Uprooting and Unraveling: Is Family Worth the Effort?

8 Aug

“Families are messy. . . Sometimes the best we can do is to remind each other that we’re related for better or for worse…and try to keep the maiming and killing to a minimum.” ― Rick Riordan

Not all families are close-knit, but I believe a desire to be part of a close-knit family is deeply entrenched in each of us—the desire to know there are people out there who love us for who we are and not what we do, people who will remember our birthdays, who will always have a listening ear, and who will be there when we need them, even if we store them on a shelf like discarded potted plants at other times.

That desire is what keeps us going back, or wanting to go back, to that point where the yarn began unraveling and start again. Get to know each other better, rekindle a friendship—we pull a tray of dry plants from the shelf and flood them with water.

The reality is, we don’t know the first thing about those plants.  In fact, we never really understood them in the first place. Do they even need water, or are they suffering from something else? And what’s with those prickers? Each one has different needs, and yet all we have to offer is this pitcher of water.

So we pour, and they sputter. Or shrivel back. Or don’t even respond.

My own family is, well, not even loosely knit. We are nine siblings born over a span of 19 years in three sets of three. Each set of children experienced a completely different set of parents—despite us all having the same mother and father, and if we took our cues from their example only, we ended up with a rather confusing definition of love.

I met with some my siblings recently for a semi-reunion. We had some good times, laughed a bit, and enjoyed mom’s donuts and pickles—two family recipes I thought I’d never taste again. We also failed in many areas, simply because we don’t know each other.

Don’t get me wrong, my siblings are fantastic. They’ve each overcome phenomenal odds and I found them all to be loving, caring, smart, witty, and giving people. Interestingly, there was one child from each set (I’m the middle child of the middle set), and two from the oldest at this gathering. But although we hadn’t been together in nearly 20 years, something made us think we could just pick up and slide into relationship. Throw into that mix attention deficit, introverts, autism, high expectations, and varied recollections of an unusual past, we barely made it to first base.

I certainly didn’t help matters. As an extreme introvert, I’ve kept to myself over the years, defining my family as my husband and the boys. Sibling issues exhausted me, trying to understand why this person doesn’t like that person and what this brother did to that one. There was a point at this gathering when I threw my hands up and said, “I quit. It’s not worth the drama.” This is an introvert’s most treasured weapon—retreating.

But I didn’t. I went into the fray and asked for knowledge. Boy, did I get it. I’m still processing some of what I learned. I am sure some of my sibs may be cringing as they read this. I don’t know them well enough to decide whether this will be considered therapeutic or airing dirty laundry, but it’s therapeutic for me. Because my advice is not just to them, but to all loosely knit or unraveling families: Keep trying. They’re worth it.

cacti, all in a row
The more I stare at this family, the more I understand my own.

Because maybe, just maybe, after we put ourselves out there enough, those little sprouts will begin to respond and grow. I learned a lot about my siblings and their family members during our short time together, and it has stirred up a hunger to know more. I left feeling a tad melancholy that I’ve missed out on so much family over the years by listening to my introvert voice. Family: brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews (some of whom I haven’t’ even met, for Pete’s sake!) I want to know them. I want to know their stories. Their dreams. Their lives aside from social media.

None of us is perfect. We’re going to keep screwing this up, I can promise you that. But I commit to doing what I can to start cultivating a ground in which siblings can not only sprout but thrive. Shoot, in this ground, even weeds are welcome, which is a good thing, as I am surely a weed of the most bizarre sort.


Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8

20 Responses to “Uprooting and Unraveling: Is Family Worth the Effort?”

  1. Elaine Beachy August 8, 2021 at 3:05 pm #

    Excellent input, Rosemarie! Thank you for writing from your heart. My husband and I too have family that are difficult with such different political and social beliefs from ours. So rather than have constant conflict, we all mostly remain silent on certain matters. We try to focus on areas of agreement and try to affirm one another, but underneath it all is the chasm of silence. Scripture says, “If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

    • Portrait Writer August 8, 2021 at 3:45 pm #

      Indeed. It’s ok to avoid topics, I think. Just not each other. Thanks Elaine!

  2. JD Wininger August 8, 2021 at 3:08 pm #

    See post Ms. Rose. There are times when I have to remind myself that while I may not like some of my family and extended family members, and other times when I’m certain they don’t like me, we have to love them. They are family! Great truths here my friend. Thank you!

    • JD Wininger August 8, 2021 at 3:09 pm #

      Sweet post. I wonder about autocorrect some days. 🙂

      • Portrait Writer August 8, 2021 at 3:47 pm #

        It’s coming soon to a blog near you…Rope.

    • Portrait Writer August 8, 2021 at 3:46 pm #

      Thank you JD! Love is always the answer…

  3. Allyn Bamberger August 8, 2021 at 3:28 pm #

    So true! I am an only child and a true introvert, but I have 18 first cousins, and there was a day when most of us were very close and had the time of our lives on my grandparent’s ranch. But now, I am really only in touch with one or two of them and I know that they have children and grandchildren and probably great-grandchildren, and I hardly know them. We are all spread to the four winds, and getting together is virtually impossible. Sad, but true.

    • Portrait Writer August 8, 2021 at 3:49 pm #

      I haven’t even thought about cousins! We have ten (sadly, one passed recently) and if I had to contact them, I wouldn’t know where to start. Life’s too short for this nonsense. Thanks Allyn.

  4. Caroline August 8, 2021 at 3:38 pm #

    “This is an introvert’s most treasured weapon—retreating”… Brilliant. I so love reading your words. Rosemarie, this is lovely and genuine. Thank you for sharing this with us and me. I will never stop learning from you.

  5. colleen quinn August 8, 2021 at 4:24 pm #

    Wow! You hit the nail on the head with this article!
    Can I forward to my siblings? Life is too short and it hurts my heart that I am not close to all of my siblings .

    • Portrait Writer August 8, 2021 at 5:05 pm #

      Thank you…But of course! That’s what it’s here for. 😉

  6. Martha Saunders August 8, 2021 at 11:13 pm #

    Wow, this is touching my heart and soul, from an extroverted introverted mother hen. Your insight and honesty are encouraging me to examine those relationships I’ve neglected!

    • Portrait Writer August 9, 2021 at 10:12 am #

      I’m so glad Martha. It’s never too late to say I love you…just sayin’.

  7. Jill Ann R. August 8, 2021 at 11:53 pm #

    My favorite quote from Paul Hegstrum: “The value of the relationship is greater than the conflict of the moment.”
    Relationships do take work. I guess we pray and ask Abba which ones we need to pursue. (besides and including our immediate family)

    • Portrait Writer August 9, 2021 at 10:13 am #

      That’s quite insightful, Jill. How I wish I could get more people to understand how precious we all are and how small the infraction will be in eternity. Thanks for this. 🙂

  8. many.blessings@verizon.net August 9, 2021 at 10:08 am #

    I love you. From one dysfunctional family member to another, I understand. I almost cried happy tears reading this. God surely wants us to keep trying, forgiving and loving. It is not easy but the fact that God continues to love us no matter how messed up we are, shows that the rewards are great. As we continue to do these things, I believe that it opens a door for us to begin to see some of the things that God sees in our family members and brings us closer to him and to each other. May God bless you with loving relationships and great healing. Lisa 

    • Portrait Writer August 9, 2021 at 10:17 am #

      You and your familty as well, Lisa. I like to think of God looking at us the way a parent stares at a tuxedo-clad child covered in mud ten minutes before the wedding is supposed to start. It may make Him wonder about our actions sometimes, but He never wonders whether we’re lovable. ❤

  9. Katherine Pasour August 11, 2021 at 3:55 pm #

    I’ve been blessed with a fairly close-knot family and good relationships with many of my cousins, but even with families that are close, conflicts occur. It takes hard work to keep a family a family. I’m so glad you’ve taken that first step in re-uniting with your siblings. Praying for you.

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