The Peculiar Sadness of Somebody Else’s Happy Video

You know I love flash mobs. One of my very favorites is “Isaac’s live lip-dub proposal,” where 60-something of Isaac’s friends and family dance in the street to the Bruno Mars song “I Think I Wanna Marry You” before he asks his girlfriend to do just that.

(If you haven’t seen it, go watch it right now. We’ll wait.)

Grab your tissues, because Isaac made another video. This one isn’t a flash mob, but it makes me cry anyway.

In Yes to Love, I recognize so many of the same faces from the proposal. The most important people in their lives are still there. And those who are no longer with them are honored all the same, because the memory–and the legacy–of their love remains.

So of course this video is sweet and inspiring and uplifting. Of course it is.

So why do I feel gut-punched after watching it?

My family would never make a video like that, and not just because we’re not so techie. My family has been filled–for generations, as far as I can tell–with people who may love each other but don’t seem to like each other very much.

When people ask me to describe my family heritage in one word, I sometimes use the word “Faulkner-esque.” That’s not “Yes to Love” material.

Back when I was in counseling, I spent a lot of time on my therapist’s couch talking about my hopes and dreams for my own little family. How can I build those strong relationships, when those who have gone before me have struggled so? How can I succeed, where so many have failed?

I don’t know if I’m strong enough to fight that tide.

If I were seeing my counselor now, I’d tell her how badly I want my family to be like a freaking YouTube video. And then I’d feel lame for saying that out loud, and I’d probably start crying. Again.

But I already know what my therapist would say, because we’ve been through it half a dozen times already.

She’d tell me I have what it takes. She’d tell me that I am enough. She’d tell me to stay tender even though it’s hard and it hurts sometimes. She’d tell me to lean in instead of shrinking back. She’d tell me to pray, again and again.

I want to believe her.

*****     *****     *****

Isaac said he made his video to honor the relationships that made his life possible. That’s not something I’ve given a ton of thought to in my own life–not till now, at least–but it’s something I can do. And I don’t need a viral YouTube hit to do it. Thank goodness.

And for my own little family? I’ll be right over here, praying and hoping and trusting, learning to love well.

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40 comments | Comment

40 comments

  1. I cried. Not because my family doesn’t have a legacy like this one because it does, but because of how marriage is on the decline. The sacredness and beauty of marriage is just not what it once was among our grandparents and even parents’ generations. That saddens me because what legacy are we leaving for our own children?

  2. I have no legacy. My mother’s parents divorced, my father’s parents tolerated each other at best, my own parents divorced, as did every adult in my family. Until my brother and his wife celebrated their 15 year anniversary, I never knew anyone in my family who had done the same {not with their first spouse at least}. I say all that because, those relationships still shaped me to say “Yes to Love”. My husband and I are about to celebrate 8 years of marriage and it hasn’t always been easy. But there is no out for us. Our only option is saying yes to love. And ultimately, the only reason we say yes to love is because God said yes to us. Once I surrendered my brokenness, my lack of legacy, my shattered hopes of having grandparents that I adore and visit at Christmas, God repaired me. And now, 8 years into my own marriage, with 3 kids {ages 5, 3, 1}, I know that my kids will have a legacy. Not because of what I {or my family} have done, but because of what God has done for me. And that brings me more joy than I can express.

    • Robin in New Jersey says:

      You have just blessed me Sarah. How refreshing to read that 8 years in you get that it’s hard and you get that it’s about Him, not us. Yes, you are leaving a beautiful legacy for your children. Keep the faith!

      I have been married for 30 years and it took almost that long for my husband and I to finally “get” it. Now I pray that the next 30 will leave a legacy for our 7 kids and 6 grandkids (so far) that the first 30 did not. With Jesus there is ALWAYS hope.

      Bless you!

    • Anne says:

      “I have no legacy….I know that my kids will have a legacy.”

      Thanks for these words, Sarah.

  3. Tim says:

    Anne, I think my family is somewhere between yours and Isaac’s. We like each other well enough, but don’t make much of an effort to be together all that much. As a friend of mine pointed out years ago, “Families are hard.”

    Yes, yes they are.

    Tim

    P.S. On a much lighter note, I’m guest posting today at Jon Acuff’s satire blog, Stuff Christians Like.

    • Anne says:

      Families are hard. That’s a smart friend you’ve got there, Tim.

      And it’s great to see you over at SCL!

      • Tim says:

        She is a wise friend indeed, Anne. I wrote a post about modeling her listening skills too, scheduled to go up next Thursday.

  4. Oh my, I feel the same way about my family! On my mom’s side, they go for years and years without talking to each other. Not from any animosity (that I know of), but it seems it’s simply because they’re not important to each other. The last family Christmas dinner with that side of the family happened when I was 6 years old. On my dad’s side, everyone has always been closer. But even now we’re starting to drift apart because my grandparents no longer have the space, money, or energy to host family potlucks every month or so like they used to, and no one else takes the initiative. Luckily, my husband’s family is close, so we have that.

  5. Pattie says:

    Tears from me too. My family now consists of my husband, four children and a new daughter-in-law. Both my husbands family and mine are not in the picture. We tried, they did not. Maybe someday we will have grandkids and great grandkids to make our little family bigger. The one thing we get from all of this is that we intend to be the very best grandparents that we can be. Taking a negative and being determined to turn it into a positive. Your posts inspire me. Thank you for that.

    • Anne says:

      “The one thing we get from all of this is that we intend to be the very best grandparents that we can be. Taking a negative and being determined to turn it into a positive.”

      Yes. Exactly. Thanks for that, Pattie, and I’m wishing you well as you seek to put that into practice in your own life. Here’s to the future grandkids!

  6. Julia says:

    I get a similar feeling, but I normally call it jealousy. Is it, really? Isn’t it? Our loved ones don’t look like this people, wouldn’t behave like that. They would never lend themselves for a planned video, but it doesn’t mean a thing.

    What they show, what you see and what there is are three different things. Don’t forget about that.

    • Anne says:

      A video is just a video, it’s true. But the idea it represents makes me so very wistful. Not jealous, unless I’m doing a very good job of fooling myself. Which is entirely possible. 🙂

  7. Randi says:

    Faulkner-esque. Yes! You and I will never dance as the third generation of a happy family tree, BUT… I couldn’t help thinking that 50 years from now we could absolutely be those happy grandmas, surrounded by a gaggle of loving children and grandchildren. We can be the first generation in a new video!

  8. Robin in New Jersey says:

    Oh man, you should have told us to get the tissues ready! Who ever came up with that idea, it was a great one.

    I also have struggled with comparing myself with other people and their families. When I read blogs and people post great pics and talk about the family getting together, it leaves me melancholy. I grew up knowing my grandparents and some great grandparents too. After getting married we moved away and have never been close to our siblings or aunts and uncles. Hearing and seeing how close others around me are to their siblings, especially sisters, has always made me feel like I am missing out, having no sister of my own. My counselor would say, you are right where the Lord wants you to be, and it’s dangerous to compare yourself to others.

    Having said all that, I understand your title completely and I get it, I really do.

    • Anne says:

      I warned you!! I would send you all boxes of Kleenex if I could!

      Your counselor sounds pretty smart to me. 🙂

  9. Maggie B says:

    Oh this video just makes me want to weep, for all the same reasons you stated. I wish my family was like this – undoubtedly people said yes, clearly since I have a family. But we’re all pretty messed up and we all need to do our work in therapy.

    But we don’t have to be that way with our littler families, do we! We can make better choices. Even if it’s just my husband and my dog.

  10. Dear friend, you are enough. You do have what it takes. I have no doubt. I see such love in your family, the way your kids glow in your presence, how happy you and Will make each other. A little self-reflection is never a bad thing, nor is being intentional about the kind of family you want to have.

    I full on ugly cried watching that video. I could see my mom’s side of the family doing something like this (or at least going along with my suggestion to do it!) but my dad’s side…not so much. We’re missing so many dear ones already and it makes me wonder how much longer we’ll have together as a family- as we are now. Who will we miss next? OK, I’m about to start crying again so I’ll end here.

    • Anne says:

      I love you and I’m printing this out and putting it on my wall to look at it every single day. Thank you.

  11. This was so timely for me to read. I feel like I have some not-yet-dealt-with family issues in the past. And I don’t know how to deal with them. I’ve done counseling before (a lot of it) and while it’s helped, I know that what I really need to do is pray. And then pray some more. And then pray even more.

    God is good and faithful. He’s all of a sudden given me a HUGE desire to have a family – right this minute. So I am leaning into Him and trusting in Him.

  12. Michelle says:

    Oh, I cried! And I hugged my little girl, the one who kept me up all night after wetting the bed and not being able to fall back asleep, a little closer and told her how my husband proposed to me. That precious moment wouldn’t have happened without your post as the catalyst, so thank you!

    My parents are happily married, though there’s divorce and brokenness aplenty among their siblings. I love my grandparents, but family functions have become only tolerable and not the happy occasions I remember from my youth and that makes me a bit sad.

    I do think we’re on the road to a warmer and fuzzier legacy, and I think Jesus makes all the difference. “Religion” is something former generations of my family seem to “do” on Sunday, but in this house we strive to love each other the way Jesus loves and teaches–a tall order but just aiming for that mark makes all the difference for us, I think (and hope!).

  13. Nina says:

    If it weren’t for the fact that I already sobbed my heart and eyes out until 4am this morning, for the very same reasons you are basically describing, I’d cry right now. I’m exhausted. I just found out my younger stepbrother is getting married. His dad raised me since I was 5 years old. To me, this kid has always been my -brother-, not a stepbrother. But apparently I’m just a stepsister because he never bothered to even call and tell me. He never calls, and neither do any of my other family members except for my parents. I am always the one who has to extend the hand and olive branch, and sometimes that requires me stretching to such a thin line, that I’m constantly on the verge of breaking. Especially ever since I moved to Canada. It’s as though I’ve completely disappeared and never existed. With some of these relatives it was already like that even when I lived just one state away from them, but it stings moreso now that I’m across a border because I guess I hoped that when I moved it might trigger some sentimentality, some desire to ACTUALLY keep a family together. Now I feel like one of those sarongs that women wear to the beach sometimes, and I feel like whoever had me attached to them got too close to the water and the sarong got pulled off and out to sea, forgotten… repeatedly going swish, swish, swish, and never falling to the bottom of the ocean and never finding a place.

    I guess I felt inclined to share this because, hey, I can totally understand the pain you’re probably always coping with. People say it gets better, and I think you ARE finding the better, slowly, because it shows in your posts. I’m just wondering if I’ve gotten way too tired to find better, because better might mean more disappointments and I’m not sure I can handle that, but at the very least I read your post and it made me feel like at least I’m not all alone and someone can understand this weird ache I get sometimes.

    • Anne says:

      “People say it gets better, and I think you ARE finding the better, slowly, because it shows in your posts. I’m just wondering if I’ve gotten way too tired to find better, because better might mean more disappointments and I’m not sure I can handle that…”

      Oh, Nina. This breaks my heart. You’re not alone at all.

      • Nina says:

        Thank you for that. Sometimes just reading or hearing that can alleviate someones stress and sadness quite a lot.

        By the way, I do agree with what Sarah Beals mentioned. She’s right about YOU starting a legacy for your grandkids.

        I think it’d be a great idea, if you made it a goal right now, that you do a once a year event, where you go somewhere, have a barbecue, and spend the day talking to just eachother, and reminiscing over funny stories and so on. This is how family reunions start, I think. They begin, not by force, but by habit. The barbecue right now is just a family outing, because the kids are small, but when they go off to college, it’s a family gathering, and when they get married, it becomes a family reunion. It might be okay to even extend the olive branch to any family members who aren’t an unhealthy addition to your nucleus. This way, it gives THEM the option to actually partake and maybe develop a healthy habit too. Even if they don’t show up the first year, invite them every year. Why? Because you never know when a persons life can change entirely, and they may get that yearning to rebuild a bridge. Sometimes, we have to supply the bricks or timber for them to do so. Not everyone knows how to ask for the things they want.

        I don’t know. After reading your post and thinking on it for a while, it brought up that idea and I thought it was worth sharing.

  14. Dear Anne,
    You don’t have to be defined by your family. Draw a proverbial line on your kitchen floor right now, and embrace it as your “start” line. YOU are going to be the Grandmother someday who started the legacy for your grandkids.
    “Family” is hard because we all tend to be selfish. It’s easier to hold a grudge than to forgive, to start over instead of rolling up our sleeves and fixing what’s broken in our marriages, but we do HAVE the choice and we can make the right choice. And God is more than enough to help us to do the hard thing and to sow seeds of peace and goodness that will bloom in future generations. Hugs. Love you.

  15. Oh, I can so relate! Jason and I both come from similar families and we pray that our children will grow up and be close to us and each other! We try hard to be “cycle breakers” from the dysfunction all around us by choosing different patterns, priorities, and people in our lives. I too have spent hours in counseling and as I venture into motherhood I realize how many more hours I need. I often get sad that our families aren’t like the one in the video, but I have to keep telling myself that by making different choices and praying hard my children will have that kind of family and hope they pass it down to theirs. Great post!

  16. Thank you for sharing this video and all the musings of your own that go along with it. I understand where you’re coming from because our life doesn’t seem to be funny and joyful yet that’s what I want to be said of us. (among many other things)

    I come from a joyful extended family but a broken immediate family, essentially gone from my life other than my brother.

    I want to laugh, play jokes, sing, dance and suck the proverbial marrow out of life. Let’s pray that yes, we have what it takes.

    YES to love

  17. Dianna says:

    Oh, Anne.

    My heart hurts for you, because I’m there, too. My mother has been married 3 times, 5 children from 3 different men, and we’ve just now reached a semblance of a relationship, as I’m approaching 40. My father is/was? an alcoholic …he knows about these beautiful children we’re raising, yet makes no effort to be involved in my life or theirs. My grandmothers both married multiple times — domestic violence and alcoholism runs deep on both sides.

    I can empathize with watching families and wanting more …so much more than what we’ve been dealt. I want a legacy …and to break the cycle of crazy. I spent many hours with my therapist as well, sifting through the muck.

    These words sucker punched me ….
    ‘Stay tender, even though it’s hard and it hurts’.

    For someone who spent her childhood and early adult years in self protective mode, it’s a daily battle. For me tenderness=vulnerability, and a very scary place to stand.

    Your therapist IS very wise ….we CAN do this. Our legacies start now, with this beautiful circle we’ve created.

  18. Nadine says:

    That video has got me crying. ALL I want, (besides all the things I’m supposed to want) is somebody to say “yes to love” to me. Maybe someday right?

  19. Jamie says:

    I am blessed to have parents who broke negative cycles to raise a constructive, loving family. But I have to say that reading the comments here makes me want to urge people whose own families are not what they wish for to lift their eyes and look a little further. My parents found substitute siblings, “adopted” aunts and uncles, and other friends-that-became-family to do life with – and both they and my siblings and I have been blessed by that a million times over!

    While there’s certainly something noble about trying with your own family, I think it’s unwise to focus on our unhappiness or the failings of those individuals when God gives us opportunities for joy with the families we make for ourselves. I may lean too much toward the latter at the expense of the former sometimes, but it blesses me.

  20. “I don’t know if I’m strong enough to fight that tide.” YES. I have thought this and worried this and said this so many times. My family would never make a video like that either. This is actually why I can’t watch Parenthood. Because every time an episode winds down and everyone has worked through their issues of the week and they hug and dance in the kitchen and laugh and cry and drink wine – I cry. Because that is what I long for, and that is what I’ve never had.

    I’m commenting much too late at night to wrap up a rambling bunch of sentences well. I just couldn’t not say I GET THIS.

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