May 13, 2012 by Amanda Zahn
Most people do not know where the titles of my blogs originate. It would be fair for me to admit that I often do not, but most times the title is a thought or feeling associated with the subject. “Layers” here touches on many things: the layers of dirt Matt and I were wearing when we finally limped through the front door, the generations represented at my first Beckett family reunion in many, many years, or the layers of experience we have placed on those coming after us.
Eight years in the Army has altered my view on “camping”. Sleeping in a tent, baby wipe showers, and getting dirt in places I did not know I had usually equated to a deployment, or a training exercise that was going to involve a lot of packing and time away from my nice, warm bed. Camping – willingly – is still sleeping in a tent, baby wipe showers, and getting dirt in places I did not know I had, but it also adds the element of family and togetherness. I have not willingly gone camping in almost ten years.
A huge reason for the lapse was the Army. Time, travel, obligations… those things add up and typically prevent participation in family events happening back home. Another part was just me. It has taken years, but I can honestly say that I was angry when I started alienating myself from my family. The list is long enough to require bullets, but I will leave it at a combination of anger at myself and anger at my family. Is the anger gone? Most of it is, I am sure, but some will always linger. Changing that angry part of me would involve breaking habits I cannot even define.
The weekend was brief, but it was an excellent celebration of five generations of my mom’s side of the family. We took some of the more energetic family members to the Gila Cliff Dwellings, complete with a picnic lunch and playing in the Gila River. This small event was important for my nieces and nephew because it was a walk in some of my and my sister’s greatest memories. At nearly every family reunion, there was at least one trip to the cliff dwellings and the river. There was also a lot of fort building and exploring, but the lack of deadfall this trip made that nearly impossible.
(Someone correct me on the “my and my sister’s” grammar, please.)
Being able to spend time with cousins, an uncle, aunts, my grandfather, and my great grandmother was glorious. I am hoping that having the family together was a worthy gift to my great grandmother – who celebrated her 88th birthday today – and for all the mothers present: Grandma B., Aunt Joyce, Aunt Gari, Lisa, my mother, and my sister. For those sentimental types, I also hope everyone spared a thought for my mother’s mother, who always made the family reunions special for my sister and me. It is safe to say the idea of a family reunion without her felt hollow for a very long time.
There is no shame in saying it took me this long to get over that feeling. Although it still clings to me, it is more like a passenger than a driver in my attachment to my family.
I love that I got to see Lisa and Eddie and their kids. Finally. I can tell that they have their hands full, but I can also see brilliance and passion from all members of that family. Those kids will do great things.
I said goodbye to the family reunion with a couple of personal changes. I had a different view of family members I used to think were infallible. I had a greater appreciation for the efforts of some who struggle constantly to keep the family together, regardless of the stupid that is sometimes present. I had a better understanding of myself and a more solid resolve to continue doing what I have been doing all along, even if I did not know exactly what it was.
I will amend the bad qualities of my family – in myself, of course – while honoring and maintaining the good. I do not have to isolate myself to help develop a generation better than mine, than those before mine. I have to embrace the history and celebrate the growth.
I constantly ask my readers for topics to discuss. This week’s topic was easy because the family reunion was huge for me. I did, however, get one request this week that goes hand-in-hand with some parts of what I learned this weekend.
Forgiveness is not easy, and anyone who has ever been angry or fought with a loved one can attest to that. Actually being able to acknowledge what caused the anger is the first step to forgiveness, but that is often the hardest part. It is easy to be angry. All you have to do is close your mind to alternate perceptions of the same situation and let your personal view of things smolder and grow. Trust me; I have done it for a long time.
The strength required to actually forgive someone involves acknowledging the faults of all parties – including your own, if that applies – and accepting the fact that they happened. You cannot change that they did, but you can change how you let it affect you. If the harm was unforgivable, cut ties, burn the bridge, and slip away. The only judge of “unforgivable” is you though. Nobody else can define that.
If there is even a shred of a reason to maintain the relationship, or to forgive someone, do it. Place limits if you must, involve professionals if you must, pace yourself with your level of comfort, but understand that the reason for forgiveness exists and it is your choice to act on it.
To the one who requested that topic, I will address the rest of your suggestion next week, but I’d like you to know that you have a slew of people who love and support you. If you need anything, you know you only need to call one of us and we will do what we can.
To everyone else, happy reading and I hope you have a great week.