Falling Far from the Tree, or What to Do When You Fucking Hate Your Ancestors

Don’t get me wrong. My family of origin is not all bad. My parents are pretty cool, if not sometimes a little old school in their thinking. My extended family isn’t bad either, if you can excuse the fact that they know nothing about me and don’t seem to want to, and we don’t have two common values between us to rub together.

(Somewhat) recently, I saw some stupid inspirational picture on Facebook or Pinterest or some bullshit, and it basically said “REJOICE for you are the product of a 1000 loves!” And I guess that’s true. Well, I don’t guess. It IS true. But what do you do when your family is basically pro-life, in that they only care about you until you’re OUT of the womb? (Yes, that was a cheap shot, and yes, I’m taking it).

Lately, I’ve been working on connecting with my more distant ancestors by learning Icelandic. I don’t have Icelandic ancestors per se, but my understanding is that Icelandic has remained more unchanged over time than Norwegian or Swedish (where I do have ancestors). So I’ve been giving that a shot.

The other thing that’s probably the most useful is making your own tribe, and putting in the effort. I suck at this. I’m an introvert with a social anxiety problem. You can take a guess as to how much energy I have for friends, and you probably wouldn’t be far off. But at 3 AM when you’re questioning your whole existence and how you came to be the proverbial lotus flower out of the cow shit covered cess pool that is your family tree, having those people in your back pocket that appreciate you for you is a terribly useful asset. And it’s actually a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy technique. I am literally making a list of reasons why I am lovable, instead of focusing on the reasons why I am not (because my family doesn’t get me and they’re all stupid heads, etc.)

I also try to focus on positive ancestor imagery, or PAI (trademark pending). I think about things I enjoyed about my childhood or look at pictures that I love instead of focusing on why I didn’t get an invite to so and so’s birthday party. My parents think it’s kind of weird some of the things I’ve hoarded over time, but they’re special to me. I have my grandfather’s busted ass mantle clock that he got for his retirement, as well as this hideous 80’s style framed picture of the factory he worked in. They’re stupid, broken, old, and yellowed, and not even my style in the first place. But when I look at them, I think of how many times he changed the batteries in the stupid clock, and how many times that picture got dusted (read: every day). I also try to give my grandfather’s fishing boat a good cleaning once a year whether I use it or not, and keep the little outboard in good shape as well.

Y’know, I think I’ve reached that point in my life where I need to take the advice I always give others, which I stole from someone else entirely (thank you Dr. Angelou). When people show you who they are, believe them. And then meet awesomer people and hang out with them instead. (I added that part in myself.)

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