a little east of reality

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

family matters...or does it?

Families are supposed to be the building block of society, yet they are easily the most dysfunctional organisations on earth, especially in proportion to their power to damage us.

My family is nowhere near being the worst around, yet just last weekend (the big 70th birthday do) I was reminded of how quick-tempered and childish my father can be, and how his need for attention leads to stupid mind games and a tendency to (try to) play one child off against the other. The first four days were okay, the fifth not good and the last day it was as if he was trying to ensure I never came to visit ever again (which right now looks like a very attractive option). I find it frustrating and disappointing that he is, and has always been, so unwilling to put as much effort into his personal relationships as he always has into his work and sport.

I also realised once again just how difficult it is to really connect with my sister. We get along well enough most of the time ~ it's not a bad relationship ~ and I honestly love her and care about her life. We are seven years apart and have a turbulent history, but I'd really hoped that we would become closer now that we're both adults. To that end I've made an effort over the last few years to keep in contact with her, to listen more and interrupt less, to avoid being judgmental (big crime of mine when she was a teenager) and to see her at least once whenever I'm in Sydney (where she lives). Even so, I always have an underlying feeling that I'm interrupting her busy life, and I don't really feel any closer to her than I did a decade ago. You can't force someone to be friends with you, family or not, but I'd be lying if I didn't say it's also disappointing.

And sure, I play my part in this. I certainly did when I was young, but at that point you're pretty much a product of the home you live in. Even as an adult who is trying to fix her faults, I still can't claim to be some perfect family member. But I've been trying a long time now and it still feels like I'm in one of those little wheels where you run a lot but never get anywhere.

If family is so important, why do family always manage to make life so painful?