functionally dysfunctional is actually the norm
“My life doesn’t teach me absolutes.”
according to some etymologists, was an acronym for “oll korrect” <slang for “all correct”>.
I thought on Thanksgiving, a day when families typically gather, it would be a good day to discuss dysfunction. In a way functionally dysfunctional is actually one of the Life absolutes. This becomes important because I imagine, beyond moral imperatives, Life absolutes are few and far between.
In fact. What I do know is that if you google Life absolutes you get overwhelmed with ‘life help lists’ of “5 truths of Life” … ‘absolutes of womanhood’ … ‘absolutes of family’ … but none of the absolutes seem to recognize the functional dysfunctionality of Life.
Lets face it. We are all victims of some dysfunctional aspects of Life, family or something. To suggest that anyone’s life, or family, doesn’t and didn’t contain some dysfunctionality is kinda silly <if not honest>.
And this means everyone. Haves. Have nots. Seemingly well adjusted families and people. Seemingly non well adjusted families and people.
We all have encountered good and we all have encountered bad. I am not suggesting the life balance sheet is evenly balanced between good and bad … just that we have encountered some on both sides. I would argue the dysfunctional aspects are neither good nor bad. They are simply dysfunctional things we either navigate, or do not navigate, in our attempt to become functional human beings.
As for not navigating <or not accepting the responsibility to navigate>?
I admit. I don’t fit in with, nor do I understand <in a way> what is called the ‘victim mentality’ which seems to pervade society today. We seem to labor under this burden of having been victim to some dysfunction which either:
<a> is an excuse for our own seeming quasi-debilitating dysfunction, or
<b> suggests that we have overcome some extraordinary thing which makes our ‘being functional’ more heroic in some way.
I personally don’t need any excuses nor do I need to try and make whatever I have made of my life look better by suggesting my ‘better’ occurred despite some obstacles or ‘odds against me.’
Some call this personal responsibility. And I imagine I could, but instead I simply suggest that all of us decide to be functional within, or despite, what is normally some dysfunctional family & life aspects.
The whole idea that someone commits a crime or some ‘lesser than desirable behavior’ which is a portrayal of some lack of moral fortitude because … well … we cannot really blame them because they had a rough or less than perfect childhood or came from a dysfunctional family environment is … uhm … generally speaking … an excuse.
Ok. In general let me suggest it is bullshit.
Everybody had a tough childhood. I could argue that being a child is tough by definition.
Everyone is bigger than you, older than you, smarter than you … and can tell you what to do. and while parents who are abusive, mean drunks, & addicts are fortunately not in the majority pretty much 50% of marriages end in divorce … and of the other 50% … let’s say about 90% of those sputter along on 2 cylinders most of the time. so when I hear people moaning or making excuses about a dysfunctional childhood & family … I am tempted to challenge them to show me a truly functional childhood. A real one and not one idealistic concept from a TV show.
<lost source but loved he words>
And part of being a kid is being part of a family <or typically some cohort of adults>. Adults typically defined by two things with regard to our childhoods:
– Flawed behavior and decisions made with good intentions
That is the weird thing about our families and what creates most of the dysfunctional functional aspects. Parents and families represent the worst of the worst and the best of the best.
Families can represent the most fucked up aspects of Life which if you reflect upon them too much could represent all the excuses anyone could ever need for a fucked up life and adulthood. But families also represent the most hopeful aspects of Life if you reflect upon actually represent all the good one would ever want to find in Life.
And on Thanksgiving all of that typically comes together and eats together. All I know is that my family is my family and my childhood was my childhood and my future is my future. Period. Functionally dysfunctional in all aspects and all the aspects helped craft the man, the person, I am today.
I was a victim of it all without becoming a victim of the experience.
I do know that growing up sports was pretty much all I thought about. I played as much as I could anywhere at any time <yea … I was one of those kids who shoveled snow off the courts to play basketball and played baseball at 2 in the afternoon on 100degree + days>. I studied the games, studied the athletes and knew its history. As a tween I threw a ball against a wall for hours on end pitching and fielding games of future glory. And that was within a family in which sports was code for ‘leisure and nonproductive activity.’
In my family, if I wasn’t doing some activity that ‘bettered me’ <boy scouts, internships, actual labor, education & learning acquisition> I wasn’t being functionally productive. That was our family dysfunction driver. I could shake my head in despair and I have had people actually shake their heads in seeming shock <because I turned out to be a decent athlete but not even close to professional> and in the way that good dysfunctional bubbles to the top … I have oddly even found myself defending my family drive. And I could do so because … well … the dysfunction was driven with good intentions. I am not a psychologist but I assume that sports was more than just a boyhood passion, it was also either a means of escape or rebellion against the functional dysfunction of family.
Family life, dominated by my brilliant father, was highly, often relentlessly intellectual. I have never spoken with my sister about growing up, but I tend to believe we had some pressure to display copious brainpower at all times. While I was always a voracious reader <of everything> I gravitated towards sports. This only exacerbated the functional dysfunction.
Doing what came naturally to me made me feel a second rate citizen in the family. To be clear, not necessarily a failure, just an outlier or an oddball. The thing I loved, and was okay at, became a badge of our dysfunctionality … and in parallel … our functionality.
I never wanted to turn myself into someone different.
I never wanted to be the intellectual brilliant parents I had.
I never wanted to be the more serious and hard-edged focused person I think the functional best interest aspects of my family wanted me to be.
I always kind of knew <albeit I couldn’t articulate> that someone can’t unmake who we are and I tend to believe within all the dysfunctional functional aspects of our family everyone just wanted me to be successful being me — it is just their path looked different than what I envisioned my path to be.
I can honestly say at the time it was miserable and confusing. But I can also honestly say it was miserable and confusing for all parts & pieces of the family … not just me.
I shared some personal stuff to make a point.
All families are dysfunctional. And yet still mostly functional. It is a herky jerky Life within a family with moments of smoothness. I made mistakes that contributed to dysfunctionality. The family made mistakes that contributed to the dysfunctionality.
We would like to believe our parents, and the family, have all the right answers and do all the right things, but family, and Life, just doesn’t work that way.
In fact. If most of us could get their ‘victim’ head out of their asses, it would become a little more obvious that the dysfunction contributed to the functional aspects of who and what we are today.
Childhood has a tendency to magnify the small things. Shit. Childhood has a tendency to super magnify the dysfunctional things.
All of this leads me back to one of my ‘quotes’ at the top of the post.
“Okay,” according to some etymologists, was an acronym for “oll korrect” (which is slang for “all correct”).
Coming from a dysfunctional functional family has taught me many valuable lessons. Maybe the most important is that despite any dysfunction, if you do not accept being a victim, “it’s going to be okay.”
Part of being in a family is having to shares loss, pain and heartache as well as moments of joy, sharing and good intentions. Our experiences taint what we would have liked to be childhood bliss but at the same time this mixture of functional dysfunction teaches us that Life rarely turns out perfect, most of the time things, and you, are not magnificent and that … well … it is all going to be okay. In fact … I believe I could make the point that all the dysfunction is simply being part of an ‘all correct’ Life.
Life has never been perfect and never will be. Heck. Growing up is never perfect and will never be.
And while we may look back at the dysfunctional aspects and wish it could have been different you cannot go back and revise what happened. Therefore you really only have one choice: accept you are a victim of it all without becoming a victim of the experience or become a victim of the dysfunction.
Anyone and everyone can find flaws or something insufficient in us. That is simply being human. But blaming your circumstances on others <parents, childhood, God, fate> and not yourself?
Dysfunctionality begets functionality. That’s kinda Life’s gig.
Life has not betrayed you. No one has betrayed you. Only you can betray you on this particular topic. You have to pretty much embrace your dysfunction, and dysfunctional family aspects, on your terms and move forward.
“If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.”
So, on Thanksgiving, recognize that Life is functionally dysfunctional and that pretty much everyone has had a dysfunctional Life, childhood and family experience.
And despite it all … most of us are pretty functional.
And we are because we figure out how to accept, if not embrace, the flawed dysfunctional functional people we are as individuals as well as the individuals in our families. We figure out that despite all the dysfunction … it is all going to be okay, if we believe it will be okay.