Fringe = Marginal

One of the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary definitions for “Fringe”:

“something that is marginal, additional, or secondary to some activity, process, or subject”

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I grew up in a large family with seven siblings, five of us are married, six of us have children. A family gathering for the holidays easily can be 25-30 family members! In my family, we have a “pecking order”, the Inner Circle, Fringe Relative and Black Sheep.

Inner Circle: I have three siblings that are in the Inner Circle. They share family news as well as family problems with each other, not always the rest of the family. They have the financial resources to handle crises when they arise, sometimes without anyone knowing. These situations can go on for awhile and than suddenly one day, an Inner Circle member deems it necessary to let other family members know what has been going on. There can be an iceberg of information to be shared, but what we get is the “tip of the iceberg” information…we are spoon fed what the Inner Circle feels we should know. We get bits and pieces, the highlights told in snippets to us.

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Fringe Relatives: After the Inner Circle are the Fringe Relatives, this is where I fall. A Fringe Relative is marginal at best, does not have the financial resources, will not be called in the middle of the night from a Black Sheep family member to bail them out of jail. The Black Sheep family member already knows Fringe Relatives don’t have any money to help them, aren’t going to pay an outstanding debt. Fringe Relatives don’t have enough Inner Circle value, but have more value than Black Sheep.

Black Sheep: After the Fringe Relatives are the Black Sheep. The Black Sheep are the family members that have used up their “Nine Lives & than some!” They have tested the patience and tolerance of every family member; Inner Circle & Fringe Relative. They need like nobody’s business, but after their need is met…another need arises. They have a sense of entitlement and why wouldn’t they! In my family, the Inner Circle “handles” problems that arise so our Black Sheep family members can rest easy.

As a Fringe Relative, I can be promoted to the Inner Circle to help them, to find out what I think or know. I can also be demoted to a Black Sheep if I don’t RSVP to an invite, if I fail to include an appropriate check in a birthday or graduation card. If I don’t reach out to Inner Circle and Black Sheep family members, my status could change to a Black Sheep family member.

When I was younger, I used to feel bad about my place in my family. I would consciously work to attempt to “change my status”. As the years go by, I have accepted my position. I realize the hierarchy and “pecking” order and because I know my place, I don’t try so hard. I DO ME, and I let my family members DO THEM. Lucky for me I don’t get those late night phone calls, no one has expectations that I am providing financial resources to a Black Sheep family member. What I can offer is, I am a great listener. I help where I can when I am able, give of my time and talents, treat others the way I would like to be treated, and practice kindness. I am at Peace knowing I am a “work in progress”.

The “pecking order” in my family has become irrelevant. Through being a Fringe Relative I learned what is relevant; my attitude, mindfulness, self esteem, treating others with love, kindness, compassion, and empathy…This Fringe Relative thing has its benefits!!!:)
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