Families Can Make You or Break You

Watched a documentary on Andrea Dunbar, British playwright of the 80s. Her first play, written when she was 15, was called The Arbor. It was basically her life on a Council Estate, writ large for stage. Oh my goodness, what a bloody mess her life was. The generational poverty and the neglect that went on and was passed down to her and then her children. Families can be mighty and then they can be prisons.

You watch it with your mouth open, seeing her eldest daughter mirror her mistakes and then magnify them, distort them, create her own hell and eventually (possibly) find a way through it. You watch all the others around this daughter blame her and hold her solely responsible for what she has done without once considering what went into her as a child; what she saw and heard and had done to her.

I know that people are responsible for their actions but abuse and neglect take their toll, exact their penance. Some people find a path through it that leaves them and others fairly intact. Sometimes the path weaves back and forth, between destruction and redemption eventually settling into some happy medium, and other times the path is gone, destroyed, impenetrable, a complete train wreck. We don’t know enough about the human psyche to predict which path someone might take but we know enough about what neglect and abuse can do to a child’s brain development. I watched the show compelled, almost unable to look away. It was quite devastating, actually.

It made me think about my family, not just my immediate birth family but the extended family of both of my parents. There’s some darkness in there, tragedy and hurt and pain and twisted-ness. I don’t know what it was, where it came from. Was it just the times? Was it the place? Was it the war, did that start the damage? It’s something I think I need to explore more about. It’s a mystery I need to try to piece together.

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