Restructuring the Fractured Self

Contemplation of Infinity

Contemplation of Infinity

The Infinite Loop

A girl once decided to confront infinity.
She found herself standing in the center
Two loops coalescing into eternity.
Around and around
She felt consumed.
Until she looked again and understood
she was also Infinite.

Family has such weight during this time of year. Holiday celebrations, burying of old wounds as everyone comes together and so on.

I have been lost in the sense of family as of late. I have used the analogy with my husband that I feel I am standing in the center of an infinity loop that represents “family” and I am being crushed by the weight of it all.

On the one side of the loop is my family of origin. Two parents, 3 daughters, including me. Take me out of the loop and no one else talks to one another. A falling out happened three years ago. My parents and one daughter on one side, a daughter, brother-in-law and nephew on the other.

Want to know who stays in contact with them all? Me. I hold onto that infinity loop with both hands, hoping it does not fly apart. Early on, during all of this, I had the hope that my family would come back together. I naively believed that if I, at least, kept open communication with everyone, that somehow I could be a conduit for reconnection.

How well do you think that has worked out? On the one hand, I still get to enjoy everyone. On the other hand, I am completely fractured. We have to take separate trips if we want to see my family- as they can not be together. There is no meeting up with everyone for a holiday. If we want to see my parents that is one trip. If we want to see my sister, that is a completely different trip. Our “double travel” throughout the years has cost us $1,000’s.

Of course, conversations with this group is built upon lies. Do my parents still consider they have 3 daughters or is it 2 now to them??

And then there is the other half of the loop- my current “family” – husband and 2 stepchildren. We have the children 1/2 the time- every 2 weeks for 2 weeks. I felt hope for this family. I committed to it fully. Now, though, I am not so sure.

I see their mistreatment of me countered with my continued desire to fit in and have them love me as if I mattered. In some ways it has worked, in some ways it has not.

I see myself as the girl in the picture, staring up at the infinity loop wondering “Why?”, followed by “What lesson can I learn here?” (I am always asking this question, confirming that yes, God does have a sense of humor, as I have become a teacher in this life.)

I decide I must transform my relationship to this analogy I created. Rather than being crushed by the infinity loop of family – perhaps I am the infinite one here. Maybe I can see beyond all of this and use this sense of infinity as inspiration. Perhaps I am learning to question what family truly means to me and what boundaries such commitment to family may or may not imply.

So, I see myself as the girl who played with infinity and came out O.K. I am learning to repair my fractured self through seeing this situation differently. Does this remove all the pain? Of course not, but it allows me to heal some cracks that have been running deep for some time.

I think this is what we are frequently asked to do. We may not be able to change situations that cause of pain, but we can see into the cracks of our fractured selves and think differently. We can focus on healing ourselves.


Getting Real about What We Can and Can Not Give Our Children

A Prayer for Every Child

My child-
If I could give you my love to use in this world-I would, I would

My child-
If I could give you my compassion to use in this world-I would, I would

My child-
If I could give you my peace to use in this world-I would, I would

My child-
If I could give you my grace to use in this world-I would, I would

My child-
If I could give you my mercy to use in this world-I would, I would

My child-
I would give you all of these and more to use in the world-If I could, if I could

But life requires more of us, my sweet child, than the use of the gifts of another.

Do not fret, my child, for this is my prayer-

I pray with deepest hearts that you may be so touched and overfilled by my love, compassion, peace, grace and mercy

That you, my beautiful child, will have more than enough to give.

The beauty of our growth, my dear child, is that you will get to choose what is done with these gifts.

Choose well, my child, choose well.

I do not have my own children, but I help raise my stepchildren. This is my prayer for them. I try to lead by example and give them all of my greatest gifts, but ultimately, as with all things in life, the child will decide what he or she will become. My only prayer is I do the best I can to help them use the gifts they have been given.

Another way to look at this prayer- if you believe in God- is to imagine God thinking about each of us in this way. God has given each of us- love, peace, grace, compassion, and mercy. God can not control the use of these gifts- that is the choice for each of us.

Children and Disappointment

For those of you who celebrate the Easter holiday- Happy Easter! Short, little blog today about something that happened yesterday. My husband, stepkids and I went shopping. It’s a big deal for us, as we live out in the middle of nowhere. We went in order to purchase my stepdaughter some new jeans. She is at the age where on-line shopping simply is not going to cut it given how much her body is changing.

During the day, my stepson began to look more and more dejected. He managed to mope and drag his feet, slowly walking 15 yards behind us, through an entire wing of the mall. Although he had been allowed to purchase one small treat, he wanted more. His moping and feet dragging were designed to clearly convey how we had failed him, in case the tears and pleading had been lost on us.

My husband was very concerned stating that “Henry” (not his real name 🙂 ) seemed so disappointed.

Yes, “Henry” was disappointed. But, I pointed something out to my husband. Our job as parent and stepparent was not to raise two children who never experience disappointment. Our job as parent and stepparent was to raise children to grow up understanding how to handle disappointment.

A wonderful gift we can give our children is to help them understand they are not the center of the world. Life provides and life disappointments. A person of awareness and grace (a hope I my stepkidds will be) is able to handle both with a sense of compassion and understanding.

The Balance of Meeting the Needs of Others

Images don’t always tell the entire story. I feel this is especially true in the area of stepparenting. We have such a societal vision of the “ideal family”, and we work desperately hard to uphold this vision, that I don’t think we acknowledge what a stepfamily actually involves.

My stepchildren love me, yet they struggle to fully understand me and truly include me. It’s as if their lives, having been so torn apart and needing attention, do not permit the possibility of adding one more thing. Plus, no one truly wants a stepparent. It is a role never created in the original family dynamic.

At our family dinners, I am frequently ignored. I am not exaggerating or kidding. But the kids always want me present at dinner. They will talk over me, around me, sing while I try to speak, etc. It’s as if the children so need attention, that there is simply no space for my life at this table.

My time is important to me, so at times, I feel this family dinner places me in the bind of determining which means more to me- their needs or mine?

The poem at the end speaks to why I am there. I see my stepdaughter and I feel her pain at trying to create a family dynamic, so she can get what she needs- time and attention. And, she knows, if I am there, she will receive it. Once again, I see how the needs of others (good or bad) drive my actions.

“The ‘Family’ Table”

“Are you coming?”
The invitation sent with regularity

The “family” table is the marked destination.

Someone else’s needs have always been
a homing beacon for me-
Giving me sense and direction where I had none.

I follow a swerving, serving course. Needs, requests,
and wants pop-up as guideposts so I do not lose my way.

At your setting of “family”,
I am the interloper.

My part never writ in the original composition. The
screenplay set before my arrival.

I am never the understudy, though you bill me as such.
An understudy implies a role, of which I have none.

I come and I sit and I dutifully play my part.

While you, my sweet younger self,
with equal desperation,
holds together the fantasy in your tiny, tiny hands.

Art and the Orphan Archetype

The orphan archetype is one commonly found in artists. It’s because we don’t quite fit in that we are able to fulfill our role of witness, observer, and transformer. If we were truly one with the family or tribe, we would never be brave enough to say what we do. We stand back with the view of the partially disengaged in order to do what we do best – transform life into art..

One place I feel particularly separated from the center is in my role as stepparent. A division always exists within this dynamic. Below is a poem I wrote about this feeling. It arose from when my husband called me from the bedroom to show me some pictures he had hung. These many pictures of his children, year after year, were right outside our bedroom door. There on the wall was a shrine to his children (read as, “not mine”), with no other images. I was so struck by the solidity of all the images, and how I had given up the dream of having my own children.

You don’t have to be stepparent to relate to feeling “cut out” of life in some way. It happens to all of us.

“Pictures on the Wall”
Silly grins of youth immortalized
Alluding to what they may become

All the while serving as shrine and reminder
to what I would not become-mother.

The shrine, in my mind, pulses with life.
It frightens me-
Growing, growing each year as if it
has no desire to stop consuming.

The shrine sits along the wall of bedroom openings
“Mine” on one side
“Theirs”, of course, on the other.

Shrine to his productive capabilities
Where am I?

They speak to me.
Squinty-eyed, they watch me.
While I stand aside,
and I can’t answer “Why”

The rectangular borders disturb me.
I want to dis-configure them. Take them out
of alignment.
I wonder if this would help them understand my
pain at a life that did not fit within the borders.

Rectangles are so solid, firm, and un-forgiving.
Oval frames would have been a better choice, I think.
Rectangles provide too much mass, weight, and posterity
for things that truly only lasted but one moment.

The moment was etched into eternity long ago.
The umbilical cord marked the line in the sand.
They were on their side and I was on mine.

Every shrine shall have its say. On the plaque,
I will scribe, “Here lies this shrine, telling only
half the story.”

I hope this poem is not to depressing of a take on stepparenting. I love being a stepparent, but it can make one feel left alone on the outside looking in. This is what I felt as I looked at those images of my sweet stepkids. We can lie to others, we may be able to lie to ourselves at time, but art always allows the orphan to tell his or her half of the story.