When my birth family over 50 years ago silently accused me of being different, I recognized myself as unfit for their crew. I knew I did not belong, did not fit or want to follow their shallow rules. Their authoritarian manner had also swayed me away to jump their ship.
At the time I somehow preferred uncertainty to non-acceptance. Scarred and scared, I was slowly dying in their company and would have if I had stayed. So arms tied and blind-sided, I inched my way out onto a proverbial plank. Bending precariously above a dark, foreboding sea below, I swayed and wavered on my board. I knew my leap would plunge me into more cold, unwelcoming waters but waves seemed at the time far better and safer than staying aboard.
My family never punished me, tied me up or tossed me overboard. I didn't mutiny and my family didn't cast me overboard in an open boat to face the elements alone. I wasn't unconscious and suddenly discovering myself washed up on some distant beach, marooned on a tropical island. They actually did nothing but be themselves; they only needed a scapegoat so I obliged them.
My family did not poke or probe my sides with a sharp sword endpoint. They did not ask me to jump ship; I jumped of my own accord - free will. I leapt as much away from an unrecognizing reality as I did towards a foreboding future. Drowning in a sea below seemed preferable to one above. When I was not yet 25, I felt the urge to walk my blank. So when the time eventually came, I was prepared to depart. And to this day, I am glad I did. No regrets!
I didn't fall or jump off some luxury cruise liner. I didn't sequester myself away from the world by making some monkish vows of chastity or poverty. I never committed a crime or was confined to some solitary cell. But at first, I thought I was expelled from my family. That they had shut me out, but then it gradually dawned on me that I had alienated myself from them. When I realized I had tossed myself overboard, I floated to the surface and saved myself. My alienation showed me I had been subtly passive-aggressive. Even though, in my youth, my jump felt as traumatic as falling off a ship in the middle of the Atlantic, i survived and thrived as the experiences strengthened me.
Though at first, I felt pushed, I soon realized no one touched me. I had gradually inched away voluntarily. As I stepped away from an unaccepting biological family, I jumped into an ocean of uncertainty. Finally recognizing and understanding this lack of acceptance, I realized I could play the victim or gracious son. Rather than struggle to fit in or fight to belong, I chose a course to places where uniquenesses were not only accepted but also appreciated. As I eventually found islands of acceptance, I found ways to grow.
But as soon as I finally realized I was blamed for their discomfort, that's when surprisingly it didn't hurt any longer. At that aha moment, I knew I didn't have to jump overboard for them. I had to jump overboard to save myself. For those reasons, I rescued myself and rejoiced. So, I in my early 20's I felt like a castaway, of sorts.
I had apparently committed the filial "crime" of being unique. I was quiet, but when I spoke I shared my feelings and asked about others. Because I was curious, I questioned everything. And I did not understand why truth was often ignored or distorted. I rarely took an interest in money or material things, or going into business. And these qualities were so uncomfortable, my family without directly addressing this discomfort, shunned me without words, only choices and actions.
Almost everyone wants to feel apart of a family. Everyone wants to feel they belong, feel accepted, loved, respected for who they are. They want to know they matter. But when one's family is only interested and comfortable with their own perceptions and values, little to no understanding is possible. When family members either judge you or refuse to answer any "why" questions, the fake cordialities don't amount to anything meaningful. Sometimes the family we are born into isn’t the family we want. And that is often true in reverse. And sometimes when we don't want to be a part of our family, it's because it hasn't wanted you to be a part of it.
I didn't really realize until after my eye accident how unique I was in my family; it was then that I discovered they didn’t know me or how to help me. I had grown up in a farm community perplexed by the world’s closed hearts and minds. As a youth I had been quietly dutiful and mostly craved understanding. My naiveté and inexperience simply kept me quiet during those early years. So I didn't know the questions to ask; I only knew the discomfort. It wasn’t until college that I started to discover and develop my voice and express my feelings. Before those years my athleticism during my education had become my voice while my competitive summer sailing became my outlet and refuge. I had seemingly always struggled with adult superficiality and control, which, in turn, made me feel disconnected, distant and unknown. But while my eye accident dominated my life in my early twenties, I started to see better and understand the world more clearly.
A young woman lying in a hospital bed, her head wrapped in bandages, awaits the outcome of a surgical procedure performed by the State in a last-ditch attempt to make her look "normal". Watch it
As my differences alienated me from my family, I simply grew apart from them. The irony is that I have no bitterness or animosity to them; actually only appreciation. Even though I never ever wanted a life of compliance or conformity, their differences helped me know what I didn't want and where I didn't want to go. Without them and that struggle, I might never have realized or recognized some of the courses I needed to steer. People who know my story have asked if I ever attempted to rectify and rebuild some "burnt bridges". Yes, I made some overtures, but I remembered feeling rescued when I no longer wasted any time and effort with people who are unable to remove their masks and open their hearts. Even if we are related by blood, it does not mean we are supposed to bond.
Over the years I have discovered numerous articles that explain family dynamics and especially why families need scapegoats to survive. One of the fascinating insights I discovered are articles that depicting almost every family unit as needing a scapegoat. If any of my readers feels this "rings a bell", here are some insightful links to understand more about this family casting off phenomenon.
Fictional / Accidental Castaway
Chuck Noland: [to Wilson] We might just make it. Did that thought ever cross your brain? Well, regardless, I would rather take my chance out there on the ocean than to stay here and die on this shithole island, spending the rest of my life talking...
[suddenly yelling] Chuck Noland: ...TO A GODDAMN VOLLEYBALL!