By: Lanisha Porter
“Once you choose a direction you never change course.”
-This is Us
I was watching an episode of my favorite tv drama series, “This Is Us” and the aforementioned struck me deep given the impending story about to unfold...
I’m aware that each action, day-to-day, hour-by-hour, moment-by-moment is compounding and ultimately creating our life’s destiny. But 5 months ago, when I had a very passionate disagreement with some extended family members, I was more than certain our fate was sealed and there was no destiny ahead. In my mind, it was the final straw given some of the hurtful things that were said. After intervening on a brewing feud that made some harsh and untrue allegations about my entire family, I was then targeted and told how the family would be better off without me. To be clear, the sentiments expressed to me were: “Girl, f$&@ you and all the Porters. She’s always trying to be perfect.”
...Just keep that in mind...
Also keep in mind that the Porters consistently give financial contributions, rides, unmatched moral support, show up for extracurricular performances, banquets, games, field trips, parties, funerals, and have persevered in our efforts to labor a bond with the children created within this extended family despite the toxic circumstances. Why? Because that’s what family does.
However, it’s important I add that this extended family shares a deep history of trauma, abuse, and negligence with my family. Sure there have been good times but the bad outweighs the good. This incident was nothing less. It was another cycle of dysfunction happening and exploding on all those, innocent or not, close to it. Growing up as a little girl, this was also familiar. Physical fights broke out, glass tables were broken, family dinners were ruined, blood was drawn, sides were chosen, and curse words were exchanged. I could only remember thinking that my own family in the future would be different.
The fights continued...
I got older...
I distanced myself accordingly. Only coming around when needed.
Well, now we are here. To the day when I’m told, “Girl, f$&@ you and all the Porters. She’s always trying to be perfect.” At this point I realize that my extended family has mastered a learned behavior:
We can get upset; say whatever we want; explode how we feel; and the Porters will forgive us because...well, they are forgiving and take the high road.
This has been the long-held practice year after year after year. Each time, somehow, the Porters find a way to dismiss the previous offenses and proceed forward in kindness.
...However, this time I just couldn’t. Unforgiveness still remains in my heart. As I was thinking about generational curses and limitations, it became clear to me that a lot of the traditions we practice (such as the idea we must always forgive family), are only a cycle of repeated abuse, toxicity, and dysfunction. At first I was conflicted about the idea of holding their trespasses against me due to the fear of it leading to a road I couldn’t return from. But the more I sit with it, I feel empowered about breaking the pattern of this poor tradition. Toxicity is not okay. Dysfunction is not normal. And to me no family is so sacred and precious enough that one must suffer within it. We cannot control others, but we can surely control what we subject ourselves to when relating to others. Just as I have acknowledged the learned cycle of poor behavior with my extended family, I have also had to accept that they will never be able to “family” at a functional level because they don’t have that capacity. And though I accept that’s where they are, I will never again honor it—not with my time, my presence, my efforts, my money, or my participation. I’ve made a very conscious decision that I will never subject myself to family that is volatile, and practices dishonor for sport. I’ve seen enough blood drawn and enough dinners ruined in my entire lifetime to not tolerate another millisecond of it.
This unfortunately means my road has been chosen and I don’t plan to change course. My boundaries are my boundaries, and to violate them means penalty.
We have to learn how to release ourselves from broken bonds that continuously perch on our peace and drain our generosity despite this false equivalency that says accepting toxicity is okay if it means keeping a family together. People will not understand your boundaries until you teach them. But what we must remember, family is just people. And even they must learn.
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