Being Different

Today on Twitter, @MsMayfield asked an interesting question: "How long are you to be identified with poor choices?

I immediately thought of a recent conversation I had with my mom about one of my cousins. My mom is the youngest of 14 so the majority of my cousins are significantly older than me and it's only now that I'm truly beginning to get to know them. They have stories and lives that I don't recall or never knew about anyway.

This summer, I helped a couple of my cousins plan a "cousin's reunion." It, as things in my family usually do, came along with a lot of drama. In a family as large as mine, you can expct that at any given time there are at least 3 different feuds going on that have ripple effects. One of my cousins, the oldest in the group of us who were planning, was hoping she could convince everyone to ignore their issues for a weekend and spend time with family. Noble idea, but not gonna happen.

In any case, all this planning and back and forth and talk of feuds meant I spent a lot of time on the phone with her and in contact with her. All seemed ok until I got down to our reunion location (our parent's hometown) and my mom (who refused to attend the reunion, though our parents were invited) found out I was staying with this cousin.

Now, mama wasn't upset but she did want to make sure I knew what I was getting into. We had several conversations where she alluded to the idea that not only would I be indebted to my cousin for letting her stay with me but I should also beware of her around my stuff.

I tried to ignore the sly comments my mom would make -- she's notorious for that and it irks me; say something if you got something to say -- but eventually I just had to ask what was up. What had she done so badly that it warranted all of THIS.

She stole something. Now, mama couldn't remember when, but when I posited the idea that it was 20+ years ago, mama didn't argue she just countered with the idea that she'd also done it the last decade.

As I relayed all of this to a friend, I said, "you know, I bet when I'm 46 (my cousin's age) I'll look back on things I did as a teen or in my early 20s that I'll regret with everything in me."

Stealing is a huge no-no in my family. Not to say that's a big deal or noteworthy but there's a lot my family will tolerate in the way of poor decision making. Stealing, especially from family (as my cousin is accused of doing) is absolutely not tolerated and I'm beginning to see not ever truly forgiven.

I did a post a really long time ago about being allowed to be different. About giving people space to grow and learn and change. I don't feel like we do that enough. You make one bad move and you're marred for life with it. People do dumb stuff all the time -- what do you have to do or say before people let you move on? How much has to be done to proven you've learned the err of your ways?

I certainly don't want to make excuses for a grown woman stealing -- and my cousin is accused of stealing as a grown woman -- but I do want to make room for her to grow. Maybe even in her 30s she didn't know any better (and "knowing better" isn't just about knowing that what you're doing is wrong -- I know, sounds crazy, but I posit this: a person may know what they're doing is incorrect but if they don't know the correct way isn't that just like not knowing any better?).

So I'm taking my mother's words under advisement. If she does come to visit me and she stays with me, I won't leave anything out to tempt her to take. But I also won't refuse her access to my home based on accusations that are a decade (maybe even two decades!) old. I need to experience her for myself. Not in a dumb way, but in a way that keeps me safe and lets her be a better person if that's where she is in life.