The word “estrangement” came into my orbit about five years ago on a much to intimate level. For the first two years of my estrangement from family I was constantly sad, triggered and felt hopeless. I began to read everything I could get my hands on about the subject. Learning about it, talking to others who are experiencing it, has taken me out of crisis mode and into an acceptance mode. Coming from a tight knit, yes dysfunctional Southern family, yes down there, family is everything, it was devastating when I learned of a trip my sisters were taking with my daughter, niece, and grandchildren and I was not invited. My sisters and I were still speaking at that time. Now it has been several years since we have talked. When I say devastating, I wanted to kill myself and I did attempt to. What I have sadly learned is, suicidal thoughts are a common reaction with those who have been cut off from loved ones. Estrangements occur for a variety of reason, but also have many commonalites. Each situation is unique and has its own set of complexities. Yesterday was the beginning of a three day summit, Moving Beyond Family Struggles put on by Family Support Resources. Yasmin Kerkez has done an amazing job, bringing many expert voices to the summit. I’ve enjoyed and learned a lot just from one day. Hearing the perspective of those who chose to estrange is enlightening. I still hope and think repair in many situations would be the most peace giving for all involved. If you are interested, as someone going through estrangement or you are counselor who could benefit from learning more on the subject or you are just interested, click on the link to register for free, Family Summit registration Meantime, I will share a talk from yesterday with David Lewis, a therapist who has experienced estrangement from his adult children. He describes the shock and aftermath most accurately. 2022 MBFS Summit Conversation with David Lewis He also discusses the power of our mind and what we can change for the good, using that power. It’s worth a listen. Thanks for reading. Love to all, Frances
I discovered Chris La Tray a few months ago. Yes, I shared his substack link with you before. He is nearly finished with his book, Becoming Little Shell.
As I work on memoir, I find it all consuming mostly. Going back over journals, photos, emails, etc. Then putting it down on paper for my memoir coach and I to fine tune. It has broken me open. My heart is tender, trying to reconcile how all has come to be, losing my daughter and grandchildren and my part in it. Chris’s post today felt relevant as they often do.
Excerpt from his writing today, Broken Open: “The thing about being broken open is a lot of love pours through too. Love coming in, and intense love reflected back out. It sounds overly sentimental but love can heal the world. Or at least our human place in it. It is the only thing that can! But we have to move beyond the definitions of what love is as just this airy thing and create an active love in the world. It’s like hope, it’s meaningless if one just shrugs and throws it to the universe to solve whatever problem while we just go on with our business. The business of hurling ourselves into the grinder of doing the same thing over and over until only shreds of what we began as remain. The universe does provide but it takes work. Sometimes toil. Sometimes setting aside what is easier, or what we think we want, to show love as courtesy. Love as simple kindness. Love that can be inconvenient. Love that challenges us. If we all did a little more of that, how much better would we get along? That’s what I try and teach these kids about poetry. It is what I am trying to teach myself but I’m not very good at it at all. I’m too angry all the time.”
“Hope is not about proving anything. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.” ~@ANNELAMOTT
This holiday season, I’m believing it Anne. Holidays have become so different from what I was brought up to believe they are all about. Lots of decorations, lots of presents, parties, food, family and sometimes drunk daddies. All of that did feel magical at times, the anticipation of Santa and what he would bring was real and exciting. No matter how old I get, I can feel that on Christmas Eve, as ridiculous of an idea that it is. Maybe I kinda like that feeling for a moment though. Is it possible that there is magic, is it possible a gift will be left tomorrow, even if it is a phone call from a loved one? Even though we did have a pile of presents before us as we entered the living room on Christmas morning, I don’t remember what the presents were, except for the sting ray bike. I still have a picture of me on it. We did some miles together and made some memories. A few fond Christmas memories stick with me: the year we had children from the orphanage over to make cookies and the times we visited the orphanage after that. Our time with orphans was a project my mama was involved in through the Junior League or church. I’m not sure which one, but it was her duty to society none the less. I loved it. I also love the memory of running around Christmas eve day delivering presents of baked goods or the like to friends and neighbors. And Christmas Eve service at church was always calming with the candles lit and carols being sung. Aside from those memories, it all felt like a lot of show. Once I moved to Montana in the 80’s, my older brother lived here in Missoula as well. Christmas Eve, we shared a meal then geared up for a cross country ski at the neighborhood golf course. Silently sliding across the glistening moonlit snow ❄️ I felt warmth, peace and love. I have a little bit of Christmas in me this year for whatever reason. I won’t be buying any presents. I will be hiking with friends, gathering greenery to decorate with. Some baking will happen. Baked goods will be delivered to dear friends. There will be warmth, peace and love. Wishing you the same.
He named me. Before that, the first time I saw him he had that wisdom in his eyes. His head was strong and may it always be. He would run, I mean run to me when I opened the door, Eyes bright with delight and a giggle that would melt a heart. If he spotted me through the window, before I got to the door, The both of us could not get to the door fast enough.
I wonder, will I see that smile, hear his laugh, feel his hug. Does he want to share that, will he want to share that? Will there be any glimmer of remembrance?
Are books by your bed, are you outdoors quite often, walking among the trees or zooming past them as you pedal fast? What are your interest, I’d love to know? Do you feel protective of your sister even if she bothering you when you’d rather not be bothered? How is school, do you enjoy learning, making friends? Will I get to know these things about you? I love you.
You learned pretty quick to take up for yourself when your brother tried to overpower. In the double stroller, you were delighted to be behind your brother, able to reach up and grab at his hair to make him squeal. I have a picture to prove it.
I am proud, proud of the way you are determined, even if you have to be loud about it sometimes.
And I beamed when someone said, “she looks like you” and when I saw you dressed in the clothes I had saved from your mother’s babyhood.
So peaceful were our quiet times together, snuggling, reading, figuring out a puzzle or singing itsy bitsy spider.
Tell me now, do you like to draw, read, do crafts or would you much rather be getting on your bike, adventuring outside or a little of both. What do you enjoy most about school, do you want to know more about numbers or words or science?
By the way, do you remember me? I do hope to know you again someday. I love you.
The family was gathered in the kitchen, cooking, laughing, dancing then I woke up Some of us moved away to make new lives for ourselves, we called each other to check in then I woke up I call my Mama every Sunday for a chat then I woke up My sisters, brother and our children, along with grandchildren are planning our next family vacation then I woke up We are listening to each other with empathy then I woke up I hear a little voice calling “mama” then I woke up
A friend on social media posed a question: “Tell me how the past year has irreparably broken your spirit?” The responses were many, varied and poignant. Here’s my response: The injustice that has reared it’s ugly head this year has broken my heart, caused me to reflect, go into action and accept some of what is. In research I’ve discovered shameful acts of my Southern family, my grandfather declared a black man insane for trying to enter a white southern university and had him committed. My family of origin’s dysfunction has created a chasm that may be irreparable. Tribalism is creating a divide. We are forgetting we are all connected. It breaks my heart everyday, especially this past year.
I’d love to hear your response.
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” Ernest Hemingway
Happy three year sobriety birthday to me. To what do I owe this sobriety? As they say, definitely something bigger that me, AA, dear friends (it doesn’t hurt when one of your best friends has been sober for 20 something years), lots of therapy, and Neurofeedback.
My father was an alcoholic, went to treatment maybe five times. A couple of times he went to Hazelden. When I was around ten years old, my three older siblings and I attended a family week at Hazelden. I loved it and learned a lot. I really got that alcoholism is a disease, it’s not the person. It can be treated as most medical conditions can. Any idea I had that I could get my daddy to quit drinking went away. I learned that was not in my control.
I began drinking in high school. Drinking was kinda a social norm in the group I ran with. It was definitely a social norm for my parents and their friends. Drinking was our fun time, ha. Water skiing with Gar and snakes on the Pearl River was the other fun time. I drank to excess. Not daily. I did have some blackouts. Attending the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss, a derogatory name that should not be used) was like going to the country club, it was one big party. My boyfriend, Tayloe, was a Pike, a Pi Kappa Alpha. I was initiated as a Pike little sister. It may have been the number one party fraternity on campus. I hardly remember attending classes. Passing grades would show that I did though.
When my high school, college sweetheart, Tayloe and I broke up, I moved to Missoula, MT where my brother taught at the University. I finished college there. Excited to actually be studying. But yes, continuing with the party mode, finding the right friends to continue that habit with. That’s how I met my daughter’s father, partying. I got pregnant, we married. We moved to the east coast with no stability in our relationship, jobs, etc. That didn’t last long. The final straw was when my then husband, went out to a party with friends and volunteered me to stay at home with their kid and ours. My reaction helped fuel the premise he liked to claim about me, that I was crazy.
My two year old daughter and I went back to Mississippi. I realized my drinking was problem. My parents agreed to take care of my daughter while I went to rehab at the Mississippi hospital program right in Jackson where we lived. It was a really good program. When I got out, AA was my life. My daddy and I shared some good talks and of course he was supportive. Truthfully, I can’t remember when I started drinking again. It was sometime when I was working at Lemuria Bookstore and met my next husband to be. He was a good drinker, charming and a good dad to my daughter. Later, I discovered what it’s like to be married to someone who is passive aggressive. That made for a good reason to drink during our marriage! No one “makes” you drink, but as an alcoholic without good coping skills, it was easy to give in to drinking. After 11 years together, we divorced. I was blamed for asking for the divorce and breaking up our family. His love affairs outside our marriage and lack of taking responsibility for anything that might make him look anything less than a nice guy had nothing to do with our failed marriage! He did a great job of playing my daughter against me. All this was even more reason to drink and to attempt suicide. Hence, my second period of recovery and abstinence. I was sober for many years. Started to drink again, and again don’t remember exactly when or why. This go around, I drank alone, not all the time. When sadness struck, such as a failed attempt for my daughter and I to enjoy each other, it would send me to the bottle. That would be a wine bottle or two. Many didn’t realize I drank, some were probably highly suspect that I did. Once my daughter cut me off completely and I lost contact with my grandchildren, the sadness came often. After a night of drinking, alone, I impulsively poured a bottle of Xanax down my throat and woke up to a handsome paramedic standing over me.
That was three years ago. That’s my story as they say in AA.
I honestly, think and feel that sobriety is going to stick. I say this while remaining humble. However, there is nothing in me that wants a drink. The physical craving is not there as it was before. I think that is a benefit of the neurofeedback. Emotionally, I’ve come a long way, have greater insights and tools. And last but not least, I have surrounded myself with the people who love me and I love them. Many have been there through the thick and thin with me. Thank you, may I be there for you in times of joy and trouble.
Today happens to be Tayloe’s “birth” birthday as well. He is deceased, I think of him often. That’s another story.
Mothers are either glorified or blamed, the job description is almost impossible to live up to, daughters are often angry at their mother and don’t know their mother’s history before they came into the world. It’s hard for daughters to come to a place of compassion, without realizing their mother had a whole complicated life before they came into the world.
What happens without healthy dialog? Stories and diagnosis are often created.
My daughter and family certainly have a story and have diagnosed me. And there is no dialog. I’ve tried, but it seems their story and diagnosis of me is serving them somehow.
We weren’t taught how to have hard conversations, how to listen in order to understand.
This is some of what I gleaned from listening to this conversation with Harriet Lerner and Sheleana Aiyana
Sometimes, I fall asleep crying and wake up crying. I’ve come to accept that and move through it, knowing in another moment I won’t be.
I cry for missed opportunities, family gatherings, my grandchildren turning 6, hearing them call me Gaga, the comfort of family checking in on each other during a pandemic, sisters, nephews, daughter and grandchildren calling to wish me a happy 61st birthday, planning the next gathering, and laughing together.
For reasons, some of my own doing and some I’m not sure of, those opportunities have passed.
I do believe, if we all listened, really listened with the empathy to put ourselves in each other’s shoes, we could grow to understand and forgive. I believe there is a story to be told, one of love and redemption. Fear is erased, holds on control and the need to be right are loosened, and hearts are opened.
But for today, I’m off to Black Lives Matter Rally in Missoula. Black Lives Matter Rally
Showing up to show support, listen and learn.
Side note: the dolphin is running good. I took it to have oil changed at Lube It. The guys there loved it. I love it when whoever is working on it, loves it. Taking it into RV shop on Wednesday to have a few things taken care of. I love it and it needs so much work!