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December 3, 2007

Family Activity

I realized during this spring's trip to Costa Rica that I'm not very good with family matters. I've been so accustomed to doing things independently that I've become unaccustomed to even the most basic family norms.

I made a resolution to improve my family relations.

To be clear, there's no bad blood in my family. It's just that I live apart from the bulk of them, geographically and philosophically, and subsequently only show up for events and gatherings. I'm not a part of their routine, nor are they of mine; that infrequency makes it difficult to have anything but a superficial connection.

I reflected on my younger days recently and remembered how much time I spent outdoors. I lived in the country, I camped in the woods and ran through the fields. I wished for a chance to do that again. It's harder to do these days as the place I called home was no longer such. Going to my mother's house was quiet and peaceful, but decidedly less removed.

I decided I wanted to go camping again. Like the old days; primitive, like when I was a Pathfinder. I remembered that I had bought a 3-man tent not too long ago. Was it time for me to have my 40 days in the wilderness? My solitude in Mount Hira? I hope not; I emailed my dad to see if my tent was still at his house, and then I invited him to join me.

It's been years since my father and I did anything together, just the two of us. To be honest, it wasn't much of a common thing when I was little, but the things we did do together I cherished. I was wary of how we'd mesh decades later, but was committed to my ideal. If I claim that family is important to me, I should work to maintain it.

He immediately shot back a reply agreeing; I know I've always been the primary cause for my distance from my family, so this didn't surprise. But when it came down to nailing down a time and location, he became a little elusive. He started noting that weekends were so full, the quickly changing weather (though he noted he preferred cold weather camping to summer's heat), and even the fear that he had become too acclimated to life's accoutrements to enjoy "roughing it" as he once had. As the time passed, the prospect of this happening became more and more suspect.

Finally, I selected a site and date. He shot back another quick reply: "Looks Nice." This weekend when Fru mentioned the event, he lamented the timing as the holidays tend to put a pinch on resources. All of a sudden, I feel like a kid pestering his busy father for something which he will ultimately gain nothing from but the joy of pleasing his son. Perhaps the mutuality of benefit was never there to start with.

In thinking about other relationships I have, I find it difficult to find one where the gain is evenly distributed. Perhaps as humans we are unable to have relationship homeostasis. We are constantly in need of giving and taking from those around us; it is a currency that keeps the economy alive. Perhaps this is close to the Buddha Gautama's basis in the concept of dependent origination. It could be said that this is family activity on a universal level.

At any rate, reconnecting with my family has been more difficult than my roadmap would have me believe. I still think I'm on the right track, however. We invited my sibling Kim to come live with us when she graduated this summer, and that has helped our interaction tremendously. Fru also is relating to Kim as an individual rather than as my sister, and they've become friends (thankfully). This has helped form a new nucleus of family; the center of activity has shifted in our direction. Let's see how I'll fare closer to the eye of the storm.

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