During the years I lived at home with my parents, both houses on either side of theirs got robbed at different points. I remember thinking it was sort of incredible theirs never got hit. Not once in 40 years. Somehow, our house was impervious.
And the older I get, the more I think our family was, too.
Our immediate family unit never had any scandal. No infidelity, no addictions, no abuse, no illness. We were like the Keatons, the Huxtables, the Seavers. And I thought that was the norm—that every family was like us. There were kids around me whose parents were divorced, but I just thought they were oddities. Mutations within my bubbled population of perfection.
Then I grew up.
And watched my siblings and their friends get married and start families. And watched my friends get married and start families. And learned secrets about my own extended family, and the relatives of all the various guys I dated. And I realized that my own immediate family was an anomaly.
The majority is not scandal-free. It seems like more people are born—or end up—in homes colored by cheating, drinking, gambling, abuse, or physical or mental illness. It’s the norm.
And I have to wonder why. Is it because people don’t know how to take care of themselves? How to cultivate and protect their self esteem so that they don’t rely on others for it and then punish them when they don’t deliver? Is it because we don’t have the capacity to develop healthy coping mechanisms when things get tough? Is it because we don’t really communicate? Or we’re incapable of moving past pain created by our predecessors? Or is it just human nature? Is it just in our DNA to cheat, lie, overindulge, disregard our own health and wellbeing and that of those around us?
Whatever it is, it’s so much more prevalent than I ever realized. And although it sends me spinning a bit, it also amazes me the way people can rise from the ashes of hardship and heartache to go on and produce grounded, functional families.
It sort of begs the question: Is it all just a crapshoot in the end?