The Foundation

I talked to my cousin on the phone for 2 hours Friday night. Gah, she is amazing. She is the only person in my family who I have shared my struggles with, including the depression and anxiety, what I talk about in therapy, feeling suicidal, etc. She knows some of the struggles I deal with as it relates to my family because she was brought up in the same type of household.

The dynamic of my family is hard to explain. I am SO proud of who I am and feel so connected to my lineage, but that being said there are some drawbacks. My family is very socia.lly elite. They were big-wigs in the business world and maintained a very classy facade in the social world. My dad (the oldest) was brought up in an extremely strict, ultra-conservative house where emotions played no role. Weakness was not tolerated; there was too much at stake. So my cousin and I were brought up in a similar fashion. The only difference is that her mother is a strong, proud and very outspoken individual. She taught my cousin to speak up for what she believes in, even if it goes against the family practice of "put on a happy face." So with the two sides meeting, she is a very strong, outspoken and driven individual. She knows what she wants and doesn't care if you disagree with her or if it is the complete opposite of what is considered "acceptable" to the family.

I, on the other hand, was exposed to the same family mentality of "weakness and emotions are bad" early on when my parents were still married, then after the divorce I was only exposed to my mom's parenting style. I'm not sure if there is a word for her particular style... absent, maybe? My mom never talked to me about anything. She never taught me it was OK to stand up for what you believe in, to ask for help, that she felt sad when I was disrespectful, or that I was even being disrespectful. I knew nothing. My mom never talked to me about sex, drinking, death, religion or anything of the sorts. I knew that antagonizing my sister was something she hated, she told me that... so I did that. A lot.

So as an adult now, it's so apparent to me the importance of environment. While my cousin and I had the same foundation laid, her house was nurtured and built with care by her mother and her father. Even though my uncle is very much like my grandfather, he is nowhere near as bad as my dad. I on the other hand was left on my foundation with a stack of wood and nails and was forced to build my own shelter with no guidance. I knew enough to build walls to shelter myself from the elements, but my walls are beginning to crumble. That leaves me where I am now; battered, worn and needing to start over. I'm learning to rebuild my house one beam and nail at a time.