If I’m being honest, I don’t like spending time with my family.
In fact, as I write this, it is New Year’s day, around lunch time, and I am alone in my parents house with a lone monkey on the roof (perks of living by a forest), and I feel quite peaceful.
Now this peacefulness is not to be confused with loneliness. In fact, I enjoy my own solitude, and I generally feel oddly anxious if there are many people about. Christmas time is usually a time where that anxiety sort of wriggles all over the place and never stays still, because I am usually with my family for a while. With 2020 being a devastating year for many people and in general, I realize how much of a privilege and blessing it is where I can get to be with my whole family for a few days. But at face value, I never see it that way. They are loud, they are brash, they are annoying, they are offensive, they are demanding, they are complicated, they are invasive, they are selfish, they are too much for me honestly.
For Christmas, typically my family travels to North Teso, a village along the border of Kenya and Uganda. I abhor going there for a few reasons:
It’s a long, long journey
There are so many people in my dad's house
There’s nothing to do there
I have to talk to random people
In as much as I’m used to travelling there every single year, I’m surprised at how I always get surprised as to what’s expected. The 7 hour car ride, which can extend from anywhere to 8, 9, or 10 hours. In the past, when the roads were not good, it would take a full day to get there, I kid you not.
The nothingness of village life. Honestly, if you’re not into farming or walking, or visiting relatives you don’t know, reading is your best friend.
So this time, all the above happened yes, but something was different, because I got to be with my siblings. I haven’t really been with my siblings in the village for a long time – it’s always one of them – or none of them. And this time it was better, because my oldest brother and his wife joined us, which made the atmosphere more relaxing. One thing about traveling with siblings is that you all know how boring the village can get. So when you’re all bored, someone comes up with a plan, then the rest sort of just follow along, and see what stories await.
Also, conversations are interesting and can be fun instead of just hanging out with your parents.
This trip, we had good talks, a deep conversation about one of our siblings struggling with mental health. I gave a speech that made them cry. I think in that moment I realized that it truly is a blessing to have family. And that even as much as you are used to certain relationships in your life, there is always room for growth and developments. Because everyone is changing each day – and so the conversations you thought were unheard of 5 years ago may be super relevant today. I think of old photographs where some of us would be congregated next to each other, smiling, posing like we’re supposed to, arms around shoulder, close to each other. And I think how that photograph would look different now. Not in a bad way necessarily, but just that, everyone changes, and change is okay. I think it’s good to acknowledge it either way.
I’m thankful because I saw a glimpse of the meaning that I really don’t have to journey life alone.
I keep thinking of something my pastor said to me once. She said, “Keep praying for your family. You are in that family for a reason.”
Growing up, I've always felt so out of place within my family. I always felt as though I should’ve been born in a different one. I never really understood and still don’t understand where my place is. But I think that God is doing something within us. My family gives me a lot of stress, and is very complicated by nature. They are extra, they are predictable, they are firebombs and they are wardens. But still, I’m thankful for them.