I long to snuggle under warm blankets and read easy fiction, drift off to sleep with pretend conflicts and made-up mysteries because life is so uncomplicated I go searching for embattled situations rife with nonsense to ease me into slumber. I want afternoons of browsing social media overflowing with kittens and recipes and DYI projects I will never master while I snack on candy and sip wine and worry only about the horrible combination of the two. I want my escapisms back, when worries felt big enough to warrant such behavior, when I allowed myself to wallow in hurts and slights that justified Pinot Grigio in the afternoon. It seems so frivolous now, incredibly self-indulgent when families are broken not by choice and inability to forgive but by new laws that leave them on airplanes and across borders, reaching helplessly for each other, souls truly in agony. The epidemic across America of millennials feeling self-righteous and thoroughly justified in lobbing off family members who dare to hurt their feelings, who speak words that don’t generate “likes” in their hearts, parents who have shown themselves to be human and failed and not perfect Facebook or Instagram images, these young adults are suffering from a greed that comes from instant “friends” and shallow relationships, easy deletes with a button click that must be farcical to the rest of the world. My family has been destroyed by estrangement, the quick snapping off of our branch of the family tree. What must this look like to mothers who are wailing for their children across walls erected overnight? Children who cannot reach parents in hospitals, spouses who cannot complete educations together? Families ripped apart with roots that support generations are in agony, true bone crushing pain. I cannot help thinking of my children and the utter selfishness that comes of being white and literate and full of the self-esteem I made sure to nurture. These children are making choices to separate that must seem completely ludicrous to families cowering in fear of this very separation. I don’t think there is enough wine to escape into just how stupid this all is.
I am reminded of the trip Stella and I took to SouthEast Asia and how I was impacted by such a simple thing as water usage. I saw first-hand how precious this commodity was, not a concept that I merely read about. I saw women carrying clay pots of water, I saw children without. I came home and explained to our family that we would not be letting the water run when we brushed our teeth, we would not let the shower run while we wandered around choosing clothes, something I had always tried to teach but now felt passionately about. When we see real hunger, we can no longer waste food. Resources are not limitless, families are only precious when we understand that tree supports not just us but future generations as well. Those who have lost branches understand the value of a strong root system.
Our church is beginning a new ministry to pair children whose extended family may be far away with seasoned congregants who are willing to step in as “grandparents.” A beautiful response that understands the value of both ages for each other. Parents aren’t enough in a child’s life, riches come from knowing the world holds more love, special branches that support the child with patience and generational wisdom. How indulgent and short-sighted for those practicing this new brand of selfishness call estrangement, to rob their children from the gifts they received from those very branches? How comically narcissistic it must appear to the rest of the world, a silly bedtime story that has to be fiction, given the real problems of the day. As I consider the rush of lawyers into airports to address those abandoned and separated, lost and disconnected, my heart breaks for these people and for the silent millions across our country who are suffering from children who just don’t get that one day, it may be too late to reunite. Someone may put up a wall, erect a barrier, create a very real separation that will make your frivolous choices of escapism break your own hearts. I pray this is just a season of wild fiction, a crazy ride that wakes us up from our pretend conflicts and made-up mysteries, brings us back together into what is truly important: family trees with deep roots and funky branches, knotted trunks and new growth. I just can’t grasp wasting such precious commodities when others are desperately wanting.
One thought on “The Narcissism of Estrangement”
This becomes a much more difficult issue when abuse is involved. I wish it could always be possible to make peace and change to love, protect and enjoy, but sometimes it simply isn’t when one of the people is abusive. Then it comes to the question of whether we stay and continue to be torn to pieces or we walk away to be able to forgive and heal.
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