family

Exit 243. I had been thinking about doing the same thing.

Recently, a friend of mine who has been known to read this blog sometimes shared an article from the San Francisco Chronicle in which she was quoted.  The article tells the stories of people who, through DNA testing, discovered that they had previously unknown biological relatives.  I would imagine that such a discovery would bring up a lot of very complicated emotional reactions.  My friend (who gave me permission to share this article) now has positive relationships with multiple newly discovered half-siblings.  But not every one of these kinds of situations has resulted in a happy ending.

One of the other people quoted in this article (not my friend) mentioned having been contacted by a cousin that she had just recently discovered the existence of.  The article says that this woman thought that her new relatives “seemed like decent people,” but she unfriended her newly discovered cousin on Facebook and cut off all contact after discovering that her cousin was a supporter of President Donald Trump.  My first reaction was that this woman was being shockingly closed-minded and petty.  Cutting off family and loved ones, and questioning whether or not they are decent people, because of whom they voted for just seems wrong.

But then I realized that I had been thinking about doing the same thing.

I have some views that are not shared by many of the people in my social circles.  A certain such issue has been in the national media quite a bit lately, and I have been seeing many angry Facebook and Instagram posts on this issue.  The thought has crossed my mind that I need to do a mass unfriending on those sites, because I’m tired of hearing all this crap and feeling like the whole world is against me.  But if I were do that, aren’t I being just as petty and closed-minded as the woman in the article whose response bothered me?  Isn’t it healthy to be exposed to different points of view?

Yes and no.

What is healthy is having a fair and respectful discussion on these issues.  What is healthy is understanding where those who disagree with you come from, and why they believe what they do.  And a few of my friends have been genuinely attempting to do this when they share controversial posts.  I have no intention of cutting off contact with any of these.  But others are clearly not interested in learning about the opposite side.  They might be trying to rally and encourage their own side, or they might be trying to piss off or intimidate the opposition.  But reading that kind of thing, especially when it comes with an incorrect characterization of why I stand for what I do, tends to just make me unproductively angry.  I will acknowledge, though, that I probably have some misconceptions about their side’s motivations as well.

Should I be cutting off contact?  Should I be trying to engage these people in discussions?  I think that’s something I’ll have to decide for myself on a case-by-case basis, keeping both their intentions and mine in mind.  It should also be noted that many of the people involved I was never extremely close with, and I never see or talk to anymore, because of changing social circles or (in some cases) the other people having moved away.  I feel less bad about removing those people from social media as compared with people I see on a regular basis.  Also, it should be noted that Facebook offers the option of “unfollowing,” where someone’s posts do not show up in your feed but you stay friends and you can still see their posts if you look for them.  Instagram offers no such option as far as I can tell, but I wish it did.

So I haven’t undertaken a mass unfriending or unfollowing yet.  And it’s not something I need to decide right now.  I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.

Exit 213. All of this has taken a heavy toll.

August is almost over.  It has been good so far.  The new school year is mostly starting well, although I have one class with all of the behavior problems together in the same room.  And I have had a lot of fun times with friends and family.

But all of this has taken a heavy toll on me.

I am exhausted all the time.  I have been having trouble sleeping again.  And at times, I have been short-tempered and irritable over insignificant things.

I need to get back into some healthy habits that have gone by the wayside during the last extremely busy few weeks.  Getting more exercise.  Eating less junk food.  Time in prayer and Scripture.  Stuff like that.

Hopefully September will feel a little more normal.

Exit 181. The one time out of the year.

Last night, I was at Christmas Eve Mass at the Catholic church where I grew up.  I was thinking about how Christmas is the one time out of the year when I still attend Catholic Mass, despite having left Catholicism for evangelical Christianity at age 20, and I thought, that would be a good thing to write about this week.  But in looking at old posts about Christmas on this site, I realized I already addressed the topic two years ago (click here to read).  In that post, I focused primarily on how all the prayers and rituals of the Catholic Mass are so much more meaningful to me as an adult, now that I know more about the Bible and the history of Judaism and Christianity.

There is another question I did not answer… why do I still attend Catholic Mass on Christmas, instead of attending my own church or a church more like the ones I have attended as an adult?  Part of the reason is practical.  I am always visiting my family on Christmas, and my mom, grandma, and some combination of other relatives who are here or visiting always attend Mass on Christmas.  This year, we attended Mass on Christmas Eve because my mom does the Scripture readings at church, and that was the time that she was asked to read for.  Depending on when exactly I come to see my family, I am occasionally able to attend Christmas service at my own church as well.  This year, the church I’d been attending the last two years had an early Christmas service last Thursday, and I was going to go there as well, but I decided not to at the last minute for reasons that this isn’t the time to get into here.

I guess the other reason I haven’t stopped going to Mass on Christmas Day is because I haven’t felt a need to.  I’m worshiping Jesus and celebrating his birth with my family.  The fact that this particular group of worshipers has other views regarding transubstantiation, for example, really isn’t that big of a deal to me.

I’m going to keep this short this week and emerge from my old bedroom to see what the family is doing.  (We already opened presents last night.)  Merry Christmas to all of you.

Exit 137. Maybe this is my legacy.

I am at a wedding right now as I am writing this. It’s that boring part where everyone is waiting for the family and wedding party to take pictures. I probably won’t finish this whole post now; that seems too antisocial, so I’ll probably finish it at home.

But that’s not the point. I’ve been to somewhere upward of 40 weddings in my life, and this is the second time I’ve been to a wedding of a former student, and the first time I have ever been to a wedding of two former students marrying each other.

As I have gotten older, and stayed in touch with some former students, I often feel like I’m stuck in a weird time warp. My former students grow up, graduate, get adult jobs, get married, and have families of their own… and I don’t really change at all. Last week, I was Facebooking with another former student from a different school. I asked her how her daughter was doing; she said she was crawling already and made a remark about how they grow up so fast. I replied, “I know! I don’t know firsthand, since I don’t have children myself, but I’m sitting here talking to you, I’ve known you since you were 12, and now I’m asking you about your kid. In fact, you are the same age now as I was when I was your teacher.”

I often feel sad about the fact that I don’t have a family or children of my own. It feels like I’m missing out on a beautiful and wonderful stage of growing up. But maybe this is my legacy. Maybe I just wasn’t meant to have a family of my own. Maybe staying in touch with some of my former students and watching them grow up is going to take the place of having a family of my own. It will never be the same, but this is a beautiful experience in its own right. And I don’t have to change diapers. I can still be an important figure in others’ lives without being biologically related to them.

And it’s entirely possible I may still have children someday. Life isn’t over, and I’ve been wrong about things before. For example, I was wrong that I wouldn’t finish this blog post before the wedding pafty finishes taking pictures. Hurry up, already. I’m hungry.

Exit 109. I come from somewhere.

I missed last week’s post.  So at some point in the next couple weeks, I’ll do two posts in one week.  Sorry… I’ve been busy.

One thing that has kept me busy the last couple weeks is that a lot more of my friends are getting married.  Two weeks ago, I was a groomsman in a wedding about 100 miles from here.  The couple met working at a Christian retreat and conference center in that area. I arrived in the early afternoon the day before the wedding, but before I headed to the church to help set up, I had a stop I wanted to make.  I drove past a cemetery on the edge of town, where I had been at least once before, but it had been many years.  I was naively hoping that being there would jog my memory and help me remember exactly where the graves I was looking for were located.  (Plural, because it is a husband and wife buried next to each other.)  And when I got there, I was pretty sure I knew which section of the cemetery to go to, but after walking around for five minutes, I didn’t see them.

I had looked up the cemetery online the night before, and I was a little disappointed to see that the office was closed on the days that I was going to be in the area.  However, when I got there, I saw that there was clearly someone in the office that day, so I figured I would ask if it was possible to look up the people I was looking for.  The man in the office was very nice, and he pointed out where to look, maybe about 50 feet or so from where I had been looking before.  Once I knew where to look, they were easy to find.  On the right was a man I never met; he was born in 1898 and died in 1959, some time before I was born.  His wife, buried just to the left, had outlived him by many years; she was born in 1902 and died in 1994.  I knew her when I was a kid; I was a senior in high school when she passed.

These were my great-grandparents.

My family has roots in this part of California going back several decades.  My dad was born there, and I have met people who grew up in that city who have heard of my great-uncle and the ranching operation he once ran just outside of town.  When I was a kid, my family would visit Dad’s relatives in that area at least twice a year, on the average.  We would stay with my great-grandmother, who lived in a house on the property where the ranch once was, and I have many fond memories of running around exploring the surrounding hills.  Since then, though, almost all of those relatives have gradually either moved out of the area or passed away.  (I’m not giving a specific location of where I was, due to my wish to remain anonymous on this blog.  If you know me personally, and you’re curious, ask me on Facebook or in a text.  But most of you probably know already, since I posted a few pictures that day.)

While I was there paying my respects, I got to thinking.  I feel like I don’t have as strong of a connection with family as I could.  (Since I am in Facebook contact with a number of relatives, some of whom read this sometimes, I should say that I’m not blaming anyone but myself for this.)  And with no children of my own, or even nieces or nephews, I don’t know that I’ll ever have a legacy of memories to pass on to another generation in my family.  Part of the problem is that I just don’t have a lot in common with much of my family.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything.  Many others in my extended family have children whose lives I can be part of.  My family is all spread out geographically now, but I still come from somewhere, and it’s important to remember and recognize that.

Exit 30. I have a past.

Several years ago, back when I still used to do chat rooms, I said something to one of my chat room friends about my brother.  She replied, “It’s weird to me to think that you have a family.”  I asked why, and she said something about how she doesn’t know any of my family, and it’s like I just came out of nowhere.

I’m still not sure exactly what she meant by that, and I know she didn’t mean it as an insult.  But she does have a point.  Most of my closest friends now don’t know my family, although my brother has come to a couple of my birthday parties and 20th Century Video Game Nights.  I definitely have a family, though.  I’m not one of those bad-ass superheroes with dead parents, like Batman or Spider-Man or Kinsey Millhone.  My parents are very much alive, and they raised me.  I didn’t come out of nowhere.

But for a long time, I have felt that something similar was missing: childhood friends.  I don’t have that lifelong friend whom I’ve been close with since kindergarten.  In elementary school, I was the kid who constantly got picked on, and my attempts to fit in were met with ridicule and rejection.  I started making friends as a teenager, but once I graduated from high school and moved away, I would only hear from them sporadically, or not at all.

A few days ago, those of you who are my friends on Facebook may have seen a picture I was tagged in, a group photo of a bunch of kids with bad 80s haircuts wearing San Francisco Giants gear.  The picture, taken in October 1989, was from my 8th grade yearbook.  That was also the year that the Giants played (and lost to) the Oakland Athletics in the World Series.  Since those two teams are the closest to the school, we did group pictures of fans of each team.  And now, 25 years later, someone scanned that page from the yearbook, pointing out that we’d been Giants fans for a long time.  Similarly to the stories I told last month about my class reunion, this was a guy I had had a couple of classes with at one point, but we didn’t really run in the same circles later on in life.  Yet he still thought to tag me.

I hear friends talking about their childhood friends that they still spend a lot of time with, and sometimes I feel like that was something I missed out on.  Pretty much all the people I hang out with these days are considerably younger than me, and I feel like I’ve always been an adult as far as they’re concerned.  It’s like I came out of nowhere, like that one friend told me once.  But I have a past.  I had a childhood, I had teen years, and thanks to Facebook and the recent reunion, I feel a little more connected to my past than I have in a while.  I really should stay more connected with my past.