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BROKEN

This is a post by Jill. You can read more from her at her blog, Sweet Happy Life.

This morning I wiped down the counter top while listening to one of my favorite bands from my college glory days, Moonpools and Caterpillars. I was singing along with Kimi, identifying with her lyrics, and lamenting my “achin-breakin-beat up-shaken-sorry-blubbering-heart”. That’s when the doorbell rang.

I hesitated. It was nearly noon, and here I was, dancing around the kitchen in my pajamas. The dog barked. The doorbell rang again. I was trapped. I knew the dog would keep barking until the door was answered, and I knew her barks would wake my sleeping baby. I cautiously peeked around the corner of the door and was greeted by a smiling stranger holding a beautiful vase of flowers.

She extended the bouquet, her eyes puzzled at my reluctance to accept the fragrant blossoms. I fumbled with the pen and wondered if instead of signing my name in receipt, I could boldly print ‘Return To Sender.’ I knew the flowers represented my brother’s perfunctory attempt at an apology, and frankly I wasn’t finished being angry just yet.

I sat at the counter turning the vase so as to appreciate each bloom and I wondered just how we had reached this point; this chasm of communication, this lonely, hollow space of anger and illogic. It seems like just yesterday this same brother was bringing me home bags of lollipops from his job as a gas station attendant. We cruised the neighborhood in his jeep; the top down, his music blaring. He made me wear a seatbelt before it was the norm; he replaced the battery in my first car; he painstakingly built me my very first dollhouse. I felt protected. I felt loved.

And yet. Here we were, at a major impasse.

I am abundantly blessed by kind male friends who watch over me. Sweet partners of my best girlfriends who shovel my walks when my husband is out of town, who help my husband administer to my children when needed, who call to check on me and show genuine concern for my well being. I feel protected. I feel a brotherly love extended to me on a consistent basis.

The pain of arguing with my brother is somehow increased by the kind gestures of my friends, the extended family I’ve chosen for myself. If they love me without condition, if they compassionately serve me and support me, then why can’t my own flesh and blood?

The sorrow washed over me and soon the speckled granite counter was covered in my tears. Hot, impetuous anguish, like the grief of a child, rather than the dignified grace of a woman. But at this same moment, an epiphany, an understanding. Compassion for my brother and I, two broken hearts.

Ours is a world turned upside down by deceit, betrayal and divorce. Our tight knit clan shattered by my father’s selfish choices. Pain expanded exponentially by his diagnosis of terminal cancer. Circumstances beyond our present ability to comprehend. Devastation at every turn. We are overwhelmed and angry. Our coping skills have long since been depleted. Each of us, he and I, and the other two I also call brother, are quite simply, in survival mode. We could be, no, we should be, a life line to one another. But we are unable to reach out to each other as we are each drowning in our own personal grief. Ironic, isn’t it? We are walking in the same collective shoes, but we are vastly different in how we maneuver the path.

For the first time I realize how easy it must be for my friends to love and serve me. They have fresh eyes. They are not entangled in the same mire; their hearts unmarked by this sorrow. I know my brother loves me. I know all three of them do. But I also know all too well their fractured hearts. Perhaps the capacity to love is overshadowed by the need to heal.

Later I receive an email from a wise friend who has also experienced the ravages of divorce in her own parents. “Satan is trying to destroy your family” she writes, “don’t let him win.”

Damn Satan. I wish he’d just leave us all alone.

I marvel at what an effective tool anger is and how Satan uses it to help us lose our logic, our compassion, our humility. Tears find me again as I type a quick email to my brother offering thanks and my own sort of apology. While we still don’t see eye to eye, I recognize that we are more alike than different.

Our hearts are achin-breakin-beat up-busted.

Busted-broken-beat down-shot down-held down-fractured.

We are.

But at least we’re not alone.

6 thoughts on “BROKEN”

  1. I loved reading this. It's hard to know how to respond because your thoughts are so complete, whole. Thank you for guest posting with us. I'm an official fan now.

    I find the "we're not alone" sentiment comforting with so many difficult and terrible things. It's nice to know we're not alone when we're imperfect and silly and sober and incomplete. It seems that when we feel we're alone, we divide the human race into teams which just seems so pointless.

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  2. I know I've already said this, but I really think that for me, a lot of the pain is just that things have to change… for the worse.

    And I second your damn Satan! I wish too that he would leave my family alone.

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  3. Reading this post I kept wondering if my brothers would send me flowers if we had a similar impasse. Your brother is a wise man and with that sort of behavior I am sure you'll all beat Satan to his bloody punch.

    P.S. I love Moonpools and Caterpillars too. Just love them.

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  4. I've long felt like simply being a member of my family was my huge test in life. There have been many times where I've simply wanted to throw my hands in the air and be done with them. But I'm always reminded that I chose my family in the first place. Whenever I'm really struggling or I feel like I'm hitting a wall, I go back to my patriarchal blessing which tells me to stay close to my brothers and sisters and find joy in my relationships with them.

    Finding the joy is what keeps me in it, and recognizing and accepting our differences is what has helped me do that the most.

    You do have each other, no matter how much you argue about it, and that's a beautiful thing.

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  5. I love the way you write Jill. Powerful post. I'm remind of a familiar saying, "Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em." I don't know where it's from, but how often it's true in our families.

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