The nature of change

by tamarjacobson

As I was taking my shower this morning it occurred to me that change happens in the tiniest of increments and with unexpected outcomes. I am coming up for the 19th anniversary of my emigration to America. Yes indeed. In June of this year I will have been away from Israel for nineteen years. This rounds out the figures for me: 19 years in Africa, 19 years in Israel and now, 19 here. Naturally I have been thinking about this quite a bit. For example, I wonder if I should be thinking of where to go next. And then I think about how there really is not anywhere I would rather be right now. I thought back to where I was socially,emotionally and psychically two years before I decided to emigrate from Israel. Twenty one years ago. My son’s Bar Mitzvah. I remembered what drove me away and how Bob-the-therapist helped me explore and understand that story over the years since arriving in Buffalo.

All connected to family of origin stuff.

I completed the shower, dried myself off and sat on the edge of my bed thinking back to how I was perceived, treated, and how I saw myself within the family system. And then it struck me. Now, twenty one years later, absolutely nothing has changed between family members and me. The priorities and perceptions of me are the same, exclusion identical, and validation and acknowledgment of my feelings non existent. I was shocked. I thought that going away had changed me and my relationships.

And then I realized, that facts and external circumstances might be exactly the same without any change whatsoever. However, how I perceive myself within that system and how I see myself in general, has changed quite a bit.

For example, I do not take things so personally any longer. I understand that most of the family behaviors and paradigms of denial have nothing to do with me. Indeed, they are just plodding along their unchanged paths without much regard for who I am, what I am about and what I have gone through, or go through in the present. They really hardly know who I am! I no longer agree with their perceptions that I am a trouble maker, liar or disloyal.

I sighed deeply. Relief was palpable. It almost felt peaceful. Naturally I would be ecstatic if things were different. Everyone wants a warm, loving family. But I have that within me, with Tom and his family, Gilad, and with close, adult friends. There are times I actually acknowledge my self-worth, what I have achieved professionally, and understand why I have done what I have done and do what I do. I know myself to be a kind and caring friend, compassionate teacher and supportive spouse and mother. I have many flaws and faults. Striving for perfection I set high standards for myself and others. I am liable to slip into purist ways of thinking until I talk myself out of it and realize the complexities of the human condition. And I do have a way of coming out with statements that sometimes shock people, almost as if I am socially incompetent, or culturally confused.

I have learned to make all kinds of mini-stands for myself and no longer expect others to do that for me. By accepting the fact that I am aging, and choosing to become an adult, I am more able than ever before, to make choices that allow me to take care of myself. And I am ridding myself of self-destructive behaviors slowly but surely.

There have been many moments during the past year when I considered packing it all in with the old family of origin. Bidding them all farewell and breaking off contact altogether. After all, what is in it for me? So much of the interaction is painful and inconsiderate of me if I allow it to affect me, and takes much work not to allow it to do so. But I am who I am because of each and every one of them. From my genes, to strengths and weaknesses, and even to how I cook my eggs. They will alway be a part of me whether I am in touch or not. And, in a strange sort of paradoxical way I have discovered a kind of security of feeling about the consistency within the system. Indeed, nothing I can ever do or say will make a dent or any difference in the shield they have created to defend themselves.

Systems and family dynamics may have remained static and unyielding. But within me there is much movement. I am not sure if a decision is formulating but I think there is another paradigm to break. Moving on again. I think I might hang around where I am, hold still with what I have, and continue the self awareness journey that has served me so well thus far. Am not promising anything because I know life is fluid, dynamic and that other circumstances, beyond my control will certainly change.