Good morning. As complicated as I may be because of my personal journey (aren't we all?), I am actually quite simple. When it comes down to it, here is who I am:
A knitter. Business owner. Sister. Daughter. Stepkid. Aunt. Girlfriend. Investor. Advisor. Imperfect. Sound. Generally ethical. Wealthy. Optimistic. Emotional. Objective. Passionate Chicago Blackhawks fan. Slightly messy. Tall. Survivor. Reliable. Painfully honest. Classy. Good at keeping secrets. Listener.
You want me to catalogue my flaws as well? Okay.
I swear too much. Eat too much chocolate. Make my birthday the most important day of every year and yet don't make an effort to wish everyone ELSE a happy birthday. Procrastinate. Don't give a crap about my looks. Talk too much. Forget important deadlines. Don't get motivated by the approval of others.
Except for one person, and it is starting to wear on me.
Well, I am not seeking her approval...just her acceptance. We don't have to go out for coffee every week, but being welcome in her home would be nice, even if it is just to wait in the front hall for a couple of minutes while my date finishes primping.
I am fortunate in the sense that, through both birth and marriage, I am the last of five kids. This means that if my parents wanted to try something out on one of the older ones, I received the benefit of refinement when it came to them helping to shape me into an adult. Families with fewer kids do not have this benefit.
That said, I look at the five of us and how we turned out. Brother Number One is getting married for the second time in two weeks to a lovely human being, and he is a successful man in his own right. Sister Number One is married to her second husband, and she is a great career woman and stepmom to two beautiful young ladies. Brother Number Two is married, has two cute kids and a cute wife and a cute house and two cute dogs, switched careers and is heading back to college. Brother Number Three is a successful grownup with a wife, two silly little boys, and a generally pleasant existence full of humor and love. What more could we ask for as a family?
I know that much of it has to do with our parents. There are four of them total, with Dad of course passing away almost seven years ago at this point. Three of the five of us are divorced. I have not been privy to every conversation ever had in the family, but I do not recall any parent telling us, "I do not approve of your new fiance, and I will make it that much more difficult to see this person because of my personal feelings." If my parents didn't like Bert, Helen, or Mike, they never told us...they let us live our lives and we always knew they were there for us if we needed them.
I have a successful business, but I had a failed business as well. Even now, my stepmom told me recently, "I think you just opened too soon." Never, out of any of the four of them, did I hear, "You need to try doing this or that, or your coffee shop is going to fail," and then later, "See? You failed because you didn't listen to me." When I closed the coffee shop, the feeling I received was more like, "You did your best, we love you, and we are proud of you for trying."
If I came out as a lesbian, I would be supported. If I came out as transgender, Democrat, Atheist, Carnivore Flip-Flopper, tree-hugger...whatever...my family would support me whether or not they agreed with me.
When I arrived at Easter dinner, my mom said, "Where is Alex?" Alex's parents live in Michigan, so when there is a holiday that involves a traditional family dinner, Alex is a member of our family. It did not dawn on my mother that he may have had other plans; he is a straggler, and stragglers are always, always welcome, even at the very last minute. The front door is open.
Even if you are in the process of leaving your wife, and you are seeing someone before the ink is dry on the divorce. You are welcome, and the front door is open.
If my family didn't agree with me seeing someone who was technically still married, I had no idea. Because disagreement (or disapproval) and lack of support are two different levels of loyalty. I can't imagine anyone in my family agreeing with my decision, but they support me, and the man is welcome in the family. Not just tolerated, welcome. Because instead of getting caught up in one single moral, my family is excellent at stepping back and knowing that everyone has their own story, their own struggles, and far be it from them to do anything but allow them to live their lives as they go through their personal journey.
There are a few exceptions, but beyond excessive illegal drug use and physical/emotional abuse, the list is very, very short.
The person who does not "approve" of me, I am sure, does not give a crap that she is affecting my life. Why would she? I am obviously not an acceptable child of god if I can't keep my hands off of someone. But by affecting my life, she is also affecting someone else's life twice, because now he feels he needs to be there for me when I am upset. He is in the middle. And nobody should have to choose sides when it comes to relationships; I and my ex-husband share a few mutual friends, and that is not only okay...it should be encouraged. The judge does not arrange custody of anyone but minor children; be an adult, love who you love, and develop the friendships which enrich you even if they are becoming half of an ex-couple.
Also understand, she is who she is. She is a parent, and she wants what is best for her kids, and she does not think I am "best." Okay, I get that. But I am really not that bad. I grew up in a world where it was okay to fail, okay to go off the rails to look for a better path, and to backtrack on one decision only to end up following the original advice of one of my parents. She is a great parent. But she is affecting my life, and I do not appreciate it. However, I know that since she is a great parent, the problem about her affecting my life is me. Not her.
My apologies if my decisions are incompatible with your views, but here is a news flash: that means that your views are also incompatible with mine. The difference is that I let you live your life. I avoided you on St. Patrick's Day, never call your land line, and generally do not want to upset you. I do not agree with you, but I support your decisions, and I will continue to support your decisions with one tweak: let me live my life, and I will let you live yours. If I run into you, I am sorry, but my mother raised me to face things. And I will face you as a woman, a good person, a sound decision-maker, and a classy human being. You are always welcome in my home.