In the past when I've brought up my family, I get a lot of confused looks or total shock or what I consider to be blatant lack of understanding. I used to get mad about it, but these days I've mellowed out: people can't understand everything about each of us, and I should honestly be glad that no one close to me can relate to what it feels like to live under severe emotional and physical abuse for the better part of 18 years. The thing that really burned me up was that after learning about how my family was, no one understood that I loved them. Even as recent as three years ago, my best friend of years was selfish enough to try and talk me out of seeing my widower father and partying with her instead. To me, my adulthood has been ten angsty years of NO ONE UNDERSTANDING.
For better or worse, I'm a pretty open and honest person, so when coworkers and friends found out about going home, they inquired if I was looking forward to it. I had to be honest and put my fears out there, and I was overwhelmed with the response. From my own boss, to the Vietnam vet, to the biker kid, to the only other ex-foster kid I know at my work (who incidentally is a boss as well) on up to the HR manager...and everyone not at work, old friends to new friends wished me well and cautioned me to take care of myself. They looked at me with eyes of pure understanding. They knew I was excited and scared and they all told me they trusted me to be safe. My own sister, Amanda, was one of those voices. She was looking out for me before I even got there and she understood that going home was painful and beautiful. She reassured me. She knew before I did, that things would go well. Instead of blindly trying to subdue those feelings and shout about how great it would be.
I was so blown away with this. I wondered, even after returning, how I had managed to find this amazing support network. I think it's mostly just a byproduct of me getting older and wiser about who I confide in and look to for advice. In short, it's finding great people in my life. I have so many. I'm so grateful to them.
And this turns to the prompt. I would love to say I want to be a beacon of patience and virtue to those in my life but if you know me, that's just not true. I have plenty of Slytherin in me and not an ounce of Hufflepuff, as it were. And there are things people can seek me out for, like art and creative endeavors, but I really think what I do have to offer, and what I want to offer more than anything, is understanding and empathy.
Not having a family in the picture really opened my eyes to the struggles others go through with their family. I have friends come to me for advice because they're ashamed of fighting with their parents or their spouse or kids or whatever. I seem to be the confessional for adulterers, and I'd like to think it's because I just refuse to treat someone badly based on whatever heinous action they've done. (Some things are off limits, but my stomach is stronger than the average person's.) I know that in my weakest moment, when I was most afraid, the thing that helped wasn't the person praying or the person preaching to me or the person judging me or the person ignoring me. It was all of those who understood where they could, and listened and empathized where they couldn't.
So, if I can continue to grow and develop and be an understanding friend, then I'll be content with that, as far as the realm of friendship offering goes. (There are heftier personal and professional goals, but that's another post)