize my loved one. It seemed to be over an issue that had been resolved for about a year, but I’m guessing she did not approve of the resolution, and chose to act out. The two parties involved haven’t spoken about the transgression, but one thing I do know is that because of that act, the relationship has ended.

Similarly, a few years ago, I wrote a blog post, openly pointing out actions that I witnessed regarding a specific father/daughter relationship. Rather than being used as a conversation starter for an issue that had not been addressed for two years, the blog post was instead used as a catalyst to cut ties with the father in question. The real underlying problem was never dealt with, yet everyone involved has humbly moved on.

If you notice, none of these stories have the happiest of endings. No one, in any of these scenarios, chose to stick it out. The messes made in these instances turned into stains that permeated through all of the relationships. And in most cases, it was for the best. But I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t curious to see if simply using a paper towel to wipe up the spills would have changed some lives for the better.

I guess that’s the thing about cutting ties-it is a bold, powerful and healing act that can alleviate specific unwanted tension for the rest of your life. But if cutting ties is done irrationally or without a thorough thought process of its long term effects, the cutter will most certainly be left alone to clean up the internal mess. And unfortunately, there are no paper towels that can wipe up the spills of a broken heart.