Every year our old Victorian house in Blackstone is the Home Tree were the fragmented pieces of the family return for a feast of 30 to forty members. I think I’m the oldest one here now that my seniors have died off. Ironically, I’m the youngest. I know I’m changing, yet the family is always the same, set personalities, same conversations, tensions, same pattern. And I become aware of my sameness, my old personality which family has you put on so they can recognize you. But I’m aware of the widening gap between my old clothes and the empty self, and it’s OK.
I’m thankful for the family members who can show me this gap by their sameness. And when I’m aware of the gap and don’t fall into it, the family members are no longer the same. The gap disappears with the gap.
Does that make sense? Before the gap is the painful gap between me and family: I believe the judgment that I have nothing to offer. I believe the judgment that I’m a stranger, an alien to this family. When I try to explain or dig into my ideas, arouse an intellectual conversation, my important observations, their eyes begin to wander, and something more interesting comes up.
Don’t even mention talking about Buddha or the practice. Nobody cares about that. All my Buddha statues and spiritual artifacts in the foyer invite no curiosity. That is like opening a door to some unknown room that says “Do Not Enter.” Everyone knows me as a cleaner who washes the dishes and takes the tables down so the others can talk. I am the same yet I am always different, somewhat of a mystery to my large family, I am sure.
The gap is painful, and I have been in that gap my whole life, I suppose, going back to childhood whereas a military child I changed schools every two years, always without friends, on the outside looking in. But I digress.
So when family comes and the gap widens to the point that I can see my old clothes right there with that big gap between me and them, the gap disappears. It’s OK that I’m this alien, strange introvert in an extroverted family where everyone is chitting and chatting at breakneck speed and I feel alone in a crowd. I no longer wish I could be like that, a gobbling turkey in the flock. It’s ok to be me. Every Thanksgiving I kill and eat this turkey. It’s not easy being a Buddha in a flock of turkeys.
Hey…wait…I am a turkey! I am thankful for my family.