We received another one of those nice photographs of a family we used to know in another state out west.
I had to admit they are a fine-looking bunch – mom and dad, preternaturally young looking despite their middle age, the grandparents, beaming with joy, and the kids, all good looking with the daughter’s boyfriend/fiancé/I have no real idea in a striking cowboy hat. They certainly look like they all have their shit together.
At the bottom of the glossy photo collage is a word I see in so many of these photo collections, both in real life and on Facebook: ‘blessed.’
I’m not ever sure how I’m supposed to react to these. No one sends out photo collages at the holidays of alcoholic parents, goth kids out of rehab and grandparents, mouths agape, in nursing homes.
How nice for them. They’re doing so well. No really, I have no animosity, I just wonder: how? How do you do it? Or, rather, is there some darkness hiding behind the perfect clothes, the perfect smiles in the perfectly staged photos?
We may never know. I see similar photos in Facebook of people I know, in extended families or couples, dressed to the nines, in fancy resorts, surrounded by holiday ivy and all bundled together next to adorned fireplaces. It’s a wonderful world. I wonder why I couldn’t have been a part of one.
It’s not like my family didn’t take photos – we did. Olan Mills made some money off us. I can remember one family portrait of the four of us, treated to make it look like it was painted. If you look at it carefully, or as an empath, it’s not hard to get the uneasy feeling that there was something amiss.
I burned that portrait last year on my back porch. I couldn’t stand to look at it any more.
Much of the family dysfunction I’ve covered in other posts. Suffice it to say an effort was made to make us presentable, respectable while I turned into a twisted intellectual, cynical.
There are times
When all the world’s asleep,
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man.
Won’t you please,
Please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
Please tell me who I am.
We went to church, got the sacraments, spent three hours in our bedrooms on Good Friday contemplating Jesus’ misery. I went to Catholic church for 12 years.
How does one become blessed in circumstances of abuse?
Blessed was a word that was not thrown around in my time. It has become the word du jour for people who, to the best of my discernment, believe themselves somehow to be in God’s graces. For that they have health, wealth and love.
There are two words here as well. One, is BLESSED – as in ‘we are blessed by the Priest who waves his hands and bestows God’s grace upon is.’ The other is BLESS-SED, as in ‘blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus.’ I guess they’re the same word with slightly different uses. Now it just seems to me the word means ‘God likes us – see?’
For those of us who knew the pain, as Janis Ian sang, of relations that died too young, of fathers raving in the living room while mother’s broke plates in the kitchen. Of a sister that hated me for what I’ll never know. Of a church that taught me how class works in America and how bullying builds character.
I never felt I fit in. For the last 30 years, I’ve been trying to find a place to fit in – a faith group, a church, a belief system. I go through jobs, through friends, through wives, houses, cities and self-help books.
All in search of a perfect photo of a dead family with the word ‘blessed’ underneath.
What I would say to these people is, instead of feeling blessed, which denotes unearned favor, like ‘grace,’ for the love of your God get down on your knees and be GRATEFUL. You have no idea how easily your whole situation could have gone south. Be GRATEFUL, THANKFUL, and, please, try to be HUMBLE. I wish you joy and peace, really, I do, but it’s hard for me to do so outwardly for when I see these cards and photos I can’t help but look inward and wondered why I never made it past ‘ok’ to ‘doing just fine’ all the way to ‘blessed.’
My wife does send out cards, bless her heart. They include the happiest photos from her Facebook and usually a cute shot of the cat. She’s a master at putting these things together and a few days later a box from Shutterfly arrives and I marvel at her skill. She makes me look good.
But one holiday, I might send out a card, just on my own. I’ll pose with my psychologist in her office, smiling, holding up a copy of ‘Millie the Cat has Borderline Personality Disorder.’
I’ll have a red and gold set piece with mistletoe and lay out all my drugs and pose behind them in a Santa cap with a big smile holding a bottle of Z-Quil. I could take a photo with our illuminated Santa on the steps of my front porch with a plate of cookies and milk for the next SWAT team that might show up.
And at the bottom, in joyful font, I’d write some appropriate song lyrics since I like to talk through music:
And the sign says, “Everybody’s welcome to come in and kneel and pray.”
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all,
I didn’t have a penny to pay.
So I got me a pen and paper and I made up my own little sign.