Thursday, April 29, 2010


A few thoughts on community. A friend recently expressed, that it is hard to live in community. Amen, and you ain't kidding sister! The hardest people you'll ever live with, are the people you live with. I was thinking about this today, as I was mulling over my daughter's attachment challenges. Being pretty classically attachment disordered, she seeks superficial interactions, and spurns anything deeper, more long-standing, anything that holds her accountable. In her muddled fantasy world, people are always fun. They always talk in that high pitched voice that adults reserve for young children they have just met. They always have treats for you, or plans to take you to a playground or fast food restaurant. They never stick around for more than an hour or two. They never show up more than once a week. They are always charmed by your cuteness, or at least pretend to be. This, in her mind, is the ideal relationship...and of course anyone who has experienced a healthy relationship would immediately see the problem with this opinion. It isn't a relationship. Real people, in real relationships spend time together, getting to know one another in a variety of situations. Generally this leads to seeing one another in less than favorable lights at times. And that's okay, because the people who know us and love us, warts and all, are the people that generally stick with us through the tough times, and rejoice with us when we experience success. In other words, you tough it out at times, but the payoff can be pretty big. But my daughter hasn't ever experienced this. To her, instant payoff in the form of a trinket or treat, outweighs the need to work at relationship to experience deeper joy. I find this tremendously sad.

Another thing I've been thinking about, is kind of related. I have a several friends who have adopted older, attachment challenged children. I notice a theme in so many of the conversations we have had over the course of time. There is such a craving for community. I ask myself why. These are strong willed, talented adults. They're not the sorts that would ever have trouble making friends or influencing people. So why do they exist as islands, craving community and fellowship? I believe it is because the course of their lives have taken them down a lonely, isolated road. They thought they knew where it was leading, but then they found themselves so far out in the boonies, that there was no cell phone reception. Wait, that's where I actually live...but I think you can understand that I'm using a metaphor.

So what do you do about it? I see people do a variety of things. Some people venture into town, and try really hard to fit in. They mostly do this by pretending that their lives are like everyone else's. They hide all the trauma and hooey that goes on behind closed doors, and in the end, they feel more alone and even more traumatized. Some people go with the open book model. They try and explain what their lives are like, in the hope that they would have the chance to educate people, and maintain community with the folks they used to connect with so well. Often this results in trauma as well, since those folks are polite, but frequently form opinions that have nothing to do with our reality. And of course they would. It's like trying to explain to someone what it's like to live on Mars. They form their opinions based on their experience of living on Earth. I can't blame them for that, but it does make me cranky at times.

In the end, most of us just end up living in the isolation, whether we like it or not. We get tired of trying to fit into a world that no longer fits us anymore. We grieve for our loss. We say things like, "I just want a normal life..." or "For a minute, it almost felt like we were a normal family..." or "I just want my life back." I've said them all. And while we grieve, we cry out for community, because we are so lonely. Our lives are hard, and I don't say that to whine. They just are. Day in and day out, you learn to eat disappointment. There are victories, large and small, but they are bought at great price.

This is where I'm getting to be at. I say that, because it's a very slow process. This is what I tell myself every day. When I adopted older, traumatized children I kissed normal goodbye. I brought mental illness into my home voluntarily, and I said I was ready to deal with that, and I was so deluded. There isn't a class on this Earth (or Mars for that matter) that can prepare you for that. I have been to the depths of discouragement, and grief, and anger. But here's the weird thing. I really don't want normal, no matter how much I might whine and cry about it. And I'm pretty happy with my life. I used to get all worked up about stupid, inconsequential, selfish things. I used to be weak. I used to be ruled by my emotions. I still am...but I am less so, and I believe that is a good thing. My children are really tough, but I care what happens to them, and I believe that is a good thing. I have some friends who are traveling this lonesome road, and though we don't always physically travel together, I know I don't go it alone. It is enough for me, and I am grateful.


Brenda said...

As always, a brilliant and insightful post.


Lisa said...

I'm not there yet. I still grieve every day. I miss normal - my normal (not anyone else's definition of it). I am definitely an island, and becoming more isolated every day. Even the professionals who are there to "help" us end up crushing my soul a little bit more every time I see them. If one more person says I dwell too much on the negative....well, I just don't get it. We're there to work on "problems" correct? If they want me to spend precious minutes of a mere 30-40 minute appt. time pretending things are wonderful, then we might as well quit going. I go in, state the problems and gratefully accept any advice or new techniques they can give me and yet I find little blurbs in psych reports summarizing my participation/influence as negative. Unbelievable.

My kids would/do love the superficial relationships that they seem to find everywhere they seek. I find it sad too, but have no doubt that they will always be able to find these relationships. They are so manipulative and such attention seekers, they will always find someone to give them a treat of some kind and they'll move on to someone else. I wonder how the recipients of these relationships will feel though.

Nobody said...

I always feel that way at therapy and school meetings. Either you tell the truth and get labeled negative, or grin and lie! I try and avoid all of it as much as possible, since none of it yields fruit anyhow. But some is unavoidable.