If truth be told, most families harbor a lot more Marleys than they do Scrooges. It is not too late to cut the chains.
Marley appeared in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” as a ghost of Scrooge’s deceased partner burdened with chains. Marley was the first to warn Scrooge that all was not well with his world when he gave an ominous explanation of his unusual garb: “I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?”
As quickly became apparent, the chain represented Marley’s penchant to enrich himself by ignoring the plight of others. It took Scrooge all night to figure out that was a bad thing.
We can be a bit quicker about it.
For most of us, the chains are not composed of unfair business transactions; they are composed of our feelings about family members. The truth – whether the family member’s action was unfair or ill meant – is irrelevant to our opinion of the action. We see and therefore we believe.
Once we believe, we create another link of grievance. As the links build, it becomes almost impossible to shrug them off.
This is the chain that makes it impossible to welcome a certain family member into our home, to send that person a Christmas card, to keep silent when the person’s name is mentioned. It is the chain that makes family reunions impossible. It is the chain that causes family members to cut people out of inheritances, to dispute wills, to challenge trusts and to sue over beneficiary designations. It is the chain that tears families apart.
It is all so unnecessary.
Now is the time of year to rip the chains apart. Shrug off the bad feelings. Categorize them and put them on a shelf if you must, but do not continue to lug them around. No one is strong enough to continue down the road carrying all of that unnecessary weight.
No one is saying that you have to go the other way by forging a new chain made up with links of fake feelings and naivety. That would be every bit as dangerous to you as the old chain. No one is saying that your family member’s actions were just, deserved, honest or even sane. That would be silly.
No, the point is that lugging that damn chain around is burdening only you. The more burdened you feel, the more you want to burden others with your feelings.
Do you really think being a Marley is an endearing characteristic? It is not. No one wants Marley around during the holidays. A Marley chain ends up dragging everyone down.
So pull out a piece of paper, write down all of the grievances that you have against your family members, and then throw the paper in the fire.
Write a child back in your will, make a donation in a family member’s name, send a Christmas card. Exult in your newly found freedom.
What a wondrous way to celebrate the season.
Virginia Hammerle is president of the Hammerle Finley Law Firm, www.hammerle.com. She has been Board Certified in Civil Trial by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization for 25 years. Her practice includes litigation in all matters affecting seniors. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice.