Pondering the Meaning of Family, Earthquakes, Hurricanes & Gratitude
As I write this month’s blog, an earthquake has just happened, a hurricane has just past through and a lot of feelings about family and friends have been stirred up at the same time. Events in life, events of mine and events of others have caused me to ponder what family means and within that thought comes the questions of friends as family. The idea of family and friends and the meaning thereof is a topic frequently pondered in many lights throughout our lives. Not only coming to terms with who is blood related and what that means to be part of an immediate family, continuously over time but the idea of an extended family or a community as a family and what that actually entails for each of us. How do we covet these relationships feed them, decipher them, understand them and let them ebb and flow as they are intended to is the difficult part. I’m no scientist or genealogist but I know that much of what we believe when it comes to family is based on our experiences and the message our society sends to us, especially when we are young. I as many know have a somewhat unique family story, one of a very small immediate family due to circumstances beyond my control. For most of my life my immediate blood family has been my father and my three brothers, nothing for the most part. All of us are close and all of us see family not as blood but as a connection we share through our dedication and loyalty to some really freaking cool people. This immediate family is growing as my brothers gain wives and as they began to have children, and in addition our family grows as we continue to meet and add amazing people to our “family” spectrum or people we encounter throughout life and who we share with others we care about. A ”family” in the end can surprise you, those who are there for you truly in the end may not be the folks that society deems are supposed to be there and the lessons and gifts we may need to learn in life or share may be with those who we thought we would interact with least. As usual my blog is helpful for me in feeding and finding more depth to my own soul, this process for me in my life often interacts with food and when it comes to family and friend’s food is large centerpiece, not only in my life but within the lives of people in general throughout the world. Life lately is moving and evolving in a good direction for me, this is typical as I think I expend a good amount of effort making sure I move forward and not backwards in life, discovering rather than dwelling. Sure life continues to offer challenges and I continue to figure out how to move through them. Recently in my life I have gotten to witness quite a bit of controversy within the families of friends, this witness has created a significant amount of gratitude for my own “family pocket “ and even more gratitude for what I deem as healthy beliefs on family and what it means to me. It’s always a bit controversial to talk about what family means as society, especially our American society, has a lot to say about it and even a lot more judgment of those who don’t play by the American family drum. I know firsthand about this pressure from society to live as a family unit as society dictates. Politics today are laden with those telling us what a family should be and who we should love and I think society is paying attention and getting a bit uncomfortable with the conventional and perhaps maybe be showing even a bit of signage towards deciding for themselves what family means to them. My life for many years gave me societal pressure for my own family decisions and my life with my own “unconventional” family”
When we speak of sustenance (the overall concept of this blog-feeding myself) we have to think about family and friends and how we are fed by their love, their support and their honesty and genuine care. What does this really mean than for biological blood family and does action and content mean more than biology and blood? It’s a tough question for me because I feel this “blood connection” with my brothers, however I also feel like that “blood connection” is really about content and experience more than it is blood. I believe wholeheartedly that what makes my bond with my brothers so strong is how over the years we have continued to get to know one another as we have grown and changed and through our experiencing life together while simultaneously giving a shit about who we are and what makes us tick as the individuals we are. We connected wholeheartedly and with openness. Our continuous support for each other has grown our bond into what I believe is a unbreakable carbon like bond based on respect of the adults we are today and the experiences we have shared together, throughout a life time. I am sure that blood doesn’t dictate family and it has taken me years to be content with this opinion. As a child of 11 years I discovered that blood family doesn’t necessarily always support in the most caring and respectful manner. Upon my parents bitter divorce many of my mother’s family members kind of just abandoned us because we were supporters of our father and wanted to live with him versus our mother. My youngest brother was four years old at the time and the oldest of us 12 years and we had prior to this event, typical American blood families, holidays, birthdays, $20 from grandma in the mail, cousins playing together, but I wouldn’t have described us all as actually close or bonded and in retrospect I don’t think they truly understood who “we” kids were and thus it seemed all too easy for all to just forget about us. Now I’m comfortable with that fact as holidays and birthday cards don’t a family make, but the appearance of a family is a powerful thing, especially in our society. But for me the appearance is the problem with today’s family and society in general. Families need sustenance, they need to be fed and cared for continuously and with deep open love. . I severed ties with my mother at age 12 and it was actually much easier than one would think and although the world made me feel many things in regards to that act, I finally years ago maybe at about 30 came to true terms with my act at 12 years old and was confident I had made the right decision and today remain confident still. My mother although blood and although I grew in her womb, was not my family when times got tough for her, nor did she every really figure out how to be our family even years after, nor has she even come close today. The real meat of this story is certainly severe but the truth is we don’t get to choose our relatives but we do get to chose our families and I chose not to choose my mother to be in mine. Now that’s a long story and only part of my point here so as my normal choppy writing style goes, we are moving on. When my father took us to Central America I began to discover the value of “family” in a different light, non blood folk and community as “family”. Strangers cared for us in a way that was deep and meaningful. New Friends were made in all spectrums of life a few of which I have made for life and although one would think that a girl without a mother is a sad thing, I was gifted many remarkable woman all throughout my life, who not only led me down a path of positivity but they genuinely cared and put stake in helping me become the woman I was destined to become and therefore I can give credit to a few amazing women for helping me achieve greater meaning to who I am. These women guided me to become me without any doubt, without any judgment. They were filled with words of wisdom and certainly this didn’t mean they agreed with everything I did, they supported fully with love, respect and non judgment and to these women (you know who you are) thank you for my womanhood and my strength. These woman were and are my family, they are the mothers I chose.
Friends and family are not always there when we want them to be, not more than just a few of them anyhow. I had to learn this lesson the hard way. Each person in our life has a particular relationship to us and it changes and evolves as life does and on occasion it leaves us for good. Again what is important is to always be learning from the many challenging relationships we have. I have had some relationships that I thought would last a lifetime but ended abruptly in the last five years, but I have learned that it takes nothing away from what was. Even our “family” blood or relative or whatever, won’t always be there for us. We all have our own crap going on and sometimes its difficult to see really what is happening in others. Our energies don’t always match up. A friend of mine who has encountered some serious setbacks in life lately was disappointed in his family for not being there for him and not understanding him better. It’s a difficult position for me as I have a hard time understanding why humans can’t be there for their fellow humans, however I have learned that it’s just their shit. We can love and be connected and there are just times we don’t match up to those we care about and those who care about us. What’s important in this case is that we live as we intend with conviction, we should expect the most and give people a break when they can’t deliver it. Paying attention to the fact that as we grow into adults, life becomes a bit more complicated. When we are children, we need food, water, shelter and love given to us, and as adults we typically have to seek it out and create it. It’s not easy but it’s crucial to having sustenance in our lives.
As we grow into adults, we have the tendency to grow further apart from people we cared about and were cared for as children, this is true not only for our “blood” family but our extended families as well and this is when we begin to grow roots into community as family and this notion is a bit more foreign to Americans, but it is a notion that we need to indulge in pondering about more, especially if we want to feed our lives with nourishing sustenance. Community family made of the friends and family and community in which we live are intended to help nourish us, especially if we work on creating these family environments for each other. As I mentioned earlier a friend of mine who has been experiencing some life struggles as of lately has also been learning the hard lesson of family and “friends” not being there for you unconditionally when you need them most. But I revel in the fact that in my community of “friends & family” here I Brooklyn, we have embraced him as well as my own family and all shown him that what you need is always there. I take pride in my Brooklyn community for being “family” oriented in a way they is inclusive to those that live here. I think its easier for New Yorkers to embrace this concept since so many of us our transplants.
So much of my “family” surrounds food and I am happy for that fact. Food is a communal family oriented experience and around the world over, they embrace food, community and family at the same time. Americans need to do this more. We need to build families that are not about blood but that are about love and respect for each other, helping one another when we need it and teaching one another what we know. Above all accepting all without judgment event when we can’t understand them of what they have been through.
Family for me is my heart so for all of you in my family, with earthquake and hurricane force I show deep and sincere gratitude for all you provide for me and my “family” blood has nothing on this special worldly gift of community!
§ Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.