The functional family is extinct, but more accurately, it really never existed. Some families have more dysfunction than others, but if we are all completely honest, our families are less than perfect.
Recently, during a dinner with my mother, she commented that we were not dysfunctional in the slightest and to refer to us as such would be inaccurate. Well, I thoughtfully looked at her and instead of smiling in agreement, I laughed. I laughed really hard. It was the moment of clarity that to her we really were the perfect family, but I know the truth. To say she was stunned at my uncontrollable laughter would be an understatement.
My father came from a family where he called his parents by their first names…..true story. I didn’t even know what my maternal grandmother looked like until I was out of college because my mother had all of her photographs in a trunk. There is a story there too. In fact, there is an anthology that could be written on both sides of the family, but those are just small bits that indicate a bigger issue. Brian’s side is equally as colorful because no one escapes. It doesn’t mean there isn’t love, guidance, or a strong connection. It simply means that imperfection follows us wherever we go because we are human. We are all doing the best we can.
We are a family comprised of various personalities. Our struggles begin with mental illness sprinkled with alcoholism and mixed with a touch of delusion. In photographs it is easy to look the part. On social media, the dysfunctional family is masked by the perfect posts and the vacation photographs in ideal locations. You don’t see posts that say, “Today, I feel like shit and my husband is a blackout drunk.” Nope. Maybe that would be too honest. Maybe there is a middle ground.
When I started going to Alanon, my mother was alarmed. She was confused as to why I would air my dirty laundry to a room full of strangers. I get it. She comes from the generation were you simply smiled and pretended that life was grand while you drowned in your lies. That had to be exhausting and still probably is.
After almost fifteen years of airing my dirty laundry, the people in the rooms are no longer strangers, but have become friends. While we have admitted we aren’t perfect, my family is a functional family sprinkled with dysfunction…..still. I wouldn’t change it for the world. We are happy embracing our imperfections, airing our dysfunction, and being comfortable with who we are. To be completely transparent brings a touch of healing to the wounds of the past.