I am learning so much about family. About families. About generational pull and all the ways that families are messed up. Even the best of families are stuck in subconscious relational and emotional games that they learned from their parents and their parents' parents.
And guess what? Family, no matter how messed up or perfect, is what this life is all about. There is no greater love than in the family unit. That means there is no greater place for pain, grief, joy and wonderment than in our families.
Life is about connection. We learn in the womb how to connect and disconnect with others; being close to others while at the same time learning how to separate our individuality from those same people. When we want to be too close too much of the time, we become enmeshed. When we get hurt, frustrated, disappointed or angry, we can become distancers and avoiders of that closeness--we disengage. The healthy person, the healthy relationship--yes, even the healthy family--is made up of individuals who know that they are a unique, separate, wonderful people and also are contributing, loved, valuable members of a bigger whole, too.
An African dictum that I recently heard and loved is that "Because I am, we are." The struggle to remain my own person and yet stay in relationship, even when it's hard, is a delicate balance. That balance is what some family theorists call a differentiated self, or a differentiated family.
I want to find this balance, but in the mean time, I rejoice to know that I am not the only one who struggles with this--there are theories about this, whole books and articles and websites about being one with someone while continuing to appreciate and love the unique aspects of myself.