I’m no stranger to family drama. I imagine that holds true for all of us.
No one in my family would deny, with a straight face anyway, that our family is complex.
We were the ultimate blended family with half siblings, step-parents, step-siblings, step-nieces, a couple of divorces, including my Mum’s from my father, and second and even third marriages. My mum has been a widow, a divorcee, and then a widow again. My sisters and brother were born with one name, and grew up with another. Mum married at 18 and was a widow with three small children by age 23. Then when my father married my mother, he adopted my sisters and my brother and changed their names. He and my mum thought it would help them all to bond as a family. Then I came along. A few years later when I was five my parents separated. And Mum, after many years alone with us kids, married my stepfather, a widower with one son.
Mum used to laugh and say that, when the phone rang, she would answer to any name the caller chose to throw at her: Mrs. Burpee, Mrs. McGibbon, even Mrs. Knowles when someone from her very distant past got in touch. It was easier than explaining.
But the explanation is that when life threw stuff at Mum she just kept moving. And so did we. And that’s the abbreviated, expurgated version of my family story.
I’m not saying we all got along all the time. I’m not saying that I and my sisters and brothers didn’t suffer from childhood trauma. Although it took different forms for each of us, we’re all children who lost a parent. And that’s hard for kids.
I’m not saying that we didn’t yell at one another sometimes. Feel resentment. Nor that family alliances didn’t form and reform as we grew up and changed. We’re all very different people. But we love each other even when it can sometimes seem that we don’t like each other. Even when we grow exasperated with each other, we know it will pass. Resentment will be subsumed by fondness, and love. And that feeling of knowing the other so very well that we will forgive them whatever transgression we might imagine they have made. Because, let’s face it, sometimes those transgressions ARE imagined. And may only seem like transgressions from our own perspective.
A little distance, a little time usually restores equanimity.
So I think we should be careful of the actions we take when we are all het up and pissed off.
I’m reminded of the times when, as a child, I’d be angry at a friend, mouth off to Mum, then make up with the friend the next day. And one time Mum said I should probably wait a while before ranting about my friend to her, or to anyone. She said I couldn’t expect her, or whomever, to forget what I’d said in anger. That my words had changed her impression of my friend. And now she saw them in a different light.
I felt terrible when my mum told me that. My words had been intemperate, my friend had not deserved my ire quite as much as I let on, and I could not take back what I had said. I’ve never forgotten Mum’s advice.
Now when people make me angry, I try to keep my mouth shut. But when I am unable to do so, I choose my audience very carefully. Only trusted friends hear about it when Hubby, or someone else I love, is driving me up the wall. These are friends who know me, and who know the people about whom I am ranting. And who do their own reciprocal ranting when the spirit moves them.
And so here is the point of my story. When I was at home in New Brunswick my sister Carolyn and I watched the docu-drama Harry and Meghan on Netflix.
I know, I know. I told myself that I wouldn’t watch it. But I did. The first instalment, anyway. My god… three whole hours. I plead inertia. We talked through most of it. Exclaimed at some of it. Swore a little… that was me, of course. And at the end of each portion we said, okay that’s enough, but then we laughed… and kept watching.
And after watching those three hours, which were at times a bit boring… and exasperating… I have this to say.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex seem to be in love. Good for them. But other than his royal connections, they seem to me to be quite unexceptional people, who have lived quite unexceptional lives. They have each had struggles, and experienced loss. Just like the rest of us.
But wow. What is exceptional is the airing of family dirty laundry in such a very public way. On Netflix. For a whole lot of money. I think that’s kind of shocking. And a shame. And something I think that Harry, at least, may come to regret doing.
You know, there’s a reason I told the story of my family at the beginning of this post. The expurgated version. And no more. I wanted to show that I am familiar with family drama. With loss and pain. But the story of my family is not just my story. It belongs to everyone in my family and is, as such, not entirely mine to tell. So there are parts I don’t tell, and other parts where I will tell only as much as I deem appropriate. Because I recognize that we each have a different perspective of family events. And because… well… boundaries.
Boundaries are good, I think.
When I was teaching, I told stories about myself to my students. Funny stories. Stories about Hubby’s and my camping adventures. Silly stories about our cats. Or about growing up on the farm. These were stories that I deemed relevant to what I was teaching. Stories that were more personal would have been inappropriate. As a teacher I had to create a certain amount of distance between myself and my students, establish boundaries.
It’s much the same with blogging. Although you guys are adults, and not high school students, I still set boundaries when I tell stories about myself and my family.
And I am wondering if Harry, and possibly Megan, will, in the future, wish that they had respected boundaries, and not been so willing to tell all.
Because it stands to reason that if one person in a family has experienced trauma, then others in the family have as well. Maybe in not the exact same way. But in their own way. And I think it’s short-sighted to dwell only on one’s own trauma. To speak out so intemperately. Especially in such a public way. Without considering the possible damage to others in our family who might also be hurting.
But what do I know? I am not a royal. I have no real idea of the pressure experienced by the royals. How it feels to be constantly in the public eye. To be plagued by paparazzi. I’m not even British. And not much of a royalist.
I’m just a Canadian who is mildly interested in the doings of the royal family. Who has always liked Princess Anne. And who felt sorry for Prince Charles. Who admits to being happy that Camilla and Charles finally, finally got together. And who at the moment wishes that all the palaver about Harry and Meghan would just stop.
So I should probably apologize for blabbing about them in this post. When will I learn to keep my mouth shut? Eh?
Anyway, that’s enough from me tonight. I’m back home with Hubby now. I landed in Ottawa just ahead of a big snowstorm. Hubby has been shovelling all day while I’ve been doing laundry and unpacking. We’ll be busy getting ready for Christmas this week, but I plan on posting once more before Santa Claus arrives. And it won’t be a rant. I promise. Ha.