I caught a glimpse of Ashley’s story on Facebook and invited her to share it with you. (Yes, you!) As someone who has seen my share of family drama, her journey to accepting and loving her family really resonated with me. I hope that you, too, can learn something from Ashley Chanel’s testimony and apply her life lesson to your own situation.
Before friends, there are cousins. Before teachers, there are aunts and uncles. The first elderly people I knew were my grandparents. These are the people you trust and depend on more than anyone and the relationships you have with them set the standard for how you interact with non-relatives.
Many kids grow up with both sides of their family, but with the exception of my maternal grandparents, I grew up only knowing my father’s side of the family. Having one lineage of four generations raised with a pathology of certain mindsets, life experiences, and morals was comforting as a child, but became irritating and frustrating as I grew older. Out of respect for my family I will not share details of anyone’s personal business, but I do want to paint of picture of what I saw as a child and how my understanding of those critical moments made me distance myself from the only family I knew.
At twelve years old I remember celebrating Christmas at my grandma’s house where aunts, uncles, and cousins came over to eat and enjoy each other’s company. Everyone was smiling and laughing in ways that outshine the cover of a Hallmark Card. I walked past a back room on my way to the bathroom and heard two adults talking about other members of my family who were in the room I had just come from. When I came out of the bathroom I saw these same people hugging and laughing with the people they had just finished talking about. I remember that moment so clearly.
The words they used to discuss my other family members were extremely unkind and shocking to hear at such a young age. Watching them embrace each other as though nothing had happened made me sick to my stomach. While these two family members were nothing but kind and loving to me, I could not help but feel as though everything they said to me was a lie.
Being raised in this family I knew not to speak out on adult matters, so I didn’t say a word. When I got older, a family member I had looked up to as a little girl started using drugs. How their situation was handled, as well as their kids’ livelihood, completely destroyed my ability to enjoy my family ’s company. I felt such a negative cloud hovering over every time we got together. Crucial solutions that could have been made to rectify certain problems were not put in place. I was disappointed in the adults who were supposed to have all the answers. Holidays became a dread because I knew I would have to be around my family. When I graduated from high school I stopped celebrating holidays with my extended family, wanting to enjoy myself and not be around people I did not trust.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve made it my mission not to be around my family at all. I thought I was making myself happier by distancing myself from people whose decisions made absolutely no sense to me and, for a while, I was happy. That little girl who could not speak up to the adults felt a sense of pride by removing herself from the situation, from what she thought was the problem.
A little over a week ago, I had a big performance. I invited my friends and professors. My parents invited my family. Of all the friends and professors I invited, one professor showed up. The people who were there to cheer me on were my own flesh and blood, family members that I had not seen in a very long time with the exception of a few funerals. When I saw them, my immediate reaction was one of joy, excitement and gratitude. The negative feelings I had toward the people I tried so hard to stay away from went completely out of the window when I saw them there excited for me.
A week later I was watching “Iyanla Fix My Life” on OWN. She was helping a family who had villainized their mother because of how she dealt with certain situations. What they failed to realized was that the mother had lost her child at a week old and started drinking to cover up the pain. I realized that just as there was a reason their mother acted a certain way, there was a story behind my family members’ behavior.
How my family responds to situations is a mere testament of their upbringing. They respond by doing what they know to do. Removing myself from them without explaining why resulted in me running away from the problem instead of helping to dissolve it. I thought I was handling the situation, but in reality I was only hurting myself. I alienated myself and focused on getting away from them rather than simply trying to understand.
My job as a human being and, most importantly, a child of God is to love, not judge. My family, my first friends, were the people I judged the most because I had such high expectations of them. Learning of their imperfections scared me so I ran away, exposing my own. Running away only leaves wounds open for more contamination. Approaching conflicts with love and openness leads to solutions, which is what I am working on now.
In conjunction with Flutterleelovelee, a Facebook group that encourages open dialogue and spiritual support for and by the people, I bring to you Transparency Tuesdays. Each week I will feature a testimony/personal truth in written, audio or video form in hopes that someone will be inspired to share their own story or to reach out for guidance.
Featured posts can be as general or specific as the contributor would like. The sole purpose of Transparency Tuesday is to remind everyone, believers and non-believers alike, that they are never alone in the struggle.
Do you have a story? Of course you do! To submit it, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you do not want your name to be disclosed, include “anonymous” in the subject line.