WE’RE NOT THE ONLY ONES
Some one called me up yesterday to tell me they had watched Lucky Ducks as a family and that their ten-year-old son loved the film, especially the part where we yell at each other, which is throughout maybe an eighth of the film.
What was great was the reason he loved it was not just a ten-year-old boy’s love of a good fight scene, but the mother told me he said, “It’s like us, other families yell too.”
He felt comforted that “we are not the only ones.”
And you know, leave it to a kid– so many adults have missed the point of this whole film, but he got it. “We’re not the only ones”: that was one of my main points from the get-go. It was to show people that yelling and screaming, fights, dissent, and unhappiness are normal. As my friend Judy says, she doesn’t like term “dysfunctional family” as that implies there is such a thing as a functional one.
We all function. We all get up, get dressed, go to work and school and the market and movies and worry about the same things: health and money and are we doing the best we can, and sometimes why aren’t we happier , why do kids go to bed hungry, why is there still war or any multitude of things that cross through our consciousness over the course of a day.
So on one level we are the same and then on a another level, the subterranean one, the one most people hide from the world, lie the ghosts, goblins and dragons that exist in EVERY family. EVERY BLOODY FAMILY.
Now they exist in different degrees – no question. Some are heinous, some moderate, some livable, some run-of-the–mill, some would scare Hannibal Lechter.
But find me a family with out a problem or a person without internal dilemmas of some sort, that normally stem from their original family and well, I will give you all the money the New York Post reportedly thinks I have.
For me it was imperative to show others that yes Virginia, we are not the only family who is not perfect, there are only perfect families in sitcoms and even they seem to have thrown in the towel on that one.
It’s only us Boomers who still believe we are all going to be like the Brady Bunch or the Cosbys. We might have been entertained but we were also harmed.
We bought into happily ever after, which is a fairy tale. Walt Disney sort of had it right; he had all those scary mothers who he killed off scenes and lost souls in the beginning.
Walt might have been dark, but he wasn’t stupid. The brothers Grimm knew that life could be that way, and their stories were turning children on the reality of life.
And that is not to say life does not have great moments and we should take them and milk them for all they are worth.
But it also has great sadness and great disappointments and even when people love each other and for the most part get along (keeping with this week’s global theme of volcanoes) volcanoes erupt and people fight, and disagree and sometimes things get thrown across the room and people yell, “I hate you,” “I wish you were never born,” “I’m sorry you’re my mother ” “I’m never coming back,” or “The worst day in my life was the day I met you and the second worst was the day I married you and the third worst was the day I decided not to leave.”
People say these things and sometimes they mean them and act on them and many times it’s just momentary rage and often, oh so often, its misplaced anger that can only be let loose in a safe environment. And more often than not, that is the family.
They say you are not a good parent until your child has yelled, “I hate you.”
And if they feel safe doing it – that is in fact a good thing.
By the time I felt safe enough to say it, sadly I meant it.
If I had unleashed it all earlier and everything hadn’t been swept under the carpet I think I would have had a happier ending in that department. Or perhaps that is the delusion I refuse to relinquish.
I think actually yelling is good, getting your feelings out is good. Abuse isn’t good, but there is a line between abuse and a good old we’re mad as hell and verbally duking it out fight. Taylor and I yell a lot at each other, especially back then and we threw things and then we made up. And we have learned we can be mad and fight and disagree and it’s OK, we still love each other and nobody is going anywhere. That is a good lesson to learn, it teaches you not to be afraid of your anger and your feelings and that you have a place to let them go. When you don’t learn that you are headed for trouble.
I think– and I have lived this one, boy oh boy have I live this one– the worst way to live is when the elephant is in the room and on the sofa and no one will acknowledge his existence.
The worst way for a family to live is with “everything is fine” embroidered across the door for the neighbors to see.
We’re all happy, no no one is upset, but the fact is we talk about nothing of significance and we all escape any type of conflict as we are afraid if we really start in we don’t know how far it will go. The fact is that one of us is seldom around, something I lived through at a time in my earlier life.
The kind of family that just sits with the unspoken anger, resentment and bitterness without giving it a name or address and pretends it’s not there or it will disappear on it its own, well, that is when it really tap dances on your psyche; as a child living in that environment and as an adult.
Because what happens is the child eventually grows up and takes all that with them into their new world and often times, most times, they recreate that environment with a spouse or SO and then in some way with their own kids as the kinks in the chain never got worked out and the pain just grew and grew until it was so big it’s all that person knows. It’s the only way they know how to relate to others: through unmet, unverbalized expectations and then inner rage that they aren’t being met nor were they ever met and that either gets directed in the wrong place or inwards which results in depression and anxiety and any number of other psychological dilemmas.
I sound like I’m playing shrink here. I’m not. I still see one.
But I have lived it and recorded it and watched in my own family’s dynamics on both sides for decades and decades now.
The real stuff was not discussed ever, it took me years to get that, so the rage built and then most of my relationships, from who I picked as my friends to who I ended up with romantically, were in some way recreating this same dynamic I had gotten used to.
They say often in your first marriage (if you have more than one, which one out of two people do) you marry one of your parents. You know what I mean by that– you find someone who embodies their character flaws and personality traits in either an attempt to get it right this time or completely unconsciously because this is all you know and you are just grabbing at the familiar.
I did it. I know others who did it. It took me years to figure it out.
Glenn sometimes says to me, look at some of your early friends, not all by any means, but some, the ones I have let go and he says they are all just nuts like what you grew up with. And when it was pointed out to me it was so clear, but in the moment I just knew that being defensive and uncomfortable with people was what I understood.
Don’t get me wrong I also had fun with these people, and I had fun with members of my family, but the unspoken, the elephant, made his way into many parts of my life.
I deeply believe this is what happens when you don’t deal with the issues we all face on a day-to-day basis. They grow like tumors inside of us and creepy-crawly vines on the outside and the vines suffocate and the tumors cause pain.
So when this little boy said, “Wow, they yell like us,” I think that is great. That makes me happy; not that his family yells like us, but that he could see it was OK. He was not a part of some goof-ball scenario where the rest of the world was chirping away and his life wasn’t always picture perfect. Real people yell and most of the time they get through it and make up and they can still love each other. That is the lesson one wants to take away and pass on.
Nobodies life is perfect and the more we all admit that to ourselves and to others, the easier it is for everyone – those on the inside dealing with the issues and those on the outside looking into windows thinking they are all alone, that the people inside with the fake smiles plastered on their faces really are happier than they are.
Last year Taylor and I had a big fight about a hamburger. We were driving and it escalated and we started pushing all each other’s buttons that are so hard wired into both our DNA. And then I realized what was going on. I pulled the car over to the side of the road and turned off the ignition. I said, “This is crazy, we are fighting over a hamburger that neither one of us cares about. You want to yell at someone and it’s not me and I want to yell at someone and it’s not you, but we are the only ones each other can yell at.”
We both laughed and we stopped it. We had reached a place where we understood.
Sometimes pulling over, stopping the motor and getting to the bottom of it is what it takes. Actually most of the time that is what it takes.
We are not alone. That on every level is the primary thing that most people want to know.