September 17, 2012

I Killed the Brady Bunch Sitcom, Finally. ~ Mary Beth Ogulewicz

For years I worked ceaselessly to create a fun image of a family like the Brady bunch

“Here’s a story of a lovely lady…” Okay I’ll admit it. Most of my impressions about how a family should function were largely formed by binge TV watching the Brady Bunch. I gulped in every second of Carol Brady: blonde, young, cool mother perkily handling another fandango. And Mike!  He was oh so groovy with his mop of curls and architecture career. They were the epitome of coolness for me. Their six kids matched perfectly. Obviously, I was adopted and had mistakenly arrived at a terribly backwards Polish-centric family. Rather than my dad sliding into our driveway in a convertible, my Dad worked in a factory, came home tired and sullen and drove a 20-year-old car. There would be no vacations to Hawaii or Grand Canyon.

As a child I longed for the fun and frivolity of being a Brady.

They seemed to effortlessly and lovingly solve all of life’s problems together. The Bradysbecame my touchstone for life’s problems. When I was overextended, I would think: this is just like when Marcia signed up for every club in high school and found out she couldn’t do it all. Of course as I matured I saw so many of the wonderful things my family stood for and appreciated. The devotion of my parents to our success and education were epic. I loved my parents for all they accomplished, their traditions and what they grew to become. But somehow,I could never let go of the allure of the Brady’s family life. (Note: I conveniently resisted any reality check that they were a television family and Mike was actually gay). I loved what I saw and persisted in allowing that Panavision image to define family for me even as I began to create my family. I had four children—two boys and two girls. I am still amazed at how perfectly that turned out. We didn’t fill the bottom two squares of the bingo card opening credits but I was damned close. I didn’t manage to have a housekeeper with a butcher boyfriend that I could depend on to cook dinner but as I ruminated on the effect of the Brady Bunch on my life this morning and walked around my house I  noticed the predominance of 70s primary colorsorange colored walls and avocado green even for my dishes and walls. Still love garish 70s mod prints on nearly anything I own—my rug in my office, my luggage , several very bad pairs of pants that my kids cringe when I wear but I adore. But like all things we covet and aspire to, we reach a point in life where we become grateful for what we have actually created.

We let go of the dream, and we become at peace with what is.

In yoga, we practice stillness and meditation in order to be able to be with what is in this moment. This practice allowed me to confront the disparity between my ideal life and what my life actually is. To observe it, to not run away from it, and to simply be with the experience without judgment I have grown to see the extraordinary blessing in the imperfection of my reality. As my teacher Brahamani said, begin to see what is there rather than what isn’t there. For years I worked ceaselessly to create a fun image of a family like the Bradys. We even had a family song we would sing: “We are the Saccos, the mighty mighty Sacccos. ”  Everywhere we go, people want to know who we are. So we tell them.

Life is not a sitcom.

Let me repeat that, life is not a sitcom. There are not always happy endings in 30 minutes. And as I thought about what family is, I woke this morning feeling extraordinary gratitude for the many people who are not related to me biologically but whom I consider my family. As I have allowed love and vulnerability into my life, I have been blessed in abundance with new and old enlivened friendships. I don’t have nine boxes filled with shining faces on my TV screen. I do have dozens of people whom I love that I call sister, brother and family.

When you become open to love, family forms all around you in unexpected ways.

Last year,  my husband and I were estranged. He took our children to Grand Canyon on a vacation. It nearly killed me. I was on the bathroom mat crying. How could he do this to me? The more reflective question became how had I allowed this to happen? What whispers of inauthenticity had I been ignoring in pursuit of my dream life? A year later, I realize I actually called that experience into my life. The week became a turning point not marked by a linear path but still one that began my journey. My childhood best friend, who I now call sister, flew up from Florida and stayed with me. We had heartfelt, open and raw sharing of our past loves and lives together. No one else in the world would have done that for me. My best friend and sister did. I was seething, raging and angry at my husband for so long. Why? I am embarrassed to admit it—for stealing that Brady dream I had been harboring for nearly 40 years. They even went on donkey rides!  But I see now that it was all part of breaking my illusion (or delusion) of family that was necessary for my growth. I was not going to willingly let go of Carol and Mike and so the universe sent a loud message that grabbed my attention to force me to look at the reality of my life and be at peace with what was instead of how the image of our family played in public. After all, the Bradys are just a story.

Mary Beth Ogulewicz is a Kripalu yoga teacher, mother of four spirited children, professor and lawyer trying to find her way on her journey. “My mission is to inspire, elevate and encourage as many people as possible to live to their fullest, most creative and joyful potential. ”  Connect with Mary Beth through her website Embraceyouryoga. com, Facebook page, or her blog.

Editor: Colleen Simpson


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