Thursday, March 7, 2013
I've been really thinking about something lately. What is family? I spent most of my adult life moving around due to my ex-husbands job. I really enjoyed most of the interesting places I have lived and because of always having to adapt to new places, I've really appreciated the value of friends and kind neighbours or even strangers. Most of what I have been through in my life was only shared by the people that I was in contact with while I lived in those places. My family back in the east coast were not that interested in what I was doing, it was up to me to keep the contact and make sure I visited every once in a while to stay connected. But now I don't belong there at all anymore, nor do I want to. I have much more in common with the folks I live around now, having settled in the Pacific Northwest. But every now and then some family event happens that I am required to go to, lets say weddings and funerals, so I go and share some of their memories but they don't know anything about my life and don't really seem to care about my life the way I live it now. Yet there is a sense that I have to keep up my end of the family obligations and act accordingly. I feel like a big fake. They act as if I am a part of it when I really am not and haven't been for a long time. I'm not sure what to do about this or if I have to do anything. I can keep on going and doing my part, just being there as the 'picture' of the family, join in the sharing of stories, then go home to my life as it is. They really don't care as long as I keep up my end of the bargain. But I've been increasingly feeling like a fraud. Like I am pretending to be a part of a big connected family that I really don't feel connected to at all. I wonder how other people navigate this dilemma. I know there are so many of us out there who are family in name only, their real family is their day to day connections with those who love them, those who share their real life. I've heard it called their 'chosen family'. I'm starting to believe that I can only tolerate the family of origin dynamics if I put my chosen family first. Who is more important than those who love you and help you through the most important things in your life. For me that is not my birth family, it is a collection of others who have been there for me no matter what. Along with a few family members, like my daughter, who has lived a similar life and totally gets this. I can count on one hand the people I consider my family.
I have come to the conclusion that nurturing the old family connections would leave me surrounded by people who just want me to fit in to their lives, whereas if I nurture the relationships with those around me who are always there for me, I am creating my new family. My old family will always have their place but the love in my new family is reciprocal, more respectful of the needs of my soul.
I think we all wrestle with this somewhat don't we? We all have to find our place in the world. That's what life is all about isn't it?