I didn’t realize I’d been holding such expectation for her, until I felt disappointed. At first, our communication felt refreshing and welcome, and I found myself anticipating the truths she’d inevitably reveal to me through our family’s genealogical history. Not long after our communication began, I recognized a familiar friend creeping up: disillusion. I have been forced to realize the ways in which I hold specific expectations for others based on their age, their social position, their career… This idolization, which masquerades as complementary, is quite dehumanizing to both the recipient of my unrealistic ideal, as well as to myself. I didn’t know I’d been holding this expectation of her, and of our interactions, until my expectations went unmet.
In these unmet expectations, I have been experiencing a grief I did not anticipate. I am grieving the aloneness I feel as I search through our family’s history. I had hoped I’d finally connected with someone else in my family (aside from my sister) who is as passionate as me about unpacking our family’s complicity in racism and inequity. In my imagined interactions, I would finally feel less alone, and would glean wisdom and knowledge from this distant cousin of an older generation. I had hoped she’d help me make sense of the trauma, pain and secrecy in our family, all the while being a willing window into our family’s assimilation into whiteness. It feels apparent that she will offer no such windows (and, how unfair for me to put such lofty expectation on a relative I barely know). But how I wanted her to! How I am craving the wisdom of generations before my own, and how I wish I could find that elder wisdom within my own family. I don’t want to be paving a new way on my own, yet within my family (again, with the exception of my sister), I feel that I am.
And so, I feel unrooted. Unmoored. I am now able to see names of generations of people who came before me, and yet I feel more disconnected from my family. I feel I am alone in desiring a new way of being in the world, and that aloneness feels so very lonely. And yet, isn’t it the both-and of it that is so very tricky? I both can create something new for myself, my spouse and my children, and yet, I will forever be connected to those who have gone before me. I desire both newness and generational connectedness. Can both exist simultaneously? If I believe that they can, it also means coming to peace with the existence of both justice and complicity in injustice that resides in me. Perhaps that coexistence is at the root of what I grieve. Can I allow myself to be human? Can I allow this cousin of mine to be human? Can I allow the generations before me to be human? What does it mean for my spirit to create space and openness for all of the things to be?