I had big plans today. My sister’s birthday was this week and it’s a big one. I’ll be kind and leave her age out of it, but it’s a milestone. I’ll also add that she looks beautiful at any age. 🙂 I pulled out the stops and planned a surprise dinner at a lovely French bistro with the family tonight. And then, of course, my well-laid plans completely fell apart and I’m left calling the restaurant again to shuffle things around for next weekend. Sigh.
I’m a bit of a nut when it comes to plans and schedules and so this pushed all my buttons and triggered that sharp bite of fury that I usually keep hidden under a “everything is okay” mask. I fought hard to force that negative tide of thoughts back and it worked. It’s all okay. We’ll reschedule. I have to be flexible and maybe its for the best anyway.
Family has a way of making me go through all the extremes of my emotions, from high to low, in the space of time it takes to blink or breathe. I adore my family and I do everything in my power to make them happy or to support them whenever they need me. It’s also a supreme test of my patience and will to maintain some balance when I’m confronted with their issues. No one’s family is ‘normal.’ I hate that word. I don’t think it applies to anyone. We all have varying degrees of complexity when it comes to our siblings or parents and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t frequently have moments where they stop and shake their heads in utter exasperation as they go through the latest episode in whatever family drama is unraveling. That said, I repeat, I adore my family. And I go through the rollercoaster knowing they’re all mine and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I was reminded of that earlier this week.
My parents were away for nearly a month and they came home last Monday. My mom got really sick during the trip and she stumbled through the last week to try and make it back home, but my heart broke each time I spoke to her on the phone. Monday afternoon I raced to the market to pick up the fixings for our favorite chicken soup, and then raced home to put together the soup for her and a meal for everyone else that was dropping by for their arrival. By the time my brother came home with my parents in tow, everything was ready. I could see the relief spread through my mom as I gave her a big hug and kiss in the kitchen. She was home.
When we finally sat down to dinner she recounted her stories from the trip to me and my sister while eating the soup. I silently watched her take each spoonful to her mouth and eat between each break in her story. It was the first time I’d heard the strength come into her voice in over two weeks. Nearly done with the soup, she turned her attention back to me and said (in Spanish), “Sweetie, I really want some more soup but it’s probably cold now. Can you heat it up for me?” My heart soared and I held back the tears as I took her bowl and said, “of course Mommy.” Watching my mom eat her first full meal in over a week and knowing that it was made by my hands made me so unbelievably happy and proud. I loved my mom so much in that moment. I refilled her bowl and watched her finish her dinner with renewed energy. I took her bowl and then gave her a big hug. The stress of their homecoming was worth it for this.
That’s the thing with family. There’s no one else in the world that simultaneously makes me want to pull out my hair in anger while causing my heart to swell with deep love and joy. Coping with how to approach my family and the best ways to manage my emotions have been a big part of my journey especially as I approached the latter part of my twenties. The tantrums and the “they just don’t GET it!” proclamations of my teen years have given way to a lot more patience and a desire to be a shoulder to lean on. That responsibility weighs heavily sometimes. I freak out and get stressed or push away. But I always come back to them because I couldn’t imagine a life without this crazy cast of characters.
I thought of all of this while I was spiking into the red zone earlier after I read the text message that put the kabosh on the dinner I planned out for tonight. Now I can shrug, take a deep breathe to let out that stab of anger in my chest, and just shake my head. Things happen, especially with family. Maybe this does me a favor by giving me some extra time to manage my schedule. Do laundry. Research recipes and future articles. Rent a movie. Whatever it takes to give me that much-needed balance that will help keep my head screwed on straight. Already I can feel the pressure lift and the creative juices flowing. I have a day for me! Finally!
Family will always be a challenge but for all the downs in the roller coaster, there’s always a twist and an upside to bring you a different view of life. Also, thank goodness my sister isn’t really internet-savvy and I can continue to keep this dinner secret for another week! Small blessings. 🙂
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