Monday, July 5, 2010

Family Circus

Much as I'm glad to be somewhat up and about, I have to admit that our Fourth Of July celebration was disappointing. We went to see the movie Letters From Juliet, which was so-so and then we had dinner at a nearby Argentine restaurant, which was very nice. I enjoyed Jon's company, of course, and am grateful that I had someone to celebrate with, but well, the holiday still felt empty to me.

What did I miss specifically? Barbecue. Not the actual food so much -- I mean, we had grilled meats at the restaurant so that counts as barbecue, I guess, but I missed the idea of being at a barbecue or Fourth of July party with friends and family. I missed sitting around with a large group of people, laughing and having fun as we waited for the fireworks display to take off. I missed jumping in the pool on a very hot day or being at the lake or hiking or doing some kind of fun summer-type activity. I'm glad that we did go out and do something, but we see movies and have dinner almost every weekend. I missed that feeling of being part of a group, of being part of a family. Seeing everyone's posts on Facebook about their pool parties and barbecues and hikes and camping and whatnot got me depressed to the point where I burst into tears this morning and couldn't stop. I felt better when a couple of friends complained that they had to work last night and didn't get out at all, but I've still been feeling depressed about it all day and just left out of the loop. I went so far as to send out an invite to my family members for July 4, 2011 so that we could host a party and they could clear their calendars NOW.

Much as I've been down all day, I think it's a positive thing that I'm facing my feelings and writing about them rather than bingeing. That said, I've been trying to imagine what my shrink would say; she'd probably suggest that I try to figure out what it is specifically about the holiday that's made me feel so down.

I think what it comes down to is family, or a lack thereof in my case. These days, I have a decent relationship with my parents, but we've had a lot of shaky times over the past few years. They travel often, so they're out of the country for several months a year. Plus, our family is very small; it's just me and them. I don't even have any cousins or aunts and the one uncle I do have is in a home. Meanwhile, I love my in-laws, but my siblings-in-law haven't turned out to be what I'd hoped for. Neither they nor their spouses is great at keeping in touch and I've given up doing all the work. One used to be a close friend (that's how I met my husband) and it hurts that we're not so close anymore. It's not because she's a bad person; it's just that our lives have taken us in different directions. I'm fortunate in that I'm still good friends with my one-time neighbor whom I've known since we were babies, but much as she's like family, she has her own husband and blood relatives. For most holidays, she understandably spends time with them.

Because of this, I didn't end up with the large, close family I'd anticipated when I got married. The family gathers maybe twice a year -- for Passover and Thanksgiving -- and I always really have a great time because I like having so many people around. It gives me a sense of belonging and identity. Even with Christmas, which we don't celebrate and which I sometimes feel left out of, as well, it's not so bad, because I always meet up with Jewish friends for a movie and Chinese. It's not a family holiday for us, but we spend the time with a different type of family.

I think that's what I felt was missing this Fourth, especially since my mobility is compromised on top of everything. In the past, we've "borrowed" families for the holiday. A couple of years ago, we visited a friend upstate and crashed her family's barbecue. It was so much fun, especially when we all walked over to the nearby fireworks show after dinner. A couple of times, we've also spent the fourth overseas.

I'm lucky because I have a lot of good friends and they've basically become my family. But most of them have DNA families who they spend time with and I realize that I probably put more weight on our relationships than they do. I don't doubt that my friends love me, but I don't know if they feel the need for that surrogate family like I do, if they need me in that same way. It's not fair of me to put such high expectations of them when they have other people and responsibilities in their lives.

What's really ironic in all of this is that I'm not sure I want kids -- which would be the easiest way to get myself a large family. But I'm not sure I have what it takes to be a mother. Having kids is a huge responsibility, which I don't know that I'm prepared to take on.

Right now, my goal is to fill my soul rather than stuff myself with food and I definitely do think this familial identity crisis comes into play for me. Not sure what I can do about it, but I think for starters, I'm going to plan more family outings and encourage us to see each other more. I'm certain that my sisters-in-law won't bite as they don't care much for social get-togethers, but if I nag enough (that's what siblings do, right?), maybe they'll understand and indulge me. And maybe I won't have to be so needy with my friends and will stop feeling like I'm drifting in the wind.

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