Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted. And while it is true that literature and history contain heroic, romantic, glorious, even triumphant episodes in an exile’s life, these are no more than efforts meant to overcome the crippling sorrow of estrangement.
― Edward W. Said, Reflections on Exile and Other Essays
I am happy to share this picture today. More happy than you can ever know. This was Father’s Day earlier this year. Out of the desert in a happier time. Brunch at the always fabulous Hob Nob Restaurant and then a walk in Wright Park on a wonderful June day. My husband, his parents, and our little monkey bella of a girl. Family. Just as it should be.
This is what the picture says, but what we write here at Behind the Scenes – it’s about the story behind the picture. And this is the week I write hard into my desert journey: about things I let die in the desert.
What this picture doesn’t tell you with its soft lighting and happy smiles is that there hasn’t always been soft lighting and happy smiles in the relationship I’ve shared with my in-laws. And before you shake your head and tell me everyone has a few bumps with the in-laws and laugh that it’s just par for the course and normal, I have to tell you very firmly and quietly, no.
There is no course I could have charted or predicted that could have been less par or further from normal than the one that ensued between me and the family my husband calls his own. We have been together for nearly twenty years, and of that time, a huge majority – too much in all honesty – has been spent in stiff, uncomfortable get-togethers, chilly silences, and long stretches of flat out not speaking to each other. To be exiled from one’s family is one of the most heartbreaking things to endure – whether that estrangement comes from their doing, your doing, or as in so many cases, a combination of both.
The multiple fallouts between my husband’s parents and myself led me through torturous hours of introspection – why didn’t they like me? Why couldn’t they love me? There was medication and therapy. Long, winding sessions with a trusted girlfriend. Several sitdowns with all of us around the table. It often led to reconciliation, but those compromises seemed to crumble under the slightest weight.
Struggles like this can never be borne on the shoulders of one party. I don’t know their whole side, but I can image they had their own set of contemplative questions: why doesn’t she trust us? Why can’t she be more open? Why won’t she just talk to us? I know there was an acre of pain they suffered through.
After the last split, I think we had both given up hope that we would ever come to an understanding again. The precipice we toppled off of the final time came in the midst of the desert time, and I was too wounded, too emotionally exhausted, too devastated in other areas of my life to pick up the family banner and try to climb the hill again. I lay down the flag and walked away. It was years.
Through the stilted silence of that time however, my husband’s parents never ceased to do one thing. They never stopped living their love for us. They never stopped being there. Their unceasing generosity – even in the face of our relationship that had been damaged, seemingly beyond repair – is a significant part of what sustained our family through the desert times. Without them, we would not have made it through.
This is the week I write about things inside me that had to die in the desert. A desert wanderer cannot carry the kind of baggage that a cruise vacationer or plane traveler can. We are leaner, sparser, stripped down. We do not carry luxuries.
The anger, resentment, frustration, and other bad feelings I had carried against my in-laws like so much excess baggage was left in the open sands of the desert I walked out of. There is no room for that in the life I hope for now. There is no space for such feelings when I want to cultivate a real relationship with people who are the parents of my husband and the grandparents of my daughter.
Forgiveness has poured out on both sides, but it is less important who did what and who wronged when, and more important that we are working together now to build a friendship and relationship that will begin from right here. It will not happen overnight, but it will happen. God’s grace flows through, around, and over all things – covering the history of hurt and washing it away to leave something new, something clean, and something that will be – as my mother-in-law wrote to me the other day after reading something I wrote, quietly ordinary.
I'm linking up with Crystal Stine and company today; joining the Behind the Scenes link up. A place to make a connection beyond the Pinterest perfect ideals; to look past the edges of the photo to the real life behind it.
I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. During the 31 Days Challenge, I'll be using the hashtags #desertjourney and #inspirationalandfaith80 if you'd like to join in or follow along. Let's continue the conversation!