Growing up, I would watch the adults in my family collect around a crowded dining room table, a bright cozy kitchen, or sizzling barbecue grill to talk.
Talk about everything.
No topic was ever missed or skipped over. Whenever it became aware that I was in earshot, I was quickly shooed out the room. But the rich laughter and vociferous declarations were too full to be contained and always flowed into the other rooms.
As I grew older, my sister and I were invited to share in this familial tradition. My sister shined at it. She, of the phone calls to her boyfriends so deafening the whole house would tremble and rippling opinionated spirit, gladly shared her all. I would listen as she would go on about her feelings towards her friends and other matters while my mother would absorb it and then reflect her own thoughts.
The exchange was common and, in the minds of all in the household, the way it should be done.
Where my relatives open doors, I shut them. I chalk lines. I draw curtains. Boundary is my middle name and I spell it P-R-I-V-A-T-E.
In this regard, I was viewed as irregular. In my family, everything is to be shared, and refusal to do so is greeted with confusion, dismay, and disbelief.
Family members, in particular, my mother, were bothered by my unwillingness to bare my soul. I remember one incident in particular where my mother was visually disturbed that I opted out of a girls’ sharing session.
She learned to live with it but I think she thought that it was a phase from which I would outgrow.
During a recent conversation, she turned the knob on a door that is locked to her for the time being: my love life. When I didn’t divulge after minutes of pounding, she said in an exasperated voice,
“But you’re 25!
I was and am far from a recluse. I do share and bare and reveal. But it is within limits and there are few around me who have seen my heart in its entirety. The heaviest and most precious portions always go to those who know how to handle them.
I love and cling to my family and admire their openness. But I’ve seen these offered portions pricked and chopped to pieces.
Such a dilemma. Is it wrong to hide parts of your heart from your family?