Sunday, March 11, 2012

Communication

I read the book “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by Alison Bechdal this week. (I actually finished it three days ago, but it takes me time to process and react to things.) As I have sat down to review the book I find that per usual this post is not really a review of the book at all, but more my reaction to it. As I sit here writing the post I’m a bit emotional relating to this book. Actually on the verge of tears which for me just doesn’t happen…  I’m not a cryer… ARRGHH…  

Just a quick summary: It is a personal narrative/graphic narrative about Ms. Bechdal’s growing up years. She focuses on two major issues and how they intertwine. It is about growing up butch and coming to terms with her own gender and sexuality as well as her father’s death (possibly suicide) and his issues with his sexuality. He was hit by a truck but she talks about why it may have been suicide related to his struggles with being gay and closeted his whole life. At one point in the book she recounts her father telling her that, “I’m bad. Not good like you.” (It was such a familiar line.)

It was interesting how she talked about and illustrated her relationship with her father. The relationship she describes in the book is one that feels “distant”. They did not touch or hug each other. They did not talk about feelings or express affection. It seemed like they did not actually connect personally on really any level. In fact the whole family is like that. Early on in the book she spoke about how they all retreated to their own rooms and perfected their own arts in isolation.

While we did hug, and did say the words “I love you” our actions did not always show that. Like the Bechdal family we all retreated into our own worlds even when we were sitting in the same room with each other. There was usually an almost complete lack of openness…  

I don’t talk about my family very much on this blog anymore. (It has caused drama in the past though I have always been fairly positive or at the least discreet when I do mention them…) Reading this book this week has kind of forced me to think about my relationships with them. I love my family, but we have reached a point where we fail to connect… We have reached a point where things just feel awkward and strained most of the time…

Part of the awkwardness now has to do with me coming out, leaving the church, living really far away, etc… BUT a major part of it is that we have never had the scaffolding and framework to connect with each other very well. We would sit in the same room with each other, TV on, but all of us doing our own things. Me reading or writing. My dad doing math problems with a notebook in his lap. My mom crocheting or doing puzzles… In our own little worlds yet breathing the same air. That does not mean that there is not love there on some level, but how to connect? On some level taking the time to connect equals love.

In fact I have started to realize that spending time is one of my main ways of showing love for others…

One of my biggest fears is carrying this sort of bad communication into other relationships. I am starting to see though that the way that I was raised impacts my ability to open up with other people.  I have started to realize that I want to get past that. I want to get past it so that my relationships with other people in my life can be more open.

Leigh makes me feel really comfortable and safe. I have been a professional wall-builder my entire life and upon starting to write this blog post this morning I realize that I still might be building walls even though I didn’t realize I was. I don’t always talk to her about many of my feelings… I think part of it is because the perfectionist in me does not want to say things that have not been fully thought out, categorized and over-thought… Part of it is my upbringing…

The good news is that I think honest, open, and meaningful communication is a learned skill. It is something that I can overcome… 

3 comments:

  1. Not talking about feelings is one of those pesky INTJ attributes, isn't it? I am mostly INTJ and for the most part generally feel that feelings can't be trusted and strive to replace feelings with logic that makes sense . The downfall of INTJ's in relationships ! As relationships never "make sense" it puts us in a vulnerable spot. Anyway, ii enjoy reading about your journey, you sound like a wonderful, thoughtful person.

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  2. Perhaps that is why so many of us are hungry for community -- we seek the connection and closeness we couldn't find it our natal families.

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  3. Family is, well, boring sometimes. They're still family, of course, but I have almost nothing in common with members of my family. I can spend a few hours with them and I'm good for another 3 months. So - I love them, but we have a "casual" relationship I guess. Is that really dysfunctional? Or is it more normal than people like to admit? I would like to know...

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