Estranged

See the link for more: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/family-feuds-when-bonds-are-broken/

Where to start?

I donno.

I recently caught the program linked above on CBS Sunday Morning a few weeks ago, and a handful of the comments made therein gave me fresh impetus to talk, to think new thoughts. But like many thoughts shared here, I don’t have either a clear conclusion or even well-researched questions and findings. However, I do have these new thoughts opening corners of my heart and mind not previously opened.

I wonder now if I’m not hardwired for estrangement.

According to the expert in the clip, 27% of Americans are estranged from their family. Also, according to the expert, Americans don’t talk about it much. There is a perception that divulging to friends that your son hasn’t spoken to you in ten years causes your friends to think, “What is wrong with you?” Which, they do.

What are the ties that bind? Where are they?

The clip lends some insight to such questions, but to my recollection it did not address them head-on. Apparently, estrangement is catalyzed especially with differences in religious views.

Did you hear that?

Yeah. Express a different view somehow attached to religion, and the odds of a break in fellowship shoot sky high.

I presume we could say that for politics too.

I sense this is particularly an American problem. Perhaps not uniquely, but still… particularly.

I was born approximately 100 years after the Civil War, born during the year Tom Brokaw called the most divisive since the Civil War. And though I am in no way contemporary with those who lived through it, I recall old people from my youth lamenting even still just over 100 years later that the Civil War had pit brother against brother.

As a youth, I didn’t appreciate that to the fullest. But now I do. Family members divided up over questions such as slavery, took up arms, and killed one another because of them. Then after the dust had settled, even after a whole century had passed, one of the remarks about that painful time was the way it pitted brother against brother.

That probably says something about something.

I am estranged from much of my family. I was estranged from my mother, the person I was closest with when growing up, however I patched that up before she died. I am estranged from my sister and her kids. My dad is estranged from my sister. He is estranged from his sister, and really, so am I.

I am estranged from my church. Most of my Christian brothers and sisters have shunned me and do not return emails, phone calls, text messages at all. The few who do connect suffer the connection (mostly). So do I.

It is a cold hard world when estranged.

The pandemic has put me in estrangement with my wife’s kids, and we used to be very close.

But you know what? I was once married to another who left me years ago when she announced she was agnostic. (Religious differences?) I did not shun her, leave her, or send her packing, but when she finally decided to leave me, some of my brothers from church quickly counseled me to “let her go,” citing I Corinthians 7:15.

I did, and she is thoroughly out of my life today.

Ironically, I think now that despite how biblical that counsel was, there is something more than irony at work in the fact that those same brothers shun me now too.

And how did I ever get into a marriage with an agnostic to begin with?

Well, that is a complex question, some of the details too personal to air out on a blog, but I will say this much: our little relationship was born, like a bad country song, into a culture that pit two lovers against the world. It was definitely NOT an arranged marriage. It was barely celebrated by our families at all. And, in fact, at one low point early on, my grandfather counseled her to leave me then because dragging it out for years on end would be more painful.

He was a church leader, and that was his counsel for my young wife!

What if it had been an arranged marriage?

We would not have indulged all the American freedoms of finding our own mates, and it would not have been some consumerist whimsical experience, but rather our parents would have come together in agreement, drawing the rest of the village into it to bear witness and support it too. We would have been given to one another as a special gift from God and our parents to be celebrated and honored by all present at the ceremony.

Instead, it was me and her against the world.

The world won.

But I am estranged from all my old school mates too. I can’t think of the last time I spoke to my best friend from high school. He lives in a different state, pays a mortgage, raises a family, works in a career I don’t understand, and I likewise go a different a different direction from him – and from practically all the others I valued so dearly 35 years ago. Some I have trouble remembering now.

Wow, come to think of it, I remember that camping trip at Quality Waters just down stream from the dam that last night of the summer after graduation. I think there was at least 20 classmates present still, and come morning light, more than half would be boarding airplanes, loading up in vans, or hitchhiking out of town to pursue American Dreams in college, the Army, or LA music scene. The next weekend, and all the rest would be gone too.

I remember sitting in Trent’s hot tub out back of his parents’ house one night the previous winter with a bunch of kids and talking about not seeing each other for twenty years. I remember the angst in our voices. We were so young, yet destined to split up and go our separate ways. I think Trish was there, Shawn, and at least four or five others now who I can’t even remember their names!

It makes me sad to think that.

We were hardwired for it.

And I went out and developed some religious ideas. Turns out they are not the ties that bind!

And lost all my friends to the world of American Dreaming or apostacy.

Wow!

I bet there are some root causes of addiction and homelessness bound up in all that which no one ever talks about.

6 comments

  1. harolene · November 1

    I totally get it. Same in my extended family and now for the past two years, my brother. Such a shame. As the oldest of the three of us I feel compelled to make an effort by texting little messages and I get a curt thanks. Thank God for me sister. It is what it is and the end of days will reveal it all. 😇 You are not estranged from this old girl Mr Agent X Sir. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agent X · November 1

      I am grateful to have you here to share with, Harolene. It means a lot to me. Thank you.

      After watching that TV segment, I began thinking others were experiencing this too. A lot of others. I was sure then that some from the blog-O-sphere would relate with me about not relating with relatives and others. (I never was a ham radio person, but I recall seeing it in a few movies, and blogging – at least for me – seems to be a little like that.)

      Unfriending is the new estrangement. But I don’t do Facebook, so I don’t technically unfriend anyone. However, I functionally do sometimes. And when I do, I always feel angst about it.

      I never alienated from someone in outright hate. Sometimes I have a person on the line who just grates every nerve nearly every exchange, and I figure the civil thing to do is bow out, if possible. After all, in the blog-O-sphere, despite all the value I find in SOME, we are strangers to one another in the full and robust sense.

      Blogging is sorta like that stranger you meet on a long flight who you find terribly interesting (rare, but it happens) and you hope they do too. And you find yourself baring your soul to this person that you most likely will never meet again or ever develop a real friendship with. But then again, pen pals have been around for centuries, and SOME of the time that develops into quite deep relations, sometimes never having met face to face!

      So, it’s a strange gig.

      All that and yet I say thank you. A heartfelt thank you. Your friendship, even in this strained contorted forum is important to me. Thanx.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Steven · November 1

    I can relate. My mom and I are estranged, though we still see each other about once a month. Our relationship has been reduced mostly to superficial politeness and a giant elephant or two in the room. My efforts this past year to address and overcome the estrangement failed miserably, with plenty of culpability to go around. I quit talking to my best friend from high school after coming to the conclusion that we have little to nothing of substance in common anymore. And I’m quite good at letting relationships wither and die from simple lack of doing anything on my end. Remember how well I stayed in touch via email after you left blogging for a while? I imagine we as people have a sinful bent toward isolation, and our culture in many ways encourages isolation or throwaway mentality to relationships to some extent

    Liked by 3 people

    • Agent X · November 1

      Steven,

      Funny, I had a feeling about you as I wrote this. Don’t know why. Youre not the only one, but I did think of you.

      I am really sorry for your mom. You too, but especially for your mom. I understand about superficial politeness. I have relationships like that too, and they are NOT fulfilling for me, they are work, and I have plenty of that already. In fact, I get very close to that condition with my own dad, and I have thought of myself as very close with him for decades.

      I didn’t put this in the post, but I recall being estranged from my mom and as a young person I felt it was the only way. She was toxic to me. Smothering. Something.

      There never was a day when I didn’t feel love for her or wish for her, but I sensed strongly that I needed space she could not give. I had to take it and wall her out.

      I always hoped it would not be permanent, and it wasn’t. I reached a couple of big life goals and then reached out to her again. I think five or six years passed there, and it was risky because she could have died, or I could have. So, I am glad that didn’t happen.

      And when we patched things up, there was a stodginess to it. Not too bad, but I felt it. Mostly, I think I let her know I loved her deeply, and I always felt she loved me.

      I also sensed a power in my hands. I didn’t like it, but I felt it. I knew it hurt her for me to be silent. I knew she would drop whatever she was doing at any time, night or day, and come running – even get on a plane if necessary – to come to me if I asked.

      And that put me in a power position.

      I tried not to play the power card and toy with her. But, I was already in that power position, and I had to just take responsibility for the fact that my silence was mortal pain to her. I hurt thinking of it now.

      So, I am grateful you maintain the connection. I hope you can find a way in again, and in the meantime, I hope you can maintain the civility. I hope.

      I don’t really even know you, but I hope it. I have feelings invested there.

      As for you and me…

      Hah!

      I have intended to reach out to you a half dozen times in the last few weeks. I just keep thinking the time hasn’t yet come. But you are one on my short list of people I would like to contact and see if you would be a reader for me. I have been writing in this “off season” and I have a book now. Still editing and drafting, but it is a complete book and it is taking shape. And there are a handful of people I would really like to get their feedback, you being one.

      Don’t answer that on the blog. But let’s talk. And if it’s not an imposition on your time and energy, I sense you are one who could help me give it shape, help me find the holes and so forth.

      I think I am very near to that point.

      Actually, I need to talk to Harolene about that too.

      So, I hope she reads this note.

      Anyway…

      Oh… and about blogging…

      Yes, I am back.

      How? I don’t know. It’s a technical thing far beyond my comprehension. (It doesn’t take much.)

      But, I was able to get a NEW computer. Not just another old one someone no longer uses (which I have done for a few years now), but a new one. I have been using it to write a book, but when I finally got the book to a point I needed to take a break and seek next level advice, I decided to check on the blog, and what do you know? It let me in. I wrote a post. It worked!

      AND….

      And then ever since that point, this computer has started causing me troubles.

      I am starting to think the blog is causing me trouble. So, I may get off again soon. Unless I find someone who I trust who can help me with my computer. It may have nothing to do with the blog at all, but I gotta say, the blog was the first thing to tank on the old one, and the old one seems to be limping now on all fronts.

      So…

      Anyway, thanx for reading and commenting.

      God bless you…

      X

      Liked by 2 people

      • Steven · November 2

        Thank you for the reply, and I will respond in private about the editing and book. I’m deeply honored you even thought of me in that process. What you said about your mom, the smothering and toxicity, is exactly the issue between me and mine. At least, from my perspective. My tentative attempts at reaching out and honestly hashing out these issues revealed that she doesn’t see things that way at all, which makes it all the more difficult and painful that I feel the need to shut her out except in the most superficial ways. It seems the only link we have holding us together right now is my son, who I don’t want to deny the opportunity to have a relationship with his grandparents. The funny part is, my mom and I used to be close and my dad and I were estranged since I was a teenager. Now the ice is thawing significantly between my dad and I, but I feel obstructed from getting close to him because my mom is right there to interject herself into my lif, and so I feel the tragic necessity of keeping distance from them both. I know it pains them greatly, especially for my mom who doesn’t seem to understand my reasons for what I do. I’m glad you were able to mend relations with your mother before she died. I hope I can one day say the same about my relationships with both my parents.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Agent X · November 2

        I feel ya.

        I look back at the problems I had with my mom and don’t know what I would do different even now if I could. I absolutely had to create some space and found no other option.

        But as a young man, I was far more cavalier too, I am sure. Life is fragile, and mom is important.

        I patched things up with mine, and then about 5 years later, she died.

        Now I am faced with that stone wall of death. I can’t call her. I can’t write. We can’t talk. I miss her. And there is nothing I can do. And now I live in a world where I am not loved like that anymore and never will be again.

        But, my mom was nuts. Not just bat sh*t crazy about everything all the time, but she had some crazy bits to her life alright. Some I couldn’t handle.

        So, I really don’t judge you, but I am sure mom’s were not made to hurt the way we hurt them. I just ask you to take care. Be wise and careful. I would say that to anyone. You only have one mom. She is flawed, but she is mom. The world needs more of them, not less.

        But I am starting to get preachy now. I don’t want to do that either. You gotta strike the balance, and I will not judge.

        Maybe I should mention prayer.

        With that, I am done. Except that in the general subject of estrangement, I hope we as a society and especially as Christians will work to usher God, who is LOVE, into our world.

        God bless…

        X

        Liked by 1 person

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