THE MEANING OF FAMILY

johnson-kelly-sisters

I grew up in a fractured family. My father molested me and my mother hated me. My brother, sister, and I were very tight, but each of us had a different relationship with my parents and were dealing with our own crap. Being the oldest, I think mine was the worst. My parents were very young when they had me and each of them was very damaged as a person. By the time they had my sister, who is 8 years my junior, they had grown up some and were very different people. More settled in themselves. But even my sister had her issues with my parents. However she did benefit from their stunted maturity – something my brother and I missed out on.

As a result, I was never taught how to live with another person – never given an idea what being part of a family really meant. I was used to being belittled and put down, made to feel unworthy, and emotionally abused. So I spent a great part of my adult life in isolation. Making friends was difficult, and I was always afraid of being my self as I worried that love would be withheld.

The first person I lived with as an adult came along when I was in my 50’s. She was good for me in some ways, but proved to be as emotionally manipulative as my mother was. In fact, she was like my mother in many ways – a real victim, and very damaged. I ended up being afraid of her just as I feared my mother. From her, more than anything else, I learned how NOT to live with someone. I also learned a lot about myself and how to appreciate me. She did a lot for me, like getting me back on stage, and she was generous with her resources – but that, only to throw back in my face when things didn’t go her way and I began to disengage from her. I thought she and our animal children were a “family”. We were, sort of, but  I was ignorant of what could be.

During this time, my sister and brother continued to provide me with a feeling of connection, financial support, and real family. However each of them had their own lives, children and partners, and could only be there for me up to a point. For much of the time I felt really alone, even though I was living with someone. Then came Kimm.

I believe that things happen when we are ready for them, and so I know that I was ready for Kimm to be in my life when she entered it. We became “family” very quickly, and it was at that point that I started to learn what being family really means. Our relationship teaches me something new about myself every day. I trust her with my thoughts and feelings and know she will never abuse my openness. She knows that it’s the same for her. There is real reciprocity and parity between us – each of us does what we can for the “us” that has grown – and giving and receiving is easier for me than it has ever been. Kimm and I and our animals are a family unit, and I have come to believe in and trust the stability of it. I am happy! 

My sister and brother revel in my happiness. The 3 of us are closer than ever, and even though I am thousands of miles away from them, we feel each other deeply. My happiness makes me a more accessible person. Kimm has helped me to make that a reality, and I have her to thank. That is what family is. No matter what may happen to her and me, I know what family means now and will always carry that inside me. There is so much love – real Love – in my life. I am truly blessed, and will never take my little family for granted for it is something Kimm and I have created. I understand now that we are living our lives as artists creating something beautiful. As individuals and as a family, we constantly grow. What a gift!

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