Thursday, 11 October 2012

Family Values - Is Blood Really Thicker?

I’m probably taking a huge gamble writing this considering than any one of my relatives could click on this page and read my thoughts. I don’t expect to get feedback nor empathy either really as I’m pretty sure I’m one of few that feels this way, but I was thinking about this last night and it was further amplified by this blog entry that I read this morning. Because, you see, family is supposed to be important and it is – I don’t dispute this. You can’t choose your family and even if they drive you up the wall, you love them anyway. For example, some of the women in my family have a strong pride about things and must always get the last word in during an argument no matter what. Other members of my family repeat themselves and this irritates me to no end because I have a thing about feeling patronised. But even though I love my family and will always love them unconditionally, over the years, I’ve come to find that I’m not as close to my family as I would like to be.

On my mum’s side in particular, the vast majority of my relatives are women. Women like to talk. This dates back to history when ladies would meet with each other to have a good natter and gossip about their day to day experiences. Unfortunately, I’ve never been one to talk about myself much. I have no problems penning my thoughts; I find more comfort in writing, but speaking about them – especially if their negative – has always been difficult for me. In a sense, I was a very modest child - I believe I grew up with a few self-acceptance issues as well. Even now, I have a divine hatred of arrogance - modesty is the best policy - so it was quite difficult for my family to coax information out of me. In retrospect, I think I might have adopted a ‘guy’ mentality, similar to this:

(see between 30 and 42 seconds)

I talk in facts.

How are you? I’m fine? Do anything this weekend? Went to a club. How was it? Great!

I don’t always elaborate. And while sometimes I know that this isn’t on purpose, sometimes it really is. So maybe it’s not just about mentality, but about feeling comfortable as well. Because I’m sure that we would all agree that there are just some things that you don’t tell your relatives in the same way that you tell your friends and vice versa.

You’ll remember that I mentioned earlier on, that I grew up unable to accept the way I was for quite some time. For more information, you can read my opening entry. I was a very atypical child. In primary school, I played with children younger than myself because all the other girls ever did during playtime was hang around the football pitch, gossip and watch the boys play football -snore-. In secondary school, I used less of my mouth and more of my brain to get by, preferring to improve my intelligence instead of my popularity. By even then, I was secretive. I was almost ashamed that I had typically geeky pastimes. I played video games, I wrote fanfiction, I spent A LOT of time at my computer and I liked watching Japanese cartoons. I kept these sides of myself locked away indoors. The funny thing is, most of my family knew these things about me. I could even share one or two things with the members of my own generation, but at the same time, there are things that are strongly associated with myself – things that are integrated into my personality – that I am unable to share with them. And this is because I’m not at ease enough to do so.

It should be common knowledge that the way your treat your elders is different to the way you treat your cousins, your friends or those who are younger than you. There’s a level of respect that you must exercise to your elders just because their older than you and wiser than you. And I do respect my family, but what I’ve realised now is that I’m not comfortable enough to be myself around them. 

This doesn’t pertain to all members of my family however – just a lot more of them than there should be. Everyone’s got a black sheep in their family. I’m starting to wonder if I’m leaning dangerously close to becoming the black sheep of mine.

Perhaps it happened when I went to university, where the bridge between me and my family increased substantially. As I said, I was the kid that talked in facts.  I started to dislike speaking to people on the phone and even now as an adult, I find talking on the phone to be incredibly awkward. I text people more than I speak to them – potentially, this might be the influence of the writer in me or maybe it’s the fear of the awkward - if I can avoid an uncomfortable situation, I will. In fact, the amount of people I feel comfortable talking to on the phone are enough for me to count on one hand. That’s bad, I know. And because most of my family utilise the phone to communicate – especially as we don’t live particular close to one another, I feel that in me not contacting them the way their used to communicating, they may have potentially interpreted it to be me purposely distancing myself from them. And so they don’t call me. And I don’t call them. And as such, the distance gets greater and greater and the relationship starts to crumble.

Ever bumped into a person you once went to school with as an adult? You haven’t seen them in ages; you had some good times back in the day and now you wouldn’t mind catching up. Only your relationship in school might have been something, but as an adult, you’ve both become different people. You’re interests are different. The way you conduct yourself is different and in being different, whatever relationship you might have had, has no way of resuming.

I’m not sure I changed much during university - I may have become a bit more confident, a bit more responsible, a bit more self aware and a little less tolerant (of certain things) – but excluding that, I’m pretty sure I’m the same person I was…I think. Irrespective, I’m thinking that in having very little contact with my family, that distance between us simply became too great. As a unit, they themselves became closer and I became the person looking in from the outside. And even though I’m taking steps to reduce that gap, it’s difficult because it requires effort when it should be natural. These people are my family after all. They’ve known me all or most of my life, but it doesn’t detract from the unfortunate fact.

It pains me to say this, but what I’ve now come to interpret is the sad fact that while we are family, we are not friends. Spending time together has almost become an obligation just because instead of the desire that it once was. Because to good friends, you share everything with them. You talk about the highs and lows of your life. You may even go to a specific friend for advice. You talk about your innermost secrets. You laugh, you cry and you share the world together. But with certain members of my family, I cannot do this. And I’m pretty sure that this is the case for them as well. 

I feel like I don't know my family; I know them in a sense that I know their mannerisms and what they like and what they're good at, but I don't know them in that deep heartfelt way and I feel that they don't know me either. 

Furthermore, if I have an issue - whether someone or something has upset me, or even something as big as this problem in its entirety - I wouldn't feel comfortable enough to talk to them for fear of upsetting them – I dislike conflict – or overstepping the boundaries of respect. And there are things – issues that I have - that even now I’ve kept bottled up for years, and it's not healthy in the slightest.

All families have secrets nonetheless so maybe I’m not at all that different. At the same time, however, all of this concerns me and as I have intentions of travelling overseas next year, I feel that this needs to be rectified as soon as possible.

So how do we become friends? How do we become comfortable enough with each other to tell each other anything and everything? How do we get things back to the way they once were?

Is it as easy as picking up the phone or spending time together? Because I visit them every couple of weeks or every other month – and I never seem to feel any different. Should I divulge a secret? Extend my trust? Because I’ve done this too and it hasn’t brought us any closer. Or should I air out my grievances and then attempt to start afresh? Stir the pot; let emotions fly and then reconcile because it’s impossible to bring up an issue these days without upsetting somebody.

My advice?

Well, if I’m honest, I’m actually at a loss this time. And I’m usually full of logical solutions to problems. And I know that while there are families all over the world that are closely-knit, there are also, families that can’t stand each other.

Only I seem to be in the unhappy medium. :/


  1. There must be something in the water or something because I'v been thinking a lot about family ties as of late as well. I think it has a lot to do with what's going on in my life currently regarding family.

    When I was younger I always thought my family was close-knit that we would always be there for one another no matter what and that we'd ALWAYS be close. But as of, literally, this year I'm starting to realize that may not be true and though it's a tough reality, it's one I have to deal with.

    There's a lot of conflict going on and it seems as if my family (aside from my immediate family) are slowly growing a part. So, what do I do? Cling to it like a child clinging to her favorite stuffed pet or let it run its course and see what happens?

    As of late, I've been doing the latter. Part of me feels guilty while the other part feels like it's time to let go and get over it because there's too much other stuff going on that needs to be worried about.

    I don't know, I'm kind of rambling on at this point. My point is, I'm pretty much in the same or similar boat as you and have no idea what to do about it. So fear not, you're not alone!

    1. Thanks for the heads up. I've been going out of my mind wondering if I'm in my right mind because there's nothing wrong with my family. We're not broken or anything - it's just this giant distance that I can't seem to cross.

      I wonder if reading this might help them understand a bit...

    2. Yeah, it's not just you and there's nothing wrong with your family or mine (though some of mine is driving me nuts right now). But I've certainly noticed a distance and unfortunately in my case it seems to be growing. I do have to say, though, that social networking (like Facebook) has kind of helped to an extent. One of my family members said to me at our last "gathering" that they learn more about me from FB than they do when we all get together.

      Not sure if that's a good or bad thing, really, but at least they feel like they know me a bit better.

    3. The only members of my family that are on facebook are my own generation however. The adults don't really use it for obvious reasons so it makes things difficult :/

      Maybe I should coax them into using it. They already use skype.