Aug 12 2011
What I find interesting is that the majority of people are afraid of being alone and feel safe when staying close to their families, but at the same time they become needier and more insecure after spending time with relatives and strong and comfortable when they stay away from them for extended periods of time. So, what exactly is it that makes people feel safe around relatives in the first place? And at what point does this change and we move onto the dangerous side? When do families switch from comforting and warm, to intimidating and spooky?
This last week I’ve spent in Greece, seeing once again friends and families, enjoying Greek food, being asked what I’m doing with my life, swimming in the beautiful Ionian sea, contemplating suicide. A couple of days ago on the beach, I found myself in a conversation that made me think. “How’s life in Florence?”, one of my friends asked me. “It’s great. Beautiful city, easy-living. Nothing to complain. How are things with you? How’s life in Madrid?”, I asked, seeing that being away from home had clearly done him good. He shrugged, having mixed feelings about life and Madrid. “It’s good. I guess”. “You don’t sound very convincing. I thought Spain suited you and you were having a good time. You certainly look happier”… He thought about it for a few seconds. “I am having a good time. But you know how these things are… No matter how great the place is, you’re still far away from home. No matter how nice and warm the people are, they’re still not your family, that’s what my grandma always says”. “Yeah, I know, they’re just good people that can’t however load you with insecurities and worries. How could that ever be good enough?”, I whispered.
He hesitated, but then went on to explain what he meant. “You know, you get scared at times. You think, fuck, if something happens to me, I’ve got no one here”. I smiled, seeing where he was going with this. “Whereas if you are home, you have your family”. He nodded. “Exactly. You know, you get sick here and you have someone to bring you a glass of water. My dad says that’s the most important thing in the world”. I laughed. “And you don’t think you pay highly for that glass of water that might come, if you happen to get sick”? He thought about it before giving me an answer. “I don’t know… I guess families can be tiring and everything, but being sick and alone? Is there anything worse than that?”, he wondered. “Perhaps sick, alone and with your family reminding you how much you need them?”, I wondered back.
I was invited to a friend’s house for dinner last night and his whole family was there. After saying my hellos and chatting casually with his mum and uncle, I sat at the table to get the dinner over and done with. “Not often that we get the chance to see you, Angeliki”. I nodded, while allowing my friend’s dad to serve me some salad. “Big mistake, we should fix that”, I joked. One of the cousins turned to my friend. “Why, when was the last time we actually saw you? It’s been ages”. “That explains it”, I thought, noticing how much more confident and relaxed he seemed. “What have you been up to?”, I asked him, curious. “Ah, nothing much. I just needed some time away from everything so I escaped to a little quiet island and did practically nothing. No phones, no TV, no computers. Just me, relaxing”. I looked around me, checking whether I was free to ask. Everyone was busy acting useful, so I went ahead: “How did you find it in you to come back”? He laughed and started eating. “There’s so long that you can stay away from home, right? Eventually you need to come back. Back to your base”. “Why?”, I whispered, lost.
Suddenly his dad interrupted us. “You have gotten skinny. Why? You don’t eat”? My friend smiled and reassured his dad that he had been eating a lot. His mum shook her head. “You don’t look good… You look tired… Angeliki, doesn’t he look tired”? I tried to figure out whether they were joking or not.”Tired? Are you serious? That’s the last thing he looks”. I turned to face him. “You look great. Better than ever before”. His uncle, however, disagreed. “You’re just trying to cover for him. But you shouldn’t, you’re not helping him this way. We are all here to help him get back on track. Angeliki, he’s wasting away. He’s doing nothing, he’s not looking after himself, he’s given up”. I was officially spooked. I tried to make some sense, but more and more I was feeling like I had crashed a mad house party. “Don’t listen to them, you look amazing!”, I said to my friend, but he shook his head unconvinced. “No… I don’t look amazing… I mean, yes, I did some good relaxing, but I missed out on my mum’s home-made food, on the warmth of this house, on the great long talks with my dad… At the end of the day, I would sit on the beach thinking, am I really safe here? What if something happens to me? My family’s not even going to know, they’ll never find me here. It’s scary, if you think about it. I think that’s what tired me in the end. It was good for the first few days, but then I was terrified away from home. I knew I had to come back”. He looked around him relieved. “It’s good to be back”.
I stayed home today trying to put my thoughts together. I remembered every time I would visit my family back here. The minute you enter the house, you completely relax. Everyone seems beautiful, you love them, you’ve missed them, you can’t wait to enjoy them. You eat one of the best meals you’ve ever had. Then you have the longest and most refreshing shower of your life. And you go to bed. The bed that smells like home, the bed that makes you feel safe, the bed that takes you back in time and allows you to be a kid again. And you enjoy the best sleep of your life. But in the morning, you wake up and everything has gone the other way. You suddenly don’t look that great in their eyes. You were prettier, calmer, more intelligent, more upbeat the last time they saw you. You were better dressed. Your hair was way nicer. And now it’s time to have that breakfast during which you have to let them know how you see the next 75 years of your life. Start justifying every choice, start defending every decision. Take the tasks they give you and complete them one after the other, while you feel yourself becoming slightly shorter and smaller with every step you take.
And no matter how many times you get up and go, the same amount of times you pack your things and come back…
So, is it me, or are families the cleverest thing out there? Is it me, or would any aspiring dictator have a lot to learn from the family brainwashing technique? Is it me, or do even the smartest and strongest people fall victims of the same old “keeping you safe” manipulating scheme? Having connected home and family with safety, we become highly dependant and convince ourselves that we are weak and in danger anywhere else. We then return home and take any insults and insecurities relatives have to offer us and become trapped into thinking that without them we are nothing, since they keep us safe and warm. And although this realisation makes us feel like nothing more than pawns and puppets in the family game, it does however finally shed some light on to why Marilyn Munster stuck with “the Munsters” for two whole seasons, evern though she was continuously made fun of for her “plain” looks. Distressingly unattractive and abnormal in the family’s eyes, the Munsters still found it in them to welcome her in their home and treat her with kindness and love, making her feel safe and warm, reminding her however in every episode that it would be hard for her to feel this wanted and protected anywhere else if she ever decided to leave them…Share this post
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