Friday, April 21, 2017

Learning Appreciation

He hit her during another drunken stupor. Her aunt beat her. An uncle raped her. Her husband regularly insulted her, berated her, called her the 'c' word. Her brother raped her. The father got the daughter pregnant, the daughter had the baby, the wife stayed and endured the embarrassment. The husband threatened to kill his wife, mother and children. The father regular made his daughter fondle him. The adult celebrity was beaten and abused by relatives in her youth. The husband went to the ex wife's house to argue about visitation with the son, leading to a shouting match during which the husband ran up the stairs, kicked in the door of the room where the 4-year-old son was hiding at the insistence of the mother who feared for his safety.

Each of incidents noted above happened, each sentence referring to a different person or persons, some to people who I read about in the news and some to people I know. I actually witnessed the last incident and kept my involvement verbal rather than engaging in physical intervention that could have harmed the son. No physical harm came to any of the parties that time, or any other time that I know of, but the regular arguments did have a negative psychological impact on the son, who is now around 30 and possibly a parent himself.

When I see or hear about abusive or dysfunctional family situations, I thank God none of that happened in my family. The only negative in my immediate family was a healthy disagreement between my dad and I on just about every topic someone could disagree on. We had 'spirited arguments' about war, race, hair length, music, sex, religion, where I could live. He meant well. At the time I failed to appreciate the sacrifices he made to support our family and send me and my sister to college.

I note two thoughts when I think back to how 'normal' my upbringing was: one, it seemed boring, and two, it was stable and drama-free. Over the years I've learned to appreciate my family and my youth. If my dad was still alive, we would still disagree on many things, but I believe our conversations would be framed by respect.

An observation about myself over the past several decades: I'm a magnet for the dysfunctional. Several friends and ex girlfriends grew up in abusive or dysfunctional situations and apparently I was the 'normal' person in their lives. On some level I appreciated being viewed that way, but in many cases I was taken advantage of. When I was no longer needed by them, they were gone.

Appreciation is probably the main thing I want in life. I mostly am the nice guy people often say I am. I don't say that to brag; it's just part of who I am and maybe my stable youth contributed to that personality trait. I don't expect anything in return, other than maybe I'd like my actions to be appreciated.

I wonder sometimes if I express my appreciation for all the wonderful things people do for me. Do those closest to me know how much I appreciate them? I regret not thanking my parents more often for all they did for me.

I'm happy to say that most of the people in the first paragraph that I actually know in real life turned out fine and currently live what I believe to be normal, drama-free lives, even though some scars of their earlier lives might remain. I hope I played a healing role in their lives and I hope they appreciate me for that.

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