Defining the intersection between listening and living

You can plan a picnic

Family is something that many either cherish the time with or relish the thought of having to get together. Some families only get together for weddings and funerals, while other make the occasion daily or weekly. I love my family not only my core but my extended the time spend with my in-laws, friends, parents and grandparents I cherish these events. The holidays got me thinking about what family means. For me family means acceptance, respect and support. Much like planning a picnic families are an assortment of differences all thrown together o make a beautiful meal.

 Family is defined:
     1. A group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.
     2.  All the descendants of a common ancestor.


At a point we all choose our definition of family, what it means and how much we let it influence our life. The decisions we make places we go and time we spend is all dependent on how much value we place on family. There are those that could not envision spending the most precious moments with family and there are those who can’t stand to be around family. There are also those that fall somewhere between. This Thanksgiving got me thinking I had several conversations around this issue.

The below cryptic status update to Facebook was posted so we need to understand the context behind it.

At what point do you stop being mentally paralyzed from a life event that comes about unexpectedly? Looping in why I need to give a shit.

See non-descriptive. There are things that I try not to say and topics I stay out of when visiting family one is berating them on the choices they make. They are adults it is up to them to live by the choices that they make. The post sparked a lot of conversation around choice it seems my sister-in-law’s fiancé made a poor choice and ended up getting a D.W.I which could possibly cost him not only a heavy fine but also his job. I learned from talking with him that he was currently on leave from work pending an investigation, counselor appointment and court date. He told me that he had gone out with friends and had a few too many but did not recall how many drinks he had had. Instead of doing the responsible thing he decided to drive himself home.  He acknowledged that he should not have done this but that he always gets caught in situations like these when he is with his friends; I asked how old his friends were he said both are around his age early-mid forties.

At this point the conversation progressed as I was thinking to myself:

  1. You know your work situation and even though it was your day off a DUI or DWI are grounds for termination so why would you even?
  2. Why did your friends let you drive?
  3. Really? You are way too only to be doing things like this. 


After my mental tirade I was reminded that not everyone is fortunate as I am; but this led to a further discussion that I had with my wife about the entire situation. It appears that my sister-in-law has a problem with the circumstances that leads her fiancé to drink but this is the person she chose. Regardless of what she says there is an apparent sadness that she exhibits when she talks about topics of kids and family.  Now I have to say that I am a little bias as I am not terribly fond of her fiancé I lost most of the respect that I had for him when we visited over the summer and he threw a tantrum much like a 5 year-old, He’s 45. When he had his tantrum, both he and my sister in-law decided that they would not spend Christmas with the family instead they would take a vacation. Now for me family is important and this was a sticking point, she is making her own family but holidays, funeral and weddings are events that should be spent with the larger family. My wife says that this is her normal she doesn’t really value time with family she has missed other important events because of the boyfriend/significant other at the time. Like the last time she would have gotten to see her uncle alive was missed because her boyfriend at the time did not want to come.  The loss of respect is because he doesn’t really value family. I understand that he does not have a great relationship with his and there is difficulty there but the childish mentality is what made me loose respect.  Secondly I lost the last little bit over thanksgiving when he explained the situation. He believes that the remedy is to let go of his friends; however to me that is only part of the problem most of us choose our friends or at least the people we call friends. I can say that given the same situation my friends would not have let me get behind the wheel of a car. We would not have put each other in that situation we have moved past the late nights at bars getting drunk, even when we go celebrate it is a single drink two at most and one of us is the designated driver. For me it says a great deal about you if the company you keep as friends are not responsible enough to look out for you regardless of the situation. I felt like the song Ms. Jackson captured this for me. Thinking about responsibilities and being responsible, we all have to make reasonable and informed decisions we also have to live with those. While it seems that my sister in-law is having second thoughts it is ultimately her decision.

As I said before I try to temper what I say to family especially my in-laws, what I want to say to my sister in-law is the line from Ms. Jackson, “You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather”.  I   understand that her Facebook comment came from frustration of dealing with the situation of her significant other. I understand that it is unfortunate; yet it all goes back to responsibility and the choice we make. She is making her picnic with the an individual she has learned has a past that has some flaws. A basket that may have a few cracks, but it is up to her to weather the rain that may fall on them when they are enjoying their meal.  The people we choose as our significant other, the stance we take on family and those we consider as friends. All are choices that help define our lives.

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