Family. What a loaded word, right?
This one word can mean so many different things to each of us. Family can have so many diverse “looks” to it. As the decades have rolled by, the outward appearance of each family has drastically changed, and that is a wonderful thing. Think of the Norman Rockwell pictures of the 50’s style family and compare that to today’s diverse family. We have evolved in so many ways in our acceptance of what a family means, and looks like.
Our family of origin is where we learn so many of life’s important lessons, some of which are quite challenging. We work out who we are within this framework and its relative safety. We are also “domesticated” or handed our family of origin’s belief systems and spend much of our time moving forward in life adjusting to how we feel or fit within that structure. All of what we learn there then translates into how we move through the daily interactions and relationships outside our family. This time is our testing ground- seeing what works and what doesn’t while still within the family support framework.
Most of us do not choose our family of origin; we are born into it. It is but one group that may fit our idea of what family looks and feels like to us. We may also have our family of close friends, those we pick purposefully because we have so much in common and they seem to “get” us. In today’s world where families don’t necessarily live in the same community, or even the same state or country, these ties can be very strong. We tend to build a sense of community wherever we are.
And we belong to so much more than we realize.
When I was a teacher, I started a brainstorming session on the many groups that we as individuals belong to- what exactly are we members of? We started out with our family. Then what?
The list looked something like this:
- Extended family
You get the idea. Even this is a simplified list. We belong to groups that share the same interests like universities, clubs, sports, and so on. Each of these groups connect us to something larger than ourselves. Each group is based on what we have in common; not on our differences. We are forgetting this. We have so much more in common than we have differences. Let us focus on those things, the things that speak of who we are, on the inside, where it really counts.
I love my family- my children, their spouses, and grandchildren. I grew up as an only child and always wanted a large family. Because of this, it was easy for me to include others in my idea/experience of family. My family of origin is now gone, and I have found that moving through this has deepened and expanded my ability to encompass people into a “new family” group. Even though some have been in my life for many years- say my close friends- their presence in my life is even more profound.
A dear friend of mine (one of those that time and space can’t change the close connection you feel with them) recently stopped through on her way across country. She had a very different purpose for this journey. She was bringing a sister that she hadn’t been close to during her life, for many reasons, to her home, to die. There is a bond there, even if they aren’t close. When the chips are down, or running out, we know deep down that we can at least try to reach out to family. Her sister reached out, and my friend is there to serve her in whatever ways she can in the next few months or weeks. Is it going to be easy? No. Hell no. But she, like me, has done this before for each of her family members, and she will do it one more time. Then comes the challenging task of wrapping your head around being the last living member of your family of origin, and you reach out to those who have been that “family of your choosing” to support you once again- and they will, because they are always there for you, and you for them. She called, and I went; it’s as simple as that. There in the good times, and even more so in the not so easy or good times. This is the kind of “family” that knows more about you, and has been through more with you than your family of origin (most often anyway). In the coming months, I will be there, as we have for each other over the years, and will be until the end.
This life is a journey, and we are not alone. We have so many that are like family to us. We just need to include more within our definition. Maybe we can start thinking more globally. Let’s make a difference where we are by sending love and healing into the world, realizing that we are all a part of the whole- a part of the human family. When one member of our family is hurting, we hurt too. We can concentrate on our humanness and focus on healing the pain and hurt around us. Share a smile or two. Reach out and let others know that you appreciate them. That act alone heals so much! It’s amazing how the little things that we are able to do can change the world one act at a time, one step at a time, one day at a time.
It’s what we do, right? Let’s do it for our human family, all of us together, connected. Let’s just love a little deeper, a little more, spreading kindness and caring. We’ve got this!