The Difficulty of Living For Me

Elli made an observation this morning, in the middle of a larger conversation, that is reverberating in my brain today.

She pointed out that when I need to do something for the family, or work, I get it done.  But when it’s something for myself, like fiddle lessons, or losing weight, or getting some time away from home doing fun things, I don’t follow through.

She’s not wrong.  And part of that is a very family-focused mentality, but it’s also a self-esteem issue.  On a deep level I can’t seem to get through, I don’t think much of myself.  No matter how I act, I see myself as wanting in every way.  So why should I cost my family money so I can learn to play the violin better?  I don’t deserve that.  Why should I go to movies, or have a night out?  I don’t deserve it.

And it’s really hard to break through that, because you guessed it: Why should I?  It isn’t worth it for me.

I’m trying to break free of this, but it’s a habit of mind that I’ve been living with for forty years now, and the neural pathways were laid when I was much, much younger, when I lived with my adopted family.

It’s hard to shed a toxic family, even when it’s been 27 years since you spoke to any of them.

On Becoming the Johnston Family Archivist

I was just delivered a treasure trove. My late Uncle Michael had decided I should have the Johnston family records and paraphernalia, and my Aunt Kaye sent it to me this week.
This is an amazing treasure trove of documents, from pictures of my dad and uncle as kids, to pictures of my grandparents, great-grandparents, and even further back into the 19th century. There are newspaper clippings from V-E and V-J days, from FDR’s death and Kennedy’s assassination, as well as many clippings from a huge flood that hit Kansas City in 1951.
Best of all, there are letters, not only between my grandfather and his mother, but between my great-grandmother and my great-grandfather, dating to the literal turn of the century–one of the letters is dated 1900.
I’m looking forward to spending more time with this archive, and protecting the papers within it.
All my life, I’ve been connected to my mother’s family, but keenly felt the lack of knowledge of the other side of my being. Over the last few years, as I met Michael, and found my brother, I’ve become more and more steeped in the history of my dad’s family. It’s somewhat overwhelming.
There are lots of people who are holding on to the stories and archives of my mom’s family, myself included. But with my dad’s family, I’m it. There are others connected, of course–my dad and uncle had cousins, and the Johnston clan is all over this country. But my particular branch, my dad’s branch, there isn’t anyone left now but my brother and I, and those who come after us.
It’s humbling.