by Liz DeStefanis Rosenzweig
The word abstract comes from Latin meaning "pull away, detached". An ironic origin, since an abstract form of art can symbolize the exact opposite. For the past twelve years, I have been obsessed with the process and significance of attachment. As an adoptive mother, I faced the challenge of building trust and a maternal bond on a daily basis. Every interaction, every play time, every therapy session was an opportunity to build the attachment between my daughter and I. My parenting experience prompted me to fall in love with the Pearson Family of the NBC series "This is Us". In the eighth episode, the loving complexity of this family is presented in the form of an abstract painting.
In this scene an uncle apologizes to his nieces for his insensitive approach in trying to explain death. He humbly presents the girls with a painting that he's created while preparing for an acting role. He explains that the spatters and layers of color represent their family's random, yet interdependent and loving bonds, ultimately describing it as "this is us".
This scene affected me deeply, because it reminds me of my journey. How difficult and mysterious it has been to try to find a collective "us" that made sense and brought all of our differences and expectations together. Family cohesion has been a messy process for me. Maybe there are others who reach it more smoothly, or without the traumatic emotions related to trying to build attachment, but from what I know, our cohesive painting required a great deal of empathy, flexibility and extreme patience.
I have often felt that I am just reacting to everyone's emotional needs with flecks of random effort, but then when I am able to gain perspective, usually with time, I realize those flecks are perfectly placed in the scheme of the overall picture, and tailored to the challenges at hand. I now am able to see our abstract image as a complex, yet incredibly connective effort of love in action.
Pulling in all the forces of family members—their own emotional ancestry and inherited personality traits, and keeping these meandering energies together has been strenuous. As "This is Us" displays each week, it requires self-sacrifice and compromise—often putting ourselves last, for the greater good, and for the benefit of the desired end result: cohesion and attachment.
When standing back and viewing my own family picture, I find immense gratitude for being able to have built powerful attachment between these seemingly unconnected people and events to form our own "us".